By Ryan Pangilinan
Northwest Asian Weekly
In 2009, should people still care about the demographics of whom other people date? Does racial makeup account for anything anymore? To some, perhaps.
But there is a deep-seated issue in the cultural differences that come up when someone is dating a person who is of a different race or ethnicity. Can love transcend language barriers and native practices?
“Dating people from different cultures could be different, but it depends on how much they retain their culture,” said Vivian Hua.
Hua, 25, is a Chinese American freelance Web designer who says she has no preference in the men that she dates, besides hair color. “I find myself more attracted to dark-haired folks,” she said.
Conversely, Aileen Sison, a 27-year-old Filipino American realtor, does have a preference.
“I do have a preference when dating someone of a different ethnicity,” she said. “The reason being is [that] if I had dated someone of a certain ethnicity and it was a bad experience, I avoid men of that ethnicity.
“It may seem prejudiced, but I see it as a fair instinct for being a defense mechanism,” she continued.
Sison’s current boyfriend is white, but the couple’s bond seems to be more in tune with their interests instead of a specific racial preference that she looks for in the opposite sex.
A second generation Filipino, Sison’s current relationship contrasts an article that the Washington Post ran earlier in March: “Immigrants’ Children Look Closer for Love.” The articles states that more second generation offspring, particularly those of Asian descent, are now looking to marry other APIs.
“Although interracial marriages overall have increased,” Annie Gowen writes, “the rate of Hispanics and Asians marrying partners of other races declined in the past two decades. This suggests that the growing number of immigrants is having a profound effect on the coupling.”
But is the Pacific Northwest exempt from Gowen’s report? Walking around in places like Downtown Seattle or Bellevue Square, interracial couples are not out of the norm. Why?
For Sison, she focuses in on familial interaction with prospective beaus, a cultural trait that is strong within Filipino families.
“I found men of Spanish backgrounds [have] the most similarity in family values and structure,” she said.
Other people look at cultural differences not as a hindrance but as a welcomed challenge.
Laura Thoren, 31, is a Caucasian woman who is currently dating an Indian American.
“Most often, for me, the challenge is language,” Thoren said. “He often speaks Hindi with his Indian friends, which I do not speak — yet.”
The “yet” in Thoren’s answer is emphasized, but she feels that there’s still a stigma attached to people in interracial relationships.
“I think people still take this into consideration on an individual basis,” she said.
In fact, the people interviewed claimed that there was still an issue with interracial dating, perhaps not necessarily within themselves, but within American society as a whole.
“I, personally, could not care at all [about someone’s race],” says Hua, “but there are many, many people who do, and I could see some people caring if I were to date interracially.”
Ryan Pangilinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.