I didn’t want to write about this. Mostly because I know it’s controversial. It attracts the kind of attention that I don’t like. Don’t like- or can’t handle? I don’t know which. Maybe both.
However, just because I don’t want to write about it, doesn’t mean that I don’t need to write about it. This is my life and as much as I would like to blissfully ignore it, I feel like I have an obligation to address it. Maybe it will help other people who are going through the same judgement and prejudice. So, alas. Here I am writing about it.
I know every judgement about my interracial relationship in the book.
Poor South-East Asian.
White-Worshiping Female Asian.
Stupid Asian Female Shithead.
The list goes on.
By now, they’re just words to me. Words that have been thrown around like confetti in the wind. Some might stick to my skin every now and then (especially if the perpetrator is creative in his insults), but eventually the breeze blows them away and they become an insignificant speck in the atmosphere.
Still. Sometimes I like to lick the wounds that these labels have branded me. I get intrigued by them and I want to know why the prejudice exists. In doing so, I find that I start to question my own identity. Is my sense of self somewhat defined or shaped by dating a person who so happens to have a lighter pigment of skin than me? I don’t think the answer is as black and white (or yellow and white, heh) as I would like it to be. As someone who perceives the world in black and white, this has been a challenge for me.
But let’s lay it down. I grew up in Australia. My first conscious experience where I acknowledged that I was ‘different’ was when I first started schooling. There was a girl who refused to play with me because I was Asian. I was hurt, but in retrospect I should have been like “_uck that, I don’t wanna waste my time playing with someone who can’t see how awesome I am!” (this mentality should apply not only in the playground, but in adulthood too). I grew up watching TV shows like Neighbours, which is arguably the most white-Australian TV show you could possibly watch (except maybe Home and Away). Asian representation on the TV was very limited when I was a child.
This begs the question: have I been subconsciously brainwashed to think that my skin, hair and eye colour have made me feel inferior? Do I feel like I need to hang around with a bunch of white people like the ones I saw on Neighbours in order to feel like I belong? Why wasn’t I thinking about these questions as a seven-year old?! Probably because I was too busy playing with my connecter-pen markers and writing Harry Potter plays to care.
Cue High School. I started off my first year with disgustingly bleached-blonde-orange hair. This is probably the moment where you could argue that my ‘internalised racism’ was high and rife. At the same time, it was when I started making friends with other Asians. I had my own little Asian Sensation clique and it was awesome. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I realise that high school was very ethnically clique-y. You know how on Mean Girls, there’s the popular girls and the band geeks and the emo/goths? In my high school, we were separated by our ethnic background. There were the Asians, the Arabs, the Indians, the Islanders and the Anglos. There were a few people who managed to break the clique (popular Asian girl who hung out with the popular Anglos and what not), but for the most part we tended to keep to our cultural circles.
The first few years of High School, I felt a sense of pride in being Asian that I hadn’t experienced before. It was the years that I discovered K-Pop and J-Pop. I used to listen to Jay Chou on my outdated Sony MP3 player every day after school without fail. My Korean friend was teaching me how to speak Korean. THIS song was my jam:
I used to hang out with my Asian friends at the arcade where we’d play Dance Dance Revolution. Regrettably, we would take photos in those Asian photobooths that made our eyes look abnormally large and white-washed our skin beyond recognition.
High School was also the time when I started taking notice of all sorts of boys. Indonesian, Chinese, Mexican, Māori, Pilipino, Australian, Eurasian. I never liked these guys because of their race. I just thought they were good looking people with a kind heart (and mostly they had some sort of musical talent which never hurts).
Towards my latter years of high school, I became reclusive. This was due to many reasons– family problems, high school drama, existential thoughts, etc. At school, I started hanging out with an Indian girl who in retrospect, stood by me through all my weird tantrums. She put up with a lot of my shit. I should probably send her a message and tell her how awesome she is (and pay her back for all the chicken burgers she bought me for lunch). After school, I’d hang with my then boyfriend (he was Eurasian). We’d organise little outings with the guys from work (all Asian) or play Call of Duty on a huge projector screen. I also started becoming obsessed with Norway after Alexander Rybak won Eurovision in 2009. I never realised how beautiful this Earth was until I googled images of Norway. Perhaps this was when my ‘internalised racism’ or ‘white-worshipping’ eventuated? Or maybe I just found my passion for fjords?
^ The moment I realised I don’t like Norwegian boys… I actually just like Norwegian fjords!
