By Ryan Pangilinan
Northwest Asian Weekly
Interracial marriage is a subject that most people have an opinion about. Regardless of whether they think it is a good or a bad trend, the fact is that within the last few decades, interracial romance and nuptials have become more common.
A report from the U.S. Census Bureau stated that in 2006, 41 percent of Asian American women were married to white males, while 50 percent were married to Asian American men. An article published by the Washington Post in 1998 stated that 36 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander (API) American men were married to white women.
These statistics are starkly different among Asian American and Black pairings: 1.3 percent for an API female and Black male coupling and 0.22 percent for an Asian American male and Black female coupling.
However, statistics do not illustrate how people interact with one another in their relationships. The statistics do not show whether race is a relevant issue.
Mixed couples are common here in the Northwest, particularly in Seattle and its surrounding areas. What about other parts of the country?
Arnold Cornejo is a 31-year-old Filipino American male who currently lives in Chicago. His wife is white.
“In our neighborhood … I’d notice that we would sometimes get a few weird looks here and there,” he said. “Also, many times, we’ve experienced a difference in how we’re treated separately versus when we are together.
“It was a worry in the back of our [minds] when we were wondering how the two groups (Filipino and white) would interact at our wedding and our reception. … Obviously, it turned out great, but there is something to be said about cultural differences in a marriage,” he said.
The cultural differences are outlined particularly in practices regarding family and communication.
While American culture openly accepts the concept of a divided family, Asian culture typically does not. American culture also embraces a certain no holds barred openness, while APIs tend to share personal information less often.
An entry by John McFadden and James L. Moore, entitled “Intercultural Marriage and Intimacy: Beyond the Continental Divide,” published in the International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling in 2004, suggested that the families of the partners display rejection, hostility, and lack of acceptance for their kin’s partner.
The element of racism — or at the very least, bigotry — can no doubt put a strain on a marriage.
While Cornejo said that his wife is open-minded, despite not having much exposure to Asian culture, he has seen families divided over ethnic issues of the married parties.
“Some families of the married couple might be totally against it, which I’ve seen,” he said, “including [a marriage of a] Korean to a Filipino. It makes it harder for the couple to have a happier marriage.”
A solution for many is to build an understanding, which seems to be the best way to navigate through rough waters.
“In my honest opinion, I think the exposure of a particular partner’s family is key to having a successful interracial marriage,” Cornejo said.
He also comments that the most distressing aspect is that even though interracial marriages are becoming more common, they, as a couple, are still set apart.
“There is a … noticeable trend in the increase of interracial couples and to this day, there is, unfortunately, still a … difference between how … white couples are treated versus [non-white] couples,” he explained.
“Hopefully, our country will have what is not referred to as an ‘interracial couple,’ but an ‘American couple.’ ” ♦
Ryan Pangilinan can be reached at email@example.com.