Black woman-Asian man couples are considered a rarity in the US, and often ridiculed as poor matches by whites, blacks and Asians alike. But those who dismiss BWAM as irrelevant or freakish usually haven't even met a black-woman-Asian-man couple. When people can put a human face to black woman-Asian man relationships, perhaps they will respect BWAM couples as much as mainstream America accepts and even lauds some other types of interracial unions.
Xiu Lan and Hai Zhou, a black woman-Chinese man couple, have kindly agreed to share the story of their romance. Readers are welcome to contribute their stories. (To contact us, visit "Contact Us" link at bottom of page.)
Xiu Lan's Story:
I met Hai Zhou almost two years ago. It was a cold friendship at first, but eventually the seed was planted, watered, and with time grew. It all started when I wanted to find out everything about China, its people and history. It was easy to read books or search on the Internet, but talking to someone who actually lived in the country was better. I advertised for a friend. I saw his ad which had his American name "John" and it was so honest. There were not any of the false words most people say. John just wanted a friend; the person's color, religion, or sex did not matter. He seemed serious, stern, and without any emotion. Some people would not have wanted a friendship with someone who had these traits, but I saw something different. I saw a man who really wanted to know someone unconditionally. There was a certain sentence in his ad that caught my eye. The sentence said, " I write poetry." I thought there must be a soul in him somewhere.
Our first letters were very difficult. It seemed as if we were talking but not listening. We were not only from different countries, we seemed to be from different planets. Several weeks passed and we started to listen to each other and pay attention. We became good friends, not the best, but good friends. I found myself looking for his calls or emails every time I turned on the computer.
After talking about our lives and what we expect from the future, John wanted to know a little more about me, such as why I was interested in the Chinese culture. I explained that I have admired Asian culture since I was a little girl. To be honest, I also had a deep attraction to Asian men. The problem was that in my culture this was not common for black woman to be attracted to an Asian man. I did not want to tell John this but eventually he figured this out. He asked me, "Why the Asian man?" The only thing I could say is that I admired their strength, wisdom and respect, and yes, I was attracted physically to Asian men also.
John wanted to know what I look like since I had seen him, but he had not yet seen me. I told him I was a black female - not the typical Hollywood version, but a plain female. I explained that in my culture it is not uncommon for a woman to have round hips, thighs, and be "blessed" with a round butt. I felt comfortable enough to stop being embarrassed and to let him know I was a size 16, what most folks call "chubby." I know that in some Asian cultures, petite bodies are admired. He did not respond to my description of myself. The only thing he said was, "Let's get webcams." I was so nervous. I did not know if he would find me attractive, but then I thought "So what if he does not. We are just friends."
John went out and bought a camera right away. I hesitated for about a week. The first moment I turned my webcam on, I was shaking. I was so afraid. When we connected and he saw me, he had the sweetest smile any man could give a woman. The first thing he said was, "So beautiful. What a beautiful girl!". I was excited just to be called a girl, I mean at 33, I was hardly a spring chicken. When the shock of finally seeing each other wore off, I did not call him John any more, I called him "Johnny." Many weeks later, I wanted to know his real name. He told me it was Jiang Hai Zhou. This may sound funny, but I fell deeply in love with him that day. Hai Zhou's strong voice, deep smile, and the wrinkle around his eyes took my breath away. After that day we became each other's shadow. We talked on the webcam everyday, by phone, email, mail, and sometimes without words.
Hai Zhou is teaching me Mandarin and how to write Chinese characters. When he is teaching me Mandarin, he does not play the role of my boyfriend, but that of a stern teacher. I call my teacher "Mr. John." Yes, I get angry when he is stern and a little cold, but when the lessons are over, my boyfriend Hai Zhou is there to comfort me.
It must have been around my birthday when we became boyfriend and girlfriend. He tried to send me a card and it did not arrive. He was angry because he really wanted me to have it. Like other couples we argue, disagree, and act like children. When we both calm down, it is the sweetest thing I have ever known. I even tried to move to China when my company was seeking volunteers to live in Beijing to open a branch. I was not chosen, but I knew I would get to Hai Zhou.
