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texts are under the responsibility and the property of their authors under
reserve of translation and adaptation.
Laurent D. FAURE.
We are pleased to present the translation and adaptation of the texts
concerning interracial sexuality by the English Canadian, of Italian and Irish
descent, inhabitant of Toronto (Ontario, Canada), Emily MONROY.
have sexual intercourse with someone who is not of his/her ethnic group doesn't
provide the same “feeling” that we can feel with a people, that, without
having his/her nationality, or, even having it, doesn't have his/her color of
skin. Indeed, there is a special sexual excitation, as good as for the white
that for the people of color, which doesn't exist in the international
relations. An American survey of 1998 proves that these relations are motivated
for 14,5% by sexual excitation. It is more than love (9%) but less than neglect
of ethnic question (83%) that is important in such relation.
if we avoid to say it for “politically correct” reasons, there is fantasy
concerning interethnic sexuality and the most known is the big virility of black
men and the weak virility of Asian men. But interethnic attraction is not
important for 10% and 80% of people say that they would not hesitate to enter in
interethnic relation if they would have opportunity.
Asian women, regarding as submissive, this characteristic is underlined by
advertisement made around the Geisha and by philosophy of the westernized
Tantrism, providing the highest sexual pleasure. Characteristic underlined, also,
by “sellers of wives”, wives who will make all to share a more exciting life
with a western husband. This is not interethnic which is important in this case,
but the duality poor/rich that puts a problem, because we don't buy love.
shows the idea of “sexuality” that every ethnic group has about the other
groups, whatever we are inter-fertile.
all depends what we think about “mixed relations”: international,
interethnic, the both?
“interracial sexuality” is a problem in French, it is probably because it
has a link with “race”, however there is only one (race) human species on
earth, and several ethnic groups. We will keep “interethnic sexuality”, but
“interracial sexuality” in the English text of Emily.
countries of immigration, like Canada and the United States of America, the
question of “crossings” exists since a long time, but we accept them in
Europe, even if the way to accept them is not probably the same, even if we less
often find cosmetic products allowing women of color to have “straight hairs”
like hairs of white women in Europe and in America. Emily will explain what is
the matter concerning this question.
percent of people don't feel anything when they see an interethnic couple, 30%
are happy, 3% feel envy and 6% are angry.
there is also a borderline. When the Council of Europe published for its
campaign “All Different. All Equals” a picture showing a black man and a
white woman, naked, going to bathe in the sea, this kind of thing was a bad
taste provocation for some people and the result was bad too.
today, the interethnic sex is accepted. First, because only 53% of people prefer
to live with a people of their own ethnic group; and then, because if homosexual
and transsexual are accepted it would be strange that we couldn’t accept
interethnic sex. Obviously, there is a difference between what we could tolerate
and what we could accept, because in South Africa, it was necessary to wait 1985
for abrogation of “Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act” of 1949 (prohibition
of interethnic weddings) and of “Immorality Act” of 1957 (prohibition of
interethnic sexuality and of immoral relations in general). South-African
Constitution was the one to protect homosexual, concerned by “Immorality Act”
too. But Apartheid is always in mind, and we don’t criminalize interethnic (and
gay) sexuality, but we don’t accept it. As said a South-African black “a
black with a white must be better than a white with a white, because he will
have to get forgiven of his color.” Readers of Emily will see that things
don't have really changed.
words of Emily are sometimes sharp, they have advantage to show a large scale of
behaviors attached to interethnic sex despite legalization, after all, recent,
in some countries, and illegality in others, particularly under religious
relations are not however still international. International relations can be
also interethnic. But a relation between American and European white, will shock
nobody and will be a good thing in the mind of most families that will become
“ international”. And in the young generations, nothing is more “in”
that “to live with a stranger.” It is clear that, the European unification
helping, internationalization contributing, Internet spreading, and the wish to
find his/her ideal, here or elsewhere, being a powerful catalyst, relations,
even with a link with socioeconomic criteria, will change. We are not to
shelters of our borders, guards of the purity of our ethnic group anymore but on
the contrary, open on an inter-cultural brewing, not simple, but which is a good
thing concerning mentally, physically (them mixed parents have, in general,
beautiful children) and genetically (in particular concerning genetic diseases)
point of view. One of my regrets will be to have only French nationality.
a hilarious article entitled “White Sex,” sexual politics author Susie
Bright discusses stereotypes about the sexual behavior of White Americans. These
include the GWM (Gay White Male), Yankee Whore, Scary White Guys and more. One
stereotype that particularly struck me was the White Bitch in Heat. It refers to
the White woman who flouts society’s moral standards to seek sexual
satisfaction in the arms of Black men. Such a woman naturally falls from the
good graces of other White folk, but the pedestal is a small price to pay for
her hard-won sexual fulfillment.
female-minority male sex continues to be a burning issue in Caucasian America,
much more so than sex the other way around. A look at the entertainment industry
confirms this. Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever about an affair between an
African-American architect and his Italian secretary was talked about for ages,
whereas Zebrahead, in which a White man dates a Black woman, raised much
less discussion. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine the movie Star Maps
receiving the same amount of attention if it had dealt with a White man chasing
after Mexican girls instead of a White woman pursuing Mexican boys. Most
on-screen/stage romances between women of color and Caucasian men are soppy
sentimental tearjerkers (Miss Saigon, Pocahontas) that don’t
cause a great deal of controversy in mainstream society.
sex has generated its own set of stereotypes. Men of color who sleep with women
of European descent tend to be slotted into a single category, that of the
“Other” male who lusts dangerously after White (or White Christian) women.
This designation was assigned variously to Black men in the Old South, Filipino
men in the Western United States during the Depression, and Jewish men in Nazi
Germany. Stereotypes of miscegenous White women, though, don’t fall into one
category. Some - the political activist, for example - have a grain of truth to
them, while others - the slut - are based more on society’s fear of White
female sexuality than on reality. What these archetypes basically represent is a
way for people to understand behavior that they condemn and in a certain sense
are the three most common stereotypes of White women who sleep with men of color:
variant of Susie Bright’s White Bitch in Heat. A White girl who willingly
sleeps with a man of color is a slut, or so goes the conventional wisdom. It
therefore follows that she lacks any sexual restraint whatsoever. In places like
the Old South, such a woman faced public whipping, indentured servitude,
rejection from her family and community, and violence from the Ku Klux Klan.
Though now the legal consequences of the slut’s behavior have disappeared and
the social ones diminished somewhat, the stereotype remains. For instance, while
in the company of an African-American male friend feminist writer Gloria Steinem
was leered at by a White man who assumed that any White woman with a Black man
was fair game.
with fornication, adultery, and promiscuity, a double standard exists around
interracial sex. A White woman involved with a man of color commits the cardinal
sin of allowing an “Other” male to enter her vagina, whereas a White man who
sticks his private parts into those of non-White women draws little criticism as
long as his relationships don’t get too serious. White society’s outrage
over miscegenation has less to do with the purity of the European gene pool than
that of the Caucasian female reproductive system.
theories have been offered to account for this racial/sexual disparity. The
authors of the book The Color Complex, when discussing Black-White
relations in the days of American slavery, state that “mulattoes in the slave
quarters [i.e. the children of White men and Black women] were an economic asset,
in the form of slave property” whereas those “in the big house [i.e. the
offspring of White women and Black men]... disrupted the patriarchy.” With
regard to more modern times, Susie Bright puts forth another viewpoint: “When
a white woman is called a ‘nigger-lover’, it means that she puts her sexual
satisfaction before her racial unity. The crucial thing about this little notion
is that white women aren’t supposed to put their sexual satisfaction before
political activist stereotype, unlike the slut, can apply to both White males
and females, though here I’ll use it in reference to women. The political
activist is a left-wing, socially conscious woman who views involvement with a
non-White man (especially a Black) as an act of solidarity with an oppressed
group and perhaps as a means of thumbing her nose at society and rebelling
against her family. If she and her partner have children, she is further praised
in some circles for holding the key to the future of race relations.
many minorities and left-wingers are skeptical of her actions. People of color
rightly doubt whether miscegenation will really sound the death knell for racism,
given that five hundred years of race mixing on this continent and others
hasn’t achieved that goal yet. As a White person who has dated interracially
for the past decade, I would add that the desire to strike a blow against
discrimination, while noble, isn’t by itself a very sound basis for a
relationship. After all, you’re going out with an individual, not a whole
race. If you want to do something about discrimination, join an anti-racist
ugly duckling is a White woman who might not necessarily get billed as the
Ugliest Woman in the World at the circus but who doesn’t turn heads either. In
White circles, that is. As soon as she steps out of Fortress Caucasia, she’s
the belle of the ball. Men of color shower her with attention. In some ways
she’s the female heterosexual equivalent of Chinese-Canadian writer Richard
Fung’s rice queen abroad, a gay White man considered unattractive at home but
desired in poor Asian countries because of his economic and social status. But
the ugly duckling’s greatest asset isn’t her money or social position.
It’s her Whiteness, which in some communities of color is a precious commodity
(just look at the number of Caucasian-looking movie stars in the Philippines,
for example). In The Color Complex, a Black filmmaker humorously
describes the allure of the ugly duckling: “Over the years a group of black
boys grew up masturbating with the white girls in Penthouse... This caused them
to go out and date any 250-pound greasy white woman they could find, whose only
redeeming quality was that they had blond hair, blue eyes, and white skin.”
played the role of the ugly duckling more than once. While in my 95%
Euro-American high school I only had one admirer - who didn’t interest me in
any case – a trip to a Hispanic neighborhood one Saturday morning brought me
requests for dates from two different men. In first-year college my cousin’s
Anglo engineering buddies treated me like their little sister. Two years later
my boyfriend was a South Asian engineer with a Master’s degree. Some lovers
have informed me that my skin color made me desirable in their eyes. A Filipino
boyfriend said that on our first night together he could not believe he had a
White woman, not just any woman but a White woman, in his bed. A Mexican
mestizo assured me that we’d make beautiful babies because they would be
three-quarters White. My race probably wasn’t the only thing that attracted
these men, but I’m sure it helped.
flip side of the ugly duckling stereotype is the implication that she goes out
with men of color because she’s not “good enough.” If she were, she could
do better, i.e. catch a White man. But I’ve come to cherish my role as the
ugly duckling. First, White men no longer attract me sexually (even in my White
man phase, it was Italians and Greeks rather than WASP types who turned me on).
Second, the sad thing about the ugly duckling stereotype is not so much that it
reflects on the individual woman’s attractiveness or lack of it but that it
shows how much the “White is right” mentality has taken hold of people of
I mentioned above, these three pictures, like most stereotypes, are ways of
simplifying complex behavior so that it’s easier to understand.
Anti-miscegenists can explain away the White woman who consorts with men of
color by saying that she’s immoral (the slut), that she’s caught up in
hopelessly utopian ideals (the political activist), or that we don’t want her
anyway (the ugly duckling). But in real life things aren’t so clear-cut. True,
some White female partners of minority men might be seeking a sexual adventure,
trying to fight racism, or turning to interracial romance for lack of any other
choice. But most of these women have simply found the right person who, as one
White woman interviewed in The Color Complex reported, happens to be of
is basically the motive behind my relationships with non-White men. But I can
still see each of the three stereotypes in myself. I’ve related the ugly
duckling scenario to my situation. I’ll even admit that the slut archetype
rings true in some ways; at this point in my life copulating with a man of color
seems more exciting. And perhaps it’s the political activist in me who feels a
certain elation at the thought that when I have a child with my current partner,
I’ll be disrupting the patriarchy a little bit.
a previous essay on interracial sex, I describe several stereotypes of White
women who sleep with men of color. As the essay mentions, White female-minority
male sex has always been more controversial than sex the other way around, at
least in North America. Even in extremely racist societies, like the American
Old South, White women who consorted with men of other races risked punishment
ranging from ostracism to public whipping to indentured servitude, whereas the
interracial dalliances of their White male peers, even if they amounted to rape,
were more or less accepted. In fact, the mother of all racist organizations, the
Ku Klux Klan, which was responsible for the lynching of countless Black men who
looked at White females the wrong way, sometimes included the rape of
African-American women among its terror tactics against the Black population,
according to writer Dorothy Roberts.
just as concern for women’s equality shouldn’t blind us to the various forms
of oppression men have faced in society, the experience of White male partners
of minority women should not be overlooked either. Some White men have suffered
on account of their relationships - particularly marriages - with women of other
races. A well-known example was Richard Loving, who with his Black wife Mildred
successfully challenged the state of Virginia’s ban on mixed marriages (this
case, it should be noted, led to the eradication of anti-miscegenation laws
throughout the United States).
their Caucasian female (and minority male) counterparts, White men in mixed race
unions have been subjected to stereotypes, most of which are not very flattering.
Some of these stereotypes have grounds in current or historical reality. For
example, the Sleazy White Male goes back to the days of slavery and colonialism,
while the Political Activist emerged during the civil rights struggles of the
1960s and the GI Joe with the women’s movement of the 1970s and ‘80s. These
stereotypes are more fiction than fact as far as the majority of miscegenous
White males are concerned. However, in order to challenge and disprove them,
it’s necessary to examine them. So here goes:
Sleazy White Male (SWM) is a White man who goes after women of color for sex and
nothing but. His behavior is frequently motivated by the belief that White women
are naturally asexual and meant for marriage and motherhood, not unbridled
sexual activity. With women of other races, though, he can give free rein to his
baser instincts. In some ways the Sleazy White Male is the male equivalent of
the Slut, the White woman who consorts with men of color. But like male
fornicators, adulterers and other sexual transgressors, the SWM faces much less
criticism than she does. As long as his relationships with minority women
don’t get too serious, they’re usually tacitly tolerated and at times even
encouraged. In the Old South, for instance, it was said that a boy did not
become a real man until he had sex with a Black woman.
White Males positively abounded during the age of European imperialism and the
days of slavery in the United States. Several factors facilitated their
emergence, not least of which was the enormous social, economic and political
power they wielded. Black female slaves, for example, usually had no choice but
to submit to the sexual demands of their White masters. At other times women of
color seemingly chose to enter into unions with their conquerors in order to
gain privileges for themselves and their resulting offspring. In colonial Latin
America many Indian women sought to become pregnant by Spanish men because
mestizo children were exempt from the taxes imposed on Indians and occasionally
received other benefits for being half-White. But even in this case the
woman’s “consent” to such relationships was somewhat dubious.
Sleazy White Males often took a “devil made me do it” approach to their
escapades. The devil in this case was the woman in question: she tempted him.
Nineteenth-century commentator Sinibaldo de Mas used this theory to explain why
so many Spanish priests in the Philippines broke their vows of celibacy: “the
garb of the native women is very seductive and girls, far from being
unattainable, regard themselves as lucky to attract the attention of the curate...
what virtue and stoicism does not a friar need to possess!” (Curiously, in
more recent times some Arab publications have attributed the rape of Filipina
domestic workers in the Middle East to the women’s supposedly short skirts,
even though by Western standards both Filipinas and their clothing are fairly
conservative.) Closer to home, historian Deborah Gray White says that in the Old
South “Black… women were thought to have such insatiable sexual appetites
that they had to go beyond the boundary of their race to get satisfaction.”
very famous Sleazy White Male was American President Thomas Jefferson, who had a
long affair with his mixed-race Black slave Sally Hemings (actually a
half-sister of his wife). Jefferson was a bit of a Jimmy Swaggart about his
relationship, however. He once called miscegenation one of the most degrading
things in which a White person could indulge. But Jefferson must have degraded
himself, for recent DNA testing of one of Hemings’ descendants confirmed that
Jefferson fathered at least one child by her. Still, Jefferson’s apparent
hypocrisy was probably typical of many other White men of his era, who publicly
condemned race mixing but engaged in it privately.
the glory days of the Sleazy White Male are long gone. The abolition of slavery,
the erosion of the sexual double standard for White women, and the growing
social acceptance of interracial marriage have taken the SWM out of mainstream
society. Today he’s by and large relegated to the realm of the sexual deviant,
whether the criminal (such as Gary Heidnick, the Philadelphia serial killer of
several Black women) or the kinky eccentric (like the Italian-American
politician in San Francisco who had Black prostitutes give him oral sex and call
him Daddy). Right now the closest equivalent of yesterday’s SWM is the North
American, European or Middle Eastern man who engages in sexual tourism in Third
World countries, even if unlike his predecessors he usually has to pay to
assuage his carnal appetites.
Political Activist (PA) is the male equivalent of the female stereotype of the
same name. Like her, he sees marriage to a minority, especially a Black, as a
means of fighting racism. Such a union also helps him expiate his guilt over the
privileges he enjoys on account of not only his skin color but his gender and,
more often than not, social class (most PAs are middle and upper rather than
the PA’s actions are greeted with uneasiness at best and hostility at worst by
many people of color. Most rightly doubt that intermarriage is going to solve
the problem of racial discrimination, given that five centuries of race mixing
in places as diverse as the Philippines, the Caribbean, Latin America and even
the good old U.S. of A. haven’t eliminated the advantages held by White or
White-looking people vis-à-vis those with darker complexions. Carol Camper, an
African-Canadian writer who was herself once married to a White man, suggests
that under the Political Activist’s leftist, socially conscious exterior lurks
a Sleazy White Male. Some Whites who married Blacks in the 1970s, she says, were
motivated by the desire to experience a so-called “exotic” lifestyle.
as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, the very noble wish to eliminate
racism just isn’t by itself a very solid basis for a relationship with an
individual. Take the case of a White man I’ll call Ron. The minister of a
liberal Protestant church, Ron married a Black woman named Marie in order to set
an example of interracial harmony for his congregation. Ron and Marie, however,
had nearly nothing in common with regards to anything from temperament to
preferred leisure activities to childrearing philosophies. They divorced four
years later. Their difference in skin color literally paled (pardon the pun)
before those in other areas of life. Ron’s mistake lay in choosing a marriage
partner on the basis of her membership in a group rather than her personal
qualities. Of course some people who enter into “political statement”
marriages find they share a good many qualities besides their commitment to
racial equality, and their relationships stand the test of time. But as Ron’s
story shows, a political statement alone isn’t the best grounds for a marriage.
GI Joe is a White man who seeks out minority women to recover the ideals of
femininity, wifely devotion, and self-sacrifice that his own women have
supposedly left by the wayside in their rush out of the home and into the
workplace. Usually his targets are Asian women (thanks in part to movies such as
The World of Suzie Wong and plays like Miss Saigon), although
Latin American women are also sometimes portrayed as more “domestic” than
the average White American woman. Interracial marriage gives the GI Joe a taste
of the Father Knows Best lifestyle familiar to him only through re-runs
of old sit-coms.
GI Joe often tries to find his Madame Butterfly through the mail-order bride
business, in which women from Asia, Latin America, and other places offer
themselves as wives to men in industrialized countries. In her essay
“Recipe” (featured in