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Pet Sins January 2006

Is 'cultural incompatibility' always the real reason for avoiding certain 'interracial' relationships?

Some individuals claim that the issues that people have with 'interracial' relationships are really 'cultural' issues - it is not the appearance of the individual that matters, but their way of life which renders them an incompatible partner. Well, I'm sure that is the case for some people who are against 'interracial' relationships, but that is definitely not the case for all of them. I met S, an ethnic Chinese woman who was born and raised outside China. She says being Chinese is very important to her, and therefore she would like her son to learn Chinese and marry a Chinese woman. So I asked her, "If a black girl was adopted by a Chinese family at birth, and raised as Chinese, would she be an acceptable daughter-in-law to you?"

She said, "No. I think a black girl in a Chinese family would *look* weird." Note that the issue, for S, is how someone 'looks', not just how they behave. The quintessentially Chinese girl with black skin is still not Chinese to her. One can wonder if people like S are the minority or the majority among parents who disapprove of 'interracial' marriage. I'm sure that some parents disapprove for purely 'cultural' reasons and have no objections to 'race' - but are they really the majority? Anyway, I found S's response rather chilling. And I certainly hope people who think that way are a minority.

Then there are many East Asian and Southeast Asian individuals in America who explain that they prefer to date whites, not because they are racist against other minorities, but because they find their own cultures more compatible with 'white culture'. Their excuses often go along these lines - K, a Filipina, said, "I have nothing against blacks and Latinos - I can be friends with anyone, but romantically, I prefer whites. The black/Latino social scene is generally too loud for me."

On one occasion, X, a Chinese gay acquaintance (whose company I now avoid, for reasons about to be made obvious). on learning that I grew up around South Asians (Indians, specifically) and asked me, "Aren't they hard to get along with?" He was expecting an affirmative answer - knowing nothing about me, he assumed that since I'm also Chinese, I would share his prejudice. I told him that I had no difficulty getting along with them. In fact, I have more Indian friends than Chinese friends.('Friends' meaning people whose homes you visit and whose families you know, not mere acquaintances like him.)

From my experience, Chinese and Indians are actually very culturally similar, certainly much more similar to each other than to Euro-Americans. True, there are differences, but we share many values, and most importantly for day-to-day getting along, our communication protocols are not that different. As a Chinese, I've always found it easier to relate to Indians than to Europeans/Euro-Americans because there is much less of a cultural/communication hurdle to cross. Yet many Chinese who date whites and refuse to date Indians claim that the reason for their preference for whites is 'cultural compatibility'. I think this is purely a lie - if 'cultural compatibility' is really a concern, then they would ditch the Euro-Americans in favor of South Asians.

L.S.
10/2005