Fast forward to the present day. I’ve been in a relationship with Mattias for almost five years. He’s Swedish. It’s not as though I actively searched the Internet for a Swedish guy to date. It’s just that our paths crossed. I was interested in Halo and he made Halo videos on YouTube. I didn’t even know he was Swedish until I looked him up on Twitter. Does that still make me a white-worshipper? Does that mean I hate myself for being Asian? Does it mean I don’t like dating Asian men? It seems a little farfetched… Yet these are the thoughts that begin to swirl in my mind due to the labels I’m branded with by those who don’t even know me. I never thought of myself as yellow and Mattias as white. I just saw us as two people who liked each other’s company. Yet, maybe this is an important issue to raise because there are people out there who, despite all reasoning, will put us in a box.
I understand a little bit about where the stereotype comes from. Old white guy with a young Asian woman who usually doesn’t speak great English. I get it. It disgusts me too because I can clearly see that these relationships are unhealthy. It’s not just the age thing either. Sometimes I have people reach out to me, asking for advice on their Long Distance Relationship. It’ll start off something like this:
Hi, I’m (name) from (Asian Country) and my boyfriend is (name) from (Western country). Your relationship with Mattias has inspired me…
It’s all innocent enough. For some of these people, I can tell that their connection with their significant other (many of whom have yet to meet…) is genuine. It’s when they start to explain their one-sided relationship that I realise that something is wrong. Some girls will confess to me that they’ve gone out of their character to appease their boyfriend. Yet for some reason, they’re still “inspired by you and Mattias to make things work out”!!! Let me be clear: I. Am. Not. An. Advocate. For. Unhealthy. Relationships.
Nothing irritates me more than when someone blatantly asks me: “How do I get an Asian girlfriend like you?” or when a girl will ask me, “How do I get a European boyfriend?”
Stop. Please. You will not find anyone who genuinely cares about you if the only prerequisite to your ‘dream partner’ is based on their race. You are severely limiting yourself. Want to know why? Because if all you care about is getting a European boyfriend or an Asian girlfriend, you’ll probably end up with a creep.
Anyway, I’d like to say for the most part that the people who know Mattias and I on a personal level are incredibly supportive. They see us for who we are. Sometimes when I tell my friends about the judgement I get from time to time, they’re shocked. They can’t believe there are people out there who are against Asian women being with Anglo men. At the same time, they also understand where the prejudice comes from. I do too. I get goosebumps when I see couples that are clearly in an imbalanced relationship. I wish there was a way that I could stop this from happening, but when I walk hand-in-hand with Mattias, we’re automatically grouped into that same category simply because of the way we look. Yes, some people are disgusted to see us together.
What can I do? I can only defend myself so much. I truly don’t believe I’m a white-supremacist. However, maybe it’s easy to argue otherwise. It’s not hard to discredit me. I love Eurovision. I studied French in university. I did my year abroad in Switzerland. I have a Swedish boyfriend. I make videos about Swedish language and culture. But then my black-and-white thinking kicks in. I also love Asian cuisine. I want to learn Mandarin. I want to keep my last name. I want to teach my future children all about this diverse world we live in. I want people to be more accepting of each other, regardless of their ethnicity. I want people to travel the world and know that underneath the different pigment, we’re all human.
There’s no need to actively pursue someone because of their skin colour. Instead, why not pursue someone because they’ve got a great heart? Because yeah, sure, Hitler’s white but I wouldn’t date him. I’ll take Steve Chou instead thanks (I have a thing for musicians; there you go, there’s my prerequisite… wait… Mattias has 0 musical talent, woops). At the same time, I probably would date Jon Henrik Fjällgren because he’s super deep (and again, musical). I’d probably pass on Kim Jong-un though. What I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t matter what race you are. Just be a good person and I’ll like you. There are good eggs and bad eggs in every race. There are good eggs and bad eggs in the human species.
I’m not the same person that I was in high school. I’m an evolved version. I’m evolving everyday. I learn new things everyday. I change my mind everyday. I see things from new perspectives and it changes the way I approach issues– just like this one. I want to constantly improve myself and be a better version of me, regardless of who I happen to be dating.
In conclusion, I don’t see my relationship with Mattias as a big deal when it comes to race. Unfortunately, it is a big deal to other people. That’s okay. That’s their truth. I acknowledge their truth. But I just live mine.
/Over and out
Stupid Asian Female Shithead.