What Do White Parents Think of Asian Boyfriends?

by Jocelyn · 32 comments

White Parents Love Your Asian Boyfriend!

White Parents Love Your Asian Boyfriend!

I’ll never forget when my Chinese husband John and I married, and my father stood up to give a speech. He spent more than half of his talk praising John — loving, hard-working, loyal, thoughtful — and ended by hugging him in front of the entire audience.

It’s such a tear-jerker of a moment that I almost cried the last time I watched it on our wedding DVD. Maybe they were tears of gratitude — because my family embraced John so publicly.

After all, not every white father — or parent — has the same opinion on the Asian boyfriend. Over the years, I’ve met many white women with Asian boyfriend and their meet-the-parents story is never quite the same. Usually, there’s acceptance. But sometimes it doesn’t come immediately, or even easily. And even if they welcome you with open arms, it doesn’t mean they understand you either.

One thing is certain, though. White parents sometimes think the darnedest things about your Asian boyfriend.

Colorblind

What did my father think of my Asian boyfriend and soon to be having a Chinese son-in-law? Something like this:

“…I could care less if (Chinese Guy) is Chinese. He could be Muslim or Hindu or black or any color of the rainbow and that wouldn’t matter to me a bit. Because I know how much (White Girl) loves him and how much he loves her. And that is enough for me. I can’t wait for him to be my son in law.”

This is the kind of parent reaction you probably dream of. It just doesn’t matter that you’re Asian. No roadblocks, no family drama worthy of a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. Instead, they’re already talking about your future engagement or wedding, or maybe even inviting you to the family’s summer lake retreat. Life is beautiful, we’re all one, and all that matters is you love her. Cue the Kumbaya, anyone?

However… keep in mind total acceptance doesn’t mean total understanding. I should know. I was raised by colorblind parents like this, who never really talked about race/culture because they didn’t see it as an issue. But when I married my Chinese husband, then brought him to the US, I began to realize just how much race was an issue.

My husband recently took a diversity course and read in one of his books that all white people are racist. That was tough for me to swallow, but I’ve learned what that really means — acknowledging things like white privlege, and learning how to talk about race. That’s something I really need to learn, especially if I have children.

Loves Diversity

As Stuff White People Like will tell you, a lot of white people — including parents — love diversity, and love the fact that you’re dating their daughter.

  • Korean? They crave kimchi and have wanted to visit Seoul for years.
  • Chinese? They think kung pao chicken is the bomb and just started learning Tai Chi at the gym.
  • Vietnamese? They’ll gush about how much they adore pho, and ask you for recommendations on their next trip to Little Saigon.

Who doesn’t want her parents interested in your background? This parent is, overall, pretty nice to have around.

But there are minor drawbacks.

They might be the only white parents you’ve met who love braised chicken feet or have actually done a pilgrimage through the temples in Japan. But does that really mean they really understand your background? There’s a lot more to Asian cultures than Zagat-rated international restaurants and “postcard Asia” destinations like the Great Wall and Angkor Vat.

I imagine that, if you’re born and raised in the same country as they were, they might just make you feel, well, a little foreign.

Plus, “diversity” is a largely white concept and I can’t help but wonder if, for some people, diversity-obsession hides larger issues).

Model Minority

Everyone in my family, from my father to my grandmother, always compliments my Chinese husband with two adjectives: smart and hard-working. John is smart and hard-working, but I sometimes I think — do they notice these things just because that’s the stereotype of the Asian boyfriend? He’s handsome too, I want to remind them. And super-funny.

A lot of white parents see Asian men through that whole model minority lens. You could be funnier than Dat Phan and as dapper as JT Tran, but they still superimpose positive stereotypes on you like a one-size-fits-all Beijing Opera mask.

The good news is, the more they get to know you — as a person beyond the Asian stereotypes they have — the less of an issue this is.

Harder Life

For some white parents, there’s an asterisk that goes after dating and marrying an Asian boyfriend — a harder life. As much as they love their daughter’s new Asian boyfriend, there’s always that “But…”: But it would be so much easier if you chose a white man.

In a way, they might as well say, we know white means privilege and we don’t want our daughter to have anything less.

Most of the time, parents like this don’t stand in the way — especially if they see how much their daughter adores you. But if they think your being Asian has caused problems for the two of you (often the case for fresh-off-the-boat immigrants, who have a harder time finding work or just getting by because of language/cultural barriers), they might bring it up to their daughter like a kind of “we told you so.”

The Foreigner

In Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Bruce Lee tells Linda’s mother he’s an American. Her answer? “You’re an American citizen, but you’re not really an American.”

