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The Dynamics of Inequality: Observations on interracial dating

[This article is not to be used as propaganda against miscegenation. It only intends to draw attention to trends in interracial dating and to ask the questions: 'why some people of color disproportionately prefer white partners'? and 'why whites who date interracially disproportionately select their partners from some ethnic groups'?]

Walking about the streets of a US West Coast city, I noticed the majority of interracial couples consist of European American men with Asian/Asian American women. There seemed to be far fewer white men seen with non-Asian women of color, and certainly very few non-Asian men of color seen with Asian women. So I decided to do an informal survey of interracial couples over a period of 4 months. This is not meant to be a scientific survey since the couples surveyed are people in the places I live and work, and reflect the demographics of a rather limited geographical area. The results are as follows:


Euro-AmAfro-AmAsianLatino/Native American

* Asian interracial couplings refer to those between the people whom are called 'Asian' in American vernacular, e.g. Japanese, Filipinos, Cambodians; and other people from Asia who are 'Asian' by dictionary definition, but whom the average American doesn't consider 'Asian', such as Indians, Turks and Arabs. See Clarifying the definition of 'Asian' for more on the terminology confusion in America.

This above matrix shows the obvious gender inequalities in the distribution of Latino-white and Asian-white interracial couplings:

  • The number of Asian men with Euro-Am women is about 1/8th of the number of Asian women with Euro-Am men.
  • The number of Latino men with white women is ΒΌ of the number of white men with Latino women. (though it may be inaccurate to draw conclusions from the small Latino sample)

Ethnic distributions

In this particular area, the population is about 6% Asian, 4% Afro-Am, 7% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 3% Native American and 80% white. Since the gender distribution in interracial dating is highly out of proportion, ethnic distributions in the following section will be discussed in the light of gender. Apologies for the heterosexist focus. Same-gender couplings will be explored in another article if data becomes available. Unfortunately, some interracial unions are not even represented in my survey, e.g. Asian-Latino, black women-Asian men (jowever, after my survey, I did meet some couples in these categories).

Ethnic inequalities using Latino-black-Asian ratios as a reference

Latino or Native American: black: Asian ratioExpected (according to population ratios)Actual
White women's partners10:4:61:12:20
White men's partners10:4:6 2:4:79

Assuming that white women choose their dates without regard for color, (purely by laws of mathematical probability) for every 10 white woman-Latino/Native American man couples, there should be 4 white woman-black man couples and 6 white woman-Asian man couples. The corresponding ratio in my survey sample is 1:12:20. Asian men are over-represented as consorts to white women compared to other men of color. So are black men relative to Latino/Native American men.

When we look at the ratio of non-white partners of white men, the deviation from the expected ratio is even more glaring: 2:4:79. I don't pretend to know the reasons for this disproportionate representation of certain couplings. Do whites in general prefer Asians over other people of color? Or is it different race ratios in different neighborhoods? Are there more Asians in white neighborhoods compared to other minorities?

Ethnic inequalities using black-white ratios as a reference

The white-black ratio is 20. (80%:4%) Assuming that Asian women choose their dates without regard for color, for every Asian woman dating black men, there should be 20 Asian women dating white men. The ratio from my survey sample is 158/5=31.6 white men with Asian women for each black man with an Asian woman. This is a lot more than what it should be in a situation of racial equality. [3 years after this article was first written, I read a book Yellow by Howard University law professor Frank Wu. Wu researched current racial trends and cited figures from the 1990 census: "30 times as many Asian Americans in mixed marriages had white spouses as had black spouses." I am quite surprised that the numbers of my unscientific survey came so close to the nationwide statistics. Let's say nationwide white-black ratios are about 9:1, speaking conservatively. Some say it is 6:1. If Asians are truly not racist in selecting their spouses, the number of Asians married to whites should not be more than 9 times the number of Asians married to blacks.]

Again, I do not pretend to know the reasons for this disproportionate representation of certain types of unions. Is it the pro-white racism of Asian women? Are there more white men who fetishize oriental girls compared to black men with similar fetishes? Or is it different race ratios in different neighborhoods?

Anyway, it is worth noting that white man-Asian woman unions outnumber all other types of interracial couplings COMBINED (white women and men of color, men of color and women of different races) 158 to 59.

The East Asian/West Asian woman-European man syndrome

Ideally, relationships should be based on the individual's character, not the individual's race. After all, Dr Martin Luther King said in his 1963 speech "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Now, decades later, are we anywhere near an America in which individuals choose their spouses solely for the content of their character, and do not at all consider the color of their skin? Now, I'm certain that hardly anyway chooses a spouse based solely on skin color, but looking at the disproportionate number of white man-yellow woman couples, one can hardly wonder if 'race' is considered an asset that can tip the balances in favor of a certain spousal candidate.

Mass stereotyping taking place in the media unfortunately spills into everyday life. When an Asian woman has a more-than-marginal role in a US movie, she is almost always a white man's love interest. And such women are invariably femme and heterosexually attractive, and smitten with a white man. The images that the media choose to present both limits and molds the kind of roles people (Asian and non-Asian) see Asian women holding in real life. Take for example the TV news anchorwoman Connie Chung. She became popular and all of a sudden, it was fashionable for US news networks to hire female Asian newscasters. Now the number of Asian female newscasters is 4 times greater than the number of Asian male newscasters. These Asian women are almost invariably paired with a white male when they are reporting news. Why not with a black male? An Asian male? A white woman? A Latin American male? Another Asian American woman? The white man-Asian woman pairing is ubiquitous - not just on the news but also in movies and books.

Even in a fieldlike news reporting in which neutrality and color blindness is supposed to be a value, we see sexual politics. And we wonder why we hardly see media images of Asian women beyond the 'demure', 'pretty' and 'polite'. Or maybe white men who control the media just don't focus media coverage on women of color who don't fit their sexual fantasies.

From a Eurocentric perspective, some European-descent men are attracted to Middle Eastern and Far Eastern women because of their "exotic" quality. Though it is natural for people to be fascinated by foreign things, it should probably be remembered that a foreigner or a member of another ethnic group is not a thing whose foreign qualities are sexified for one's consumption. Many Europeans, male and female, have shown that they can have a deep interest in non-European cultures without eroticizing the exotic. So there is little excuse for those others who select their dates based on race to hide behind a facade of "interest in another culture".

The blame racism in dating choices should not fall solely on European men. Asian women, too, sometimes consider race when choosing their non-Asian partners. Some Asians openly state they would date whites but not blacks Though many white people do not mind receiving specially positive treatment for the color of their skin, other people of European descent find it insulting to be selected as a dating partner on the basis of race. Asian women who specifically date white men (and who would not date the same man should he be black or brown) might perhaps be gravely insulting their partner.