We are living in a biracial and bicultural community that cannot get rid of stereotypes and prejudices. In fact, many biracial and bicultural individuals struggle with defining their identity. For them, identity is a complex issue that transcends ethnical, cultural, religious and other distinctions. Interracial relationships and marriages work out, when they are based on love and respect. However, there are many obstacles that may break the happiness of interracial couples, namely different customs, beliefs, lifestyles, etc. Men and women have different reasons to form bonds with partners of a different race. According to the traditional belief, men of color marry outside of their race, because they want to escape their culture, values and/or themselves. This point of view is in contrast with the popular culture belief that emphasizes that men of color are driven by love in the first place, when they decide to marry outside of their race. I believe that in modern society the second perspective, which focuses on feelings, preponderates over the first one, which is based on reasoning.
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In his essay “Reflections on My Daughter”, David Mura contemplates the complexities that arise from being biracial. He reflects on the challenges he and his daughter Samantha face in society that does not embrace multiculturalism. Mura is a third generation Japanese American married to a Caucasian woman. The writer finds delight in sharing his experiences, giving the readers insights into his personal life that many people guard so vigilantly and are sensitive about. As he advances in years, he better understands himself and his place in the community: “I am happily married, with a wonderful family. The young man who went out haunting the bars, searching for sexual trysts, for some confirmation from women, particularly white women – that’s simply not me anymore.” Mura considers that it is easier for the Japanese Americans to ascent to an honorary white status and to enjoy the benefits that the colored people are often denied. However, he also realizes his borderline case like thousands of those who are trapped between several cultures and cannot relate to one in particular. For Mura, the search for identity is inextricably linked to the issue of sexuality that underlies many of his prominent works. Especially, he is interested in exploring the sexuality of the colored people. In the South, the black men were lynched for rapes, sex with white women or simply staring at white women. The writer underscores that “behind this grotesque violence was the fear of the black man’s sexuality.” The white men wanted to dominate their women and they could not give the black men that privilege. The cases when black women were raped by white men were not revealed and people did not talk about them much. All hatred was directed at the black men or, rather, at “what they represented as sexual beings.” White men could not allow the blacks to marry their women, because then they had to treat them as equals, respect their rights and take into account their opinions. Black men could also use white women to realize their secret ambitions and to get a wide range of opportunities and possibilities.
I believe that in the past many black men viewed the relationships with white women as an escape from their inferior position in society that judged people not according to their abilities and skills, but the color of their skin. Nowadays, as we claim that we live in the land of vast opportunities, where an individual can become what he or she wants to be, and where relationships and marriages are based on feelings, in the majority of cases, the men of color are no longer propelled by the desire to escape their culture, values, and/or themselves. There are exceptions to every case, but that is not the point of discussion.
The situation with Asian-Americans
Asian-Americans are viewed as having no sexual clout. He often wonders what people think about him and his white wife when they see them together. Once he was shopping with his sister and his children. What surprised Mura was that people mistook his sister for his wife. The writer thinks that it is difficult for white people to envisage an Asian-American man with a white woman. The mainstream culture does not attribute sexuality, attractiveness and machismo to Asian and Asian-American men. It presents them as eunuchs, and no wonder that Asian and Asian-American men want to subvert this belief. Mura confesses that, when he was young, he was interested in white women, because he wanted to be accepted by the society he lived in. Besides, the standards of white beauty are constantly imposed by mass media and whether we like them or not, they impact our perception of beautiful, ugly and mediocre. The problem is that people depend too much on the mass media, when searching for their own identities and role-models. The mainstream culture encourages the people of color to assimilate, leaving behind their cultural heritages. The desire to fit into the crowd is prevalent among bicultural and biracial individuals. David Mura recollects his first boy-girl party, where he was the only person of color in the room. “But when we began to play spin the bottle, I felt a new sense of difference from the others. And then the bottle I’d spun pointed to a girl I had a crush on, and she refused to kiss me.” As a matter of fact, teenagers are more responsive to the messages of the culture. In many movies, Asians and Asian-Americans are portrayed as nerds and freaks and people accept that in all good faith.
Mura admits that in his adolescent years he had affairs with white women, because he wanted to be seen as “good” as a white guy. For the colored men, dating and marrying white women is inevitably connected with a racial component. The matter is that how the colored men feel about their identity. If they feel inferior in some way to white men, then they would pursue relationships with white women in order to suppress their feelings of inferiority. If they are comfortable with their identities, they would seek love, respect and understanding with women of a white or other race. Real love sees no color and “racial barriers cannot block the heart’s affections.” Mura eagerly shares the secret of his happy marriage with the readers:
“As for my wife and me, there isn’t a great cultural or value gap between us; that’s one of the reasons we’ve been together for so long, over twenty years. We’re fervent liberals; we’re secular-minded, children of the sixties; we both grew up in white middle-class suburbs; we share a taste for irony and are suspicious of the irrational or mystical.”
Race is not a minor factor in the relationships
The point is what people focus on: either on the stereotypes and biases imposed by the mainstream culture or they look beyond racial prejudices. What Mura tries to emphasize is that the relationships are solid and meaningful, when both partners are committed to each other and look in the same direction. Celebrating multiple differences is part and parcel of interracial couples’ lives. The problem may arise, when one of the spouses is desperately trying to find his/her identity at the expense of the other. What I mean is the situation, when an individual wants to escape his/her culture or identity, because their previous experiences with their cultures are traumatic and leave them scared or deeply hurt. Another culture may look like a safe haven and people cling to that culture, as they need a solid foundation to base their views and beliefs on.
Interracial relationships in the twenty-first century are not unusual, as people seek soul mates on the basis of common views and values in the first place. Men of color may choose white women, because they want to assimilate into the mainstream culture or overcome the feeling of inferiority. Those colored men, who have come to terms with their identity, look for kindred spirits whose skin may be of the same or different color. It is personality that matters in relationships in the long run. To understand this people have to carefully sift the mass media messages or, rather, take them with a grain of salt.