Yes, to some white parents, it’s not enough that you’re a card-carrying, born-and-raised-here American. Your Asian face means you’re a foreigner. (Never mind that white people were also foreigners before immigrating to America hundreds of years ago.)

This is devastating, but with persistence, sometimes white parents can come around. One friend told me her very Southern, very close-minded dad did a complete 180 with her Chinese husband — even eventually accepting the man as his own son.

Better Than Black

Once my grandmother confessed she was so grateful I didn’t marry a black man, like my sister did.

Whoa.

For some white parents (and often grandparents), dating and marrying an Asian boyfriend is “the lesser of racial evils” — because “the children won’t look so different.” Ugh. Just thinking about this makes me want to send all of these parents to a required diversity class!

What About the Children?

I turn to Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story for another great example from Linda’s mother: “But what will they be? They won’t be white, and they won’t be oriental. They’ll be some kind of half-breed that won’t be accepted by either side.”

Ouch.

Some white parents see you with their white daughter and immediately think, what about the children? They believe your offspring will be some abomination. (Oddly, this is completely the opposite from China, where many Chinese are obsessed with the “beautiful, clever” half-white/half-Asian babies. But I digress.)

Maybe they’re worried the children will have a harder time, or maybe it’s a more racist “appearance” issue. In cases like this, be prepared to do what Linda did — live life in spite of her parents.

Still, white parents are human beings — and as we all know, people do change. When Bruce and Linda Lee had children, her mother reconciled with them.

Jocelyn: Guest writer for AMWW Magazine

Jocelyn: Guest writer for AMWW Magazine

So remember — no matter what her white parents think of you, first impressions don’t have to last. Her parents might have crossed their arms at the thought of your relationship together. But someday, they could be making that same “welcome to the family” speech at your wedding, just like my dad.

Bet your wife cries too. 😉

—-

Writer, Chinese translator and founder of Speaking of China, Jocelyn Eikenburg knows her white family isn’t perfect, but still loves them anyhow.

  • Susan Blumberg-Kason

    Great article! I was in this position 17 years ago as the white woman with the Asian boyfriend, who was really my fiance, but I had to break the news that I had a boyfriend first. I thought my dad would be more tolerant because he had quite a few mainland Chinese students at the time and had become a father figure to many of them. My mom seemed a bit more reserved. But as it turned out, my mom was more embracing and my dad stayed a little more quiet on the matter than I’d expected. In the end they were so tolerant of him that even after we divorced, they still thought of him as family. I hope Linda Lee’s mother’s reaction about children in multi-cultural relationships is now outdated. I remember watching that movie and wanting to b*&S^-slap that character.

