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My Chinese Parents Threatened Abandoning Me When I Started Dating A White Man. We’re Married Now.

My Chinese Parents Threatened Abandoning Me When I Started Dating A White Man. We’re Married Now.

When I first told my Chinese parents about him, they wanted to cut me off

I am the only daughter so when I first started dating my South American boyfriend, they saw it as a sign of rebellion. To put things into context, my Chinese parents are from China and where I’m from there’s immense pressure towards cultural ‘preservation’. Forget Mulan, in my society, dating a white person or even out of my race was considered a significant transgression.

My relationship rang alarm bells because to them, that meant I was cutting off my roots. They were very fearful that I would migrate, start a family far away from ‘home’, and raise fully westernized kids. I guess much of these fears was also peddled by people they were talking to. So they figured that if they abandoned me before I ‘left’ them, there wouldn’t be much shame to deal with.

“Is he very old?”

To add to their fears, there was also the prevalent stigma where Asian girls chase after white men for money, and ‘love’ is just a pathetic excuse and cover-up. To me, that assumption has both racist and sexist roots. I think it’s sad that even though we have come so far as a society, such narratives still shape how many people think about love. I remember the first time my dad went ‘public’ about his daughter’s relationship. “Is he very old?” that was literally the first question my closest family friend asked him, instead of congratulating him or showing any sign that his career-focused daughter finally found it in her to make time for love. Then again, there was the whole doubt of me ditching my family behind. It is interesting that many of our parents carry this fear because filial piety is such a huge thing for Asian households. Whereas, in western countries, if you’re living with your parents in your mid-20s, you’re seen as a bum.

I had to prove his worth to my family before I was allowed to marry him

I raised a family with my white husband despite my chinese parents disapproving of it at the start

It’s really all about perspective. So I knew I had to find the middle ground between the two cultures to change my parents’ minds. So I started asking myself, besides preserving culture, what was the next most important thing to my Chinese parents? The answer: Academics & Qualifications. We celebrate grades from a young age. You’ve made it in life if you’ve amassed accolades. Think of Rachel Chu in Crazy Rich Asians: it was her best chance to convince her Mother-In-Law.

So I pitched them his Ph.D. I used that as the opening to the introduction of my boyfriend and husband-to-be. Just like that, half the battle was won. If you’re reading this and sweating that your partner is not academically inclined at all, chill. My whole point is that we need to help our parents find common associations. Find out what they care about most, and think about how your partner can find a way to check that box. It could be as simple as impressing them with a cultural dish or learning their language. 

I knew the duty was on us to bridge the gap between judgment and reality

As much as we hope that our parents and society would drop all judgments and biases, we have to accept that these are systemic and changes don’t happen over one generation. My husband and I realised that the onus was on us too, to help our parents resolve their cultural differences since we wanted their approval. We both put in a lot of effort to appreciate each others’ cultures while involving our future in-laws in our own cultural practices. Doing this helped them focus on the celebration of our culture rather than focusing on the differences.

Let’s be real: We’re all a little bit ‘racist’

Whether you’re ready to admit it or not, all of us have some form of racist judgment or stereotype. It’s normal when you’ve only ever grown up in one reality. The first time I traveled out of China, it was a culture shock for me and a rude awakening that life is more than what I was raised up in. I think it really makes a difference when you travel to a place, experience the people and immerse in their culture. It helps you form new and refreshing ideas about them. My in-laws are very liberal because they’ve traveled to Asia a lot.

So yes, travel more and if you can afford it, bring your parents or kids when you do too. This way we all get more exposed to the unfamiliar and treat others with love instead of fear and judgment.

We need to unapologetically celebrate mixed marriages more

As a society, we should start advocating for forums, platforms and meet-ups to promote inter racial dating as a beautiful idea. A lot of the judgments people hold onto come from skewed media portrayals of racial stereotypes. If we all embrace our stories and share them instead of ‘hiding’, I think that would be so empowering in the long-run. It’s endearing to see how TikTok has a viral trend for inter-racial couples. Maybe Gen Z will be the generation that finally puts an end to this issue.

Are you in an interracial marriage? What are some of the biggest challenges you faced to keep your relationship?

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