Random Observations · Toronto

Ramblings about Race, Culture and Dating

I spent more time in 2014 thinking about, talking about, and writing about race and dating – both separately and as a joint issue – than I probably ever did before. Now there were various reasons for it but the three that influenced me the most were:

I was reading more about race issues, especially that of Asians in North America (more Asian-Americans than Asian-Canadians).

I had started actively dating again.

I get asked a lot of questions about dating Korean dudes. (And no, I’m no expert, it’s because of my regular writing on ATK Magazine.)

Like most people, my thoughts – and therefore my writing – are greatly influenced by what’s happening in my life. And all these thoughts on race, culture/nationality and dating have made me think I must be really, really, really odd. Okay, I’ve always known I’m a little odd and love it – who wants to be cookie-cutter normal (okay, I know some people do but it’s never been an aspiration of mine) – but I never really realized how different my thinking is from mainstream until recently.

A guy I was dating last year made a very random, seemingly unimportant, off-the-cuff comment one evening that has stuck in my brain like glue. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, he felt a little unsure how to act as he’d never dated anyone white before. This wasn’t a racial comment really but rather a cultural one – he meant (I know because we talked about it) he was finding our relationship more challenging because he wasn’t sure how to act or what to expect or what to say all the time. It was the first time he dated someone who wasn’t from the same culture (or at least from a similar one) as him, and the different culture aspect (not the different race aspect) was a little daunting for him.

At the time, we talked about it and I reassured him that girls were just girls and to just behave as he normally would, and that was that. End of topic.

But the comment, especially as I read tweets and articles about race and cultural misunderstandings and misconceptions, and sometimes complete ridiculousness (see a recent post on Angry Asian Man for some context if you need it).

Which led me to read more… 

Unfortunately, not all conversations about race online are good or helpful. I really hate the “us vs. them” arguments that permeate so much of the racial discussion and debate, to say nothing of the hate and prejudice that gets spewed. But honestly, it’s the “us vs. them” themed statements or discussion that bother me, even more than the hate because they are often coming from those who aren’t trying to be hateful. The idea that one can’t have an opinion or educate oneself on topics outside of one’s race, nation, country, religion and/or experience discounts many of those who do just that. I’m not saying that all people – or even most – take the time to research something before they express an opinion or write about it but there are definitely those that do (I’m speaking from experience here – I read constantly and love learning about anything and everything). Don’t we want people to learn about and understand us?

I find it interesting – and not in a good way – that I’m often viewed as ‘white’ and my opinions discounted as ‘white privilege’ or because I couldn’t possibly understand what racism is like (directed towards me or even in a general sense). First of all, it’s ridiculous to think that a ‘white’ person has never been subjected to racism, in any country. And to take that point a little further, the comments are often so focused on location – trust me, if you travel to another country, ‘white’ may not be the majority and racism happens everywhere.

While I understand that Twitter limits your arguments to 140 characters, I’d love for people to see outside of their immediate space – which is often America for those I read most often recently – and try a worldview perspective. Racism, even institutional racism, isn’t just by ‘white’ people against people of colour… not if you are in another country. 

But more than anything, it’s odd to me being seen as ‘white’ as an adult when I was often viewed as ‘other’, although not always in a bad way, as a child and teen. I’m mixed race (Caucasian and Native Canadian) but seem to appear to be more ‘white’ as I age. And yeah, I know I look white and therefore I’m often treated as such. I acknowledge that I’ve benefited from ‘white privilege’ regardless of the fact that it wasn’t sought.

I just don’t understand why we still need to see colour, why we need the ‘us vs. them’ mentality? Maybe that’s why I check the “Other” box on forms or fill them in with “Canadian” as my race. I wonder what would happen if more people stopped hyphenizing themselves and just saw others as ‘people’. I don’t know but I would love to find out.

But even that concept – just seeing people as people – has its detractors. I’d love to have a debate about why being colour blind is a bad thing. To my way of thinking, it’s a good thing and I wonder how many other mixed race people would agree with me? Because I more often than not feel like I am neither and yet both. I’ve read a lot recently about the importance of seeing others like yourself in popular culture (read: TV and film) and the media for developing an identity. Hm, can anyone point out someone who’s a half English/Scottish/Irish, a quarter German, and a quarter Ojibway… with a dash of French thrown in somewhere?

Which is why I am truly confused as to why being colour blind or seeing everyone as the same is bad. And no, I don’t mean everyone is exactly the same – obviously some people are smarter, better at sports, or have more charisma, etc. – but rather that everyone should be treated with the same level of respect/courtesy and given the same opportunities unless they prove otherwise. A utopia? Perhaps but isn’t it something we should aspire to?

And no, I don’t mean assimilation – I certainly don’t want everyone to become cookie-cutter versions of anything. How boring. But rather wouldn’t it be fabulous if we could celebrate our differences without using them to set us apart and create dissension? To see those around you as people who matter and deserve respect first, and differences in race, religion, nationality, etc. second… Perhaps not to be truly colour-blind as differences make us unique but for the difference to truly not matter. Isn’t that something worth striving for?

Regardless, as long as there are people who are willing to learn about others, think and speak rationally about whatever they are discussing, and be open to new things… then there is hope.

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