  • “But when I married my Chinese husband, then brought him to the US, I began to realize just how much race was an issue.”
    Yes even in California, but so far not in Hawaii.  A Japanese male-white female couple I know decided to stay on in Hawaii for this very reason. They did not want to subject their kids to bigotry.  This is another reason, why my friend who is married to a white American woman decided to live in Singapore. In UCLA many white females think like Alexandra Wallace but don’t say it out loud but say it in whispers!
    “My husband recently took a diversity course and read in one of his books that all white people are racist.”
    There are predominantly white schools in Georgia, Alabama and even Colorado where teachers tell their students that all South Asians are terrorists.  A young girl of 12 from northern Georgia asked my Hindoo vegetarian boss’s daughter whether her dad is an Islamic terrorist.  No difference, Hindoo, moslem or Christian…all defined by skin color. Now that is really tough to swallow. However, if most white women feel that all males of South Asian origin are Islamic terrorists whites should not complain when South Asian males think all white American females are racists and thumb their noses at dark skinned people.  It is an automatic assumption that if you are a white female with round eyes and pointy nose, you must be a bigot. Now one South Asian male told me that he only considers white women who are dating non-white men as not racist.  Every white woman in his book is a racist until this test is passed. Not fair, but in the light of South Asian stereotype, it is mild. No one can get you thrown of a plane because you are suspected of being a racist.
    “That was tough for me to swallow, but I’ve learned what that really means — acknowledging things like white privlege,”
    I acknowledge that white privilege exists when even a filthy rich dark skinned South Indian money lender’s wife with dark skinned daughters envies the light skinned daughters of a poor North Indian man living in a Mumbai slum. The fact is if both her daughters and the poor man’s daughters go to America, the poor man’s daughter will be treated better because of their light skin.
    “As much as they love their daughter’s new Asian boyfriend, there’s always that “But…”: But it would be so much easier if you chose a white man. ”
    Double standards! Will white parents tell their white son “But it would be so much easier if you chose a white girl.”? It may happen in southern white families or old monied families of the northeast. But, even in the so-called xenophobic Midwest, it does not happen often. I know one family where parents were ok with their son dating a Chinese woman, but one day their daughter brought home a Chinese man, and all hell broke loose.
    “In a way, they might as well say, we know white means privilege and we don’t want our daughter to have anything less.”
    Except when it comes to affirmative action. Then most white people will say that racism does not exist. I actually trapped a white woman in Asia who was telling a group of reporters that racism does not exist in America and affirmative action has no place in the country. When I lied to her in front of the reporters that I saw her with a Chinese man, she blurted out that she may as well stay in Asia as there is too much racism in America. An agile reporter asked her which one it was: too much racism or no racism? She does not speak to me anymore.
    “But if they think your being Asian has caused problems for the two of you (often the case for fresh-off-the-boat immigrants, who have a harder time finding work or just getting by because of language/cultural barriers), they might bring it up to their daughter like a kind of “we told you so.””
    I know a family who did not approve of an Asian boyfriend who is now a full chaired Professor at MIT. He has tough time pronouncing some words. However, they say he is in line to win the Nobel Prize!
    “Yes, to some white parents, it’s not enough that you’re a card-carrying, born-and-raised-here American. Your Asian face means you’re a foreigner.”
    The stereotype is dying. Now if you are a US citizen you must be from California or Hawaii! Now they are upfront and say “you are not white, and I want white grandchildren.”
    “Never mind that white people were also foreigners before immigrating to America hundreds of years ago.”
    A recent German immigrant would be considered more American than a sixth generation Chinese or even a Native American!
    “One friend told me her very Southern, very close-minded dad did a complete 180 with her Chinese husband — even eventually accepting the man as his own son.”
    Still rare. Only one person I know…Melanie Gao Parsons. Her Downtown Diner has not been updated for weeks. She wrote about a dead rat on her front yard. Hope it is not some racist who put a dead rat over there. Very possible in a southern city such as Nashville!
    “Some white parents see you with their white daughter and immediately think, what about the children? They believe your offspring will be some abomination. (Oddly, this is completely the opposite from China, where many Chinese are obsessed with the “beautiful, clever” half-white/half-Asian babies. But I digress.”
    For Chinese and other Asians, it is a white is better attitude. However, evidence indicates that mixed Asian-white babies generally perform better than Asians or whites. Try the daughters of Tiger Mom, or if you think that is an exception try Gretchen Whitney High School in Cerritos, CA. Many mixed white-asian kids are Presidential Scholars.
    “Maybe they’re worried the children will have a harder time, or maybe it’s a more racist “appearance” issue. In cases like this, be prepared to do what Linda did — live life in spite of her parents.”
    Or hope your kids are super-smart!
    Thanks for this blog. A real eye-opener!
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    • Kieran Tsao

      I know one family where parents were ok with their son dating a Chinese woman, but one day their daughter brought home a Chinese man, and all hell broke loose.

      ======

      because man “spreads his seed”, woman “retains her purity”. of course there are double standards, because they are not thinking of the daughter’s side where their parents may be thinking the same.

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  • Melanie Le

    My parents liked my Vietnamese husband right away. I’m glad because I feel it’s made things a lot easier in life. Neither of our families had an issue. In fact, they think he’s the best thing that has ever happened to me as far as love life goes. My dad thinks so highly of him.

    As far as the comment below me goes, I live on the North GA boarder in TN (Just bought a house in N. GA) and I have never heard anyone say Asians are terrorists. Our new neighborhood (white only Ft. Oglethorpe, GA) has been very nice actually. I think acceptance has improved greatly in the south. There are many Asian restaurants that are very popular for the whites. I’ve lived here my whole life and I have a few more white friends that married Asians. Atlanta is only 1.5 hrs away and it has a huge Vietnamese population.

  • Kristen

    Ugh, I wish my family would be more normal.  In the beginning, my grandparents were trying to set me up with white guys while we were out to dinner with my Asian boyfriend.  I wanted to slam my face into the dinner table.  Luckily my boyfriend has been very understanding.  My crazy family is coming around….slowly.

    • ALEX

      SELFISH BLOODLINE POLLUTING TRAMP.

      • Kieran Tsao

        what is your take on asian women with white men, i wonder

  • Oegukeen

    You make some valid arguments, but isn’t this post stereotyping white parents, the same way you claim they stereotype Asian boyfriends?

    After all “white parents” live from frozen wastes of Finland to warm sea-washed shores of south Italy. From New York City to Boise, Idaho. I’m sure their reactions are going to be as diverse as they are.

    Heck, even my mother and father had different reactions. If you are interested in how my (white) parents accepted my (Korean) boyfriend, you can read it here http://lovingkorean.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/korean-attraction-meet-the-parents/.

  • B A

    If you do not want to have this kind of problems, don’t mix with other races 😉
    Mixing races kills cultures. Many people often see it as the solution against racism, but it’s not. Once, I was in a relationship with a foreigner (I still wonder why), it made my relatives really racist. They weren’t before.

    Peace.

    EDIT : foreigner* -> someone not my race.

    • relmneiko

      Thank you, Mr. Klu Klux Klan.

  • Asda

    I really wish the author will stop writing, because it’s clear she doesn’t know what she is talking about.
    Movies are great, but things aren’t magically solved when a baby is born like that.  If the baby is born in the US, the asian culture traits will never be instilled. So the question is usually how does the child look?  or the more common question “Can the child pass for white?” This was the same question asked by the blacks in the 50’s.  If the child has more caucasian features there is a better chance that she can live normally(like a caucasian person) and the grandparents accepting her.  If the child has predominantly asian features, the child will suffer for some identity crises and it’s 50/50 if the grandparents will accept. 
    I’ve seen grandparents pour boiling hot water on a child because they kept seeing their daughter-in-law’s asian features in the child.  They went to court, the jury ruled there was nothing wrong with that. 
    That’s the real world.

  • I wonder in what kind of country is it ok for granparents to hurt their grandchild no matter what race it is. And where did you get that story?
    I am a white female in a happy relationship with a Korean man, who was born, raised and been in Korea all his life, and no one is complaining or making racist comments or worrying what our children will look like. It’s 21st century after all.

  • Guest

    I just had to respond to ChellG and Melanie Le…  I live IN ATLANTA, and we have a huge Korean population (didn’t realize it was a huge Vietnamese pop too, but I guess that makes sense – my man’s Vietnamese 😉 ) I’ve lived in ATL my whole life and…. I was NEVER taught that South Asians are terrorists, nor do I know anyone that thinks that’s the case!  We weren’t taught to think that any Asian/Middle Eastern people were terrorists, and we certainly weren’t taught to think that based on where someone is from.  Terrorists of all different races exist.  I don’t even remember actually being taught anything about terrorists except a recap of what happened on 9/11.  But we lived through that so we didn’t really need to have it “taught” to us.

  • Datingblogsandforums

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful insight about marrying an Asian guy from your personal point of view. Very interesting article. Yes, the are stereotypical mindsets that have to be cleared before you can really get a person to understand or accept why many go out with an Asian guy or girl instead of someone in their own race. Interracial dating is a great way to know another’s culture and meet new people. As long as you remain open-minded that not all cultures are the same, and can accept the differences and then it would work out great. It’s already accepted accepted nowadays and more people are even going out for Asian dates rather than their own.

  • What my parents think about me being with a Asian man. They do prefer if I was with Caucasian man. But they also told me long as he has job we will like him. So doesn’t really matter long as he had a jod that’s all they really care about. 

  • 物语

    hardworking.亚洲的。东亚。中国四川。。love

  • MrDeltoid

    Goodness, you’re a libelous self-loathing white if I’ve ever encountered one.

    Your Asian husband completed a “diversity course” and promptly informed you that you and the race to which you belong are “privileged” and racist?! Initially I thought perhaps that comment was a joke because platitudes like those are incredibly absurd and old, but given the context of this “article” that seems unlikely. How could you not take exception to such a preposterous and explicitly racist set of statements? Sadly, many females, especially white females, seem to slurp guilt-laden shit like that up enthusiastically without realizing what it amounts to: baseless anti-white (with emphasis on white males) propaganda. Ask yourself the following:

    Out of all of the races of man, which group, on average, is most accepting of inter-racial and inter-ethnic marriages? Also, which group is most tolerant of homosexuals, and homosexual marriage? Many surveys have been conducted on this subject in the U.S. and consistently… the answer is whites!

    Of all the regions of the world, where might a racial, religious or linguistic minority or a homosexual find himself most welcome, or tolerated and free from persecution? In the sub-Sahara? In the Muslim-ridden Mid-East? How about Latin America? How might a black or dark-skinned individual fare in the Orient as compared to Europe and North America? The West is the most enlightened, innovative, tolerant, prosperous and, most importantly in my view, freest civilization the world has ever known. Incidentally, this wonderful setup was established by whites and remains predominantly white. It is a mode of living to which most regions aspire, and in which most foreigners wish to participate. Please consider some of these basic facts before disparaging your race and the magnificent accomplishments it has made.