This year, I went to China for a month. I was nervous on the way there. When I arrived at Pu Dong airport, for a second I could not find Hai Zhou. Looking straight ahead, I saw a slender man holding up a sign for me that said, "Honey I love you." (Hai Zhou calls me "honey") I thought it would be awkward, but it was not. He ran up to me, kissed my cheek and hugged me. Everyone stared at me.
The month spent with Hai Zhou was a loving, caring, and emotional time. We never left each other for a moment. I was shown China in all her beauty and rich culture. When it was time to leave, it was very hard for me. I cried very hard but Hai Zhou stayed strong. I knew he would since he is a strong man and in his culture, such emotion is not displayed.
I wish I could say my friends or ex-friends support this relationship. They do not. I have been abandoned by all my friends and associates who disagree with a Chinese man and black woman relationship. My family has cut ties with me regarding my choice. Hai Zhou is hopeful. He says he will spend a lifetime trying to know my family. His family received me as a daughter, not as a foreigner. Hai Zhou's friends, family, and coworkers made me feel as if we were one big family. I even have a Chinese name, Long Xiu Lan. The only thing now is everyone is asking the same question, "When are you two getting married and having a family?"
True, some people in China laughed at us. I mean, look at us: a black chubby female with braids tightly hugging a slender Chinese man. We were odd, but his city treated us as if we were celebrities. We plan to be married as soon as possible. It may be just Hai Zhou and I at the church, but we will go back to China for a big reception.
I don't let our culture differences come between us. It is something that we have chosen to understand, not run away from. We learn a lot from each other. It is so strange. Yet wonderful. This slender man with the powerful voice and deep-set brown eyes from China could steal the one thing I thought I had packed deeply away - my heart.
Hai Zhou's Story:
I wanted a friend, a real friend. Someone to have a positive conversation with. I had friends in China, but I wanted one person with whom I could share everything. I do not like to go to clubs or bars, so I decided to put out an ad for a friend.
When I first received Xiu Lan's letter, I felt close to her. You might think it was strange, but it actually wasn't. We became friends. Xiu Lan was humble, always saying things like, "If I say something that offends let me know." I repeatedly told her that nothing will offend me, but she still watched what she said.
After a few letters from Xiu Lan I felt she was different from the others. I'd like to say that there was no person like Xiu Lan. She was so keen on being a good friend. To be honest, I thought the world has been cruel to her. She seemed so innocent. I know the world is not so easy. My feelings towards her were very strong.
We became great friends, but I wanted to know something about her. I wanted to know why she was attracted to Asian men. She told me her reasons like respect, and admiration for the courage they offered. I believed her, but I also thought she was curious. I felt this was normal. I mean I like black women, and I am attracted to the fuller figure. I have always admired black women. I do not let others question my feelings. I find black women very beautiful.
Xiu Lan was afraid to let me see her. She kept saying things like, she was not beautiful, chubby etc. I told her I was different from the others. Others may not be attracted to certain people, but if I find a woman attractive, that is my decision. Xiu Lan was a little concerned about my body type. I am very slender. After a while, this did not matter to her very much.
Our conversation topics varied from business and school to romantic ideals. We had "virtual dates". Xiu Lan took me on our first "virtual date". It was a tour of Houston and other foreign countries. We went to Paris, Africa, and Italy. It was creative and full of love. Even though we were not together physically, I was always with her and she was always with me.
I am teaching her Mandarin. I am touched that she is trying to learn my language, but sometimes I get impatient with her. She is trying and I am proud of that.
When I found out she was coming to China, I could not believe it. I was so excited. While waiting for her at the airport, I thought, "Is this true?", "Is this a dream?", "Am I really going to meet this girl from America?" I saw a black woman walking towards the walkway. She was still far away, but at the same time I felt we were close, touching. The first time I saw Xiu Lan, my thought was, "She should be my wife." I wanted to know if I could make her happy. When I hugged her "hello," I felt I would never be alone anymore. Touching her beaded braids gave me a strange feeling. Things from my childhood came rushing back to me, thoughts I couldn't describe.
When I introduced my American girlfriend to my family, I had concerns about what my father would say. My father is a quiet man. I was concerned Xiu Lan might think he was cold. My father was a soldier and I wanted her to understand his way. He is realistic - he is not concerned about her color; but he worries because she is an American and I am Chinese.