    As for biracial offspring, most Asians regard whites as belonging to a higher class, and additionally, a fair complexion is one of the hallmarks of status and beauty in the Orient (from Korea to Japan to India, the Philippines and beyond). Many of these regions also prefer double eyelids (particularly the Koreans). Thus Asians, especially status-chasing Asian women, are often quite happy to produce or celebrate biracial children (as long as the non-Asian half isn’t non-white). This is especially true in poorer Asian countries such as the Philippines and China. Racial identity and the prospect of being a social misfit, especially in countries like Japan, are genuine problems however, and they ought not to be dismissed as being nothing more than “fear” of mongoloid features.

  • hybrid

    mr deltoid, you are a god damned idiot. You argue that whites are not racist and then boast about whites superiority in being acceptable/tolerant of other races in relationships and such. Oh and the surveys. Maybe because whites are the majority there are more that are tolerant. And thanks for telling me how I view biracial/hybrid offspring, asshole, as well as double eyelids.

    Instead of diversity class, maybe you should take reading comprehension because you obviously didn’t understand one thing or you have a serious superiority/diversity complex which closed your mind after reading one sentence.

    • ALEX

      EVERYHING DELTOID SAID IS TRUE YOU AGRESSIVE LITTLE BITCH,YOU ARE THE FUKN IDIOT,HYBRID MY ASSHOLE.HALF BREED WOULD BE A BETTER DESCRIPTION.

  • thom

    Darker skin has nothing to do with attractiveness as much as a societal bias that people of darker skin toil in fields and therefore do not have the finances of someone who does not need to work (physically as hard). In other words, the educated stay indoors and have a better life while the uneducated work outdoors and suffer. EVERY society initiates “marrying up” and would not want their offspring to grow up suffering. Most will play these odds in hopes of a very financially secure future.

  • family

    My parents would be totally fine, but I have some other relatives who would have issues.
    I have an uncle who, when I was 17 years old and had already been avidly studying chinese for 5 years and was planning my first ever trip to China to study Chinese, tried to convince my mom to stop letting me take Chinese lessons and not buy the plane ticket. His reasoning? “Well it seems fine now, that it’s all about school and learning. But a few years down the road? What’ll you do if you have Chinese grandchildren?”

    If I were to marry an Asian man, he would not be invited to the wedding. But he wouldn’t be invited if I marry a woman (also a distinct possibility), or a person of any race other than my own. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’d want him at my wedding even if he would approve of the match, because I don’t even like having him around.

  • ALEX

    AWWWWW HOW OPEN MINDED OF YOU BREEDING OUT THE WHITE RACE BY SCREWING MONGOLS,ANY FAMILY THAT WOULD ALLOW HIS WHITE DAUGHTER TO USE HER BODY TO MAKE MORE COLORED VERMIN,SHOULD BE BOILED IN OIL.SHAME ON YOU,THA FAIR HAIRED KID YOU SHOULD HAVE HAD NO LONGER EXISTS REPLACED BY A WHITE HATING SLIT EYED BUSH MONKEY.SHAME ON YOU AND YOUR HALF BREEDS…YOU ARE NO LONGER A WHITE PERSON,JUST A ASIAN BABYMAKER.BURN IN HELL.

    • Anon

      Who pissed in your cheerios? You fucking creep.

    • Kieran Tsao

      why don’t you target white men for doing this??? Hypocrite.

    • Ryan Cool’n Charm Wibie

      Burned in Hell?? What hell?? how do you know that the hell is even exist and your religion is the correct one??

    • relmneiko

      trololololol

    • Bob

      If it means less of your kind (i.e. stupid inbred ignorant racist white male) then all the best to them!

  • relmneiko

    My dad is racist in a benevolent, mildly ignorant sort of way… He can be so awkward. He has embarrassed me more than once. I have mixed cousins and all (black aunt) so that line was crossed a long time ago in my family, but white people say dumb things sometimes, man. All my grandparents are dead, so I don’t have to jump through that hoop, fortunately…

  • Ostridk

    Sakho

  • Roger

    Where does this happen? Seriously, I grew up around white women in white beighborhoods my entire life and have never met a white woman married to an asian, arab, middle eastern, or pacific islander. I THINK i met one married to a black guy. BUT ive met a lot married and dating americanized hispanic guys, especially south american and caribbean. SAME goes for white guys.

    • International Observer

      It happens but it is very rare. I’m in California and I’m lucky if I see one AM/WF couple per week. The vast majority of those couples consists of a whitewashed Asian guy with a plainish looking brunette or redhead. I rarely ever see an Asian guy with an attractive blonde.