Xiu Lan was wearing a suit when she arrived. It was hot, but I was proud she wanted to make a good impression. I was surprised at my father's words. He said in Shangdongese, "It is too hot for her jacket. She needs to take it off." He warmed up to her very quickly. At dinner, he kept her bowl full. Xiu Lan is concerned about her weight, but my father wanted her to get full. I was happy that she did not refuse any food. My father told us to come back again for dinner. I knew he liked her.
My coworkers treated Xiu Lan like a distinguished guest. They did not know a lot about Xiu Lan, so everyone was quiet at first. During the course of the meal everyone was laughing and saying she was very open, and had a very warm heart. My coworkers made sure she had plenty of food and that her glass was always full. She had so many toasts from people that my boss was afraid she would get drunk. The meal was full of laughter and fun.
It was hard for me when the time came for Xiu Lan to leave. I had to control my emotions; this is my culture. I may even have been cold, but I told myself to be strong for Xiu Lan, knowing that it would be a while before we would meet again. Seeing her cry made it tough for me. I could say no words to comfort her, I could only hold her.
We have conversations everyday and it keeps us strong. We are planning to get married and have children as soon as the visa process is completed. I know she is working hard for our future by trying to get her degree and taking care of the visa process. I am proud of her. When I arrive in the US, I will spend a whole lifetime trying to make her happy and her life rich. Our family will be strong. I trust her 100%. I love my Xiu Lan.
Update from Xiu Lan - 2/1/2004
Hai Zhou and I still trying to get him into the US. We did not think it would be such a long time. Many people from China are trying to marry individuals from the US. The process is very long and you cannot do anything but wait your turn. Hai Zhou had a friend in China who was trying to marry a woman from the US and it took them 5 1/2 years! When we started to talk about marriage, we thought this was a isolated case, but now that we are the couple waiting, we can see why their marriage took so long.
Although it is taking a long time, it does not stop our plans. While we are waiting, we have recently opened up a business together in my city. We have a lingerie store which also sells silk products from China. It is hard work and lots of sacrifice, but we feel this is a good way to let the officials know that I am a responsible person who can sponsor Hai Zhou when he comes to the US. Besides this, I am closer to getting my degree with a major in English with a minor in International Trade, and Hai Zhou is closer to receiving his certificate from the English University in his city. I am sacrificing a lot for this relationship - money, time and sleep. I do not mind, nor will I let it bother me. We often joke that every new gray hair that I get is degree of love for our relationship! ha! ha!
I have to admit that his family is worried about us, especially his father.I did not get a chance to come for the Chinese New Year because of my work schedule, and this made his father worry even more. His father was disappointed I could not spend time with the family for the New Year, but I will make it up to him. We are getting older and they do not want us to lose our youth and a chance to have a family. As far as my family, nothing has changed, and that is ok. You cannot change others' opinions.
In order to stay close to my Hai Zhou, I also teach English now. I have taught before, but now I have a teaching certificate and I am receiving formal invitations to schools in his country. This will help to keep us closer. I will continue to see Hai Zhou frequently until he is called to the station in the next city for his formal interview for a K visa.
We keep our love alive by my frequent visits, phone calls,emails, and web cam dinners. Yes, some people may laugh at this, but it keeps the love alive. I won't lie to you, it is very hard. I think more on Hai Zhou. Coming home to his empty flat and seeing my pictures, clothing, and books at his home makes him long for the day that this will pass. Sure, he will not say this to me, but I can see it in his eyes. This is what makes him so special, he has patience. Most people could not take this test or become tempted to leave the relationship, but for us this never crosses our minds. Even if we are mad at each other, it never last more than a few minutes.
My next trip to China is in 1 month, and besides teaching Hai Zhou has to sign more papers for me to take to the office for the K visa. I am looking forward to our strawberries, chocolates, diet Coke, and DVD dates at his flat.
I will keep writing until Hai Zhou is with his Xiu Lan.
Another BWAM couple
"Cornbread and Dim Sum" is the memoir of Jacqueline Annette Sue, an African American woman who started a romance with her Chinese American coworker Frank Sue in 1960s San Francisco.
Cultural differences and racial tensions threatened their relationship, but Jacqueline and Frank built a marriage that endured for 4 decades until Frank's death in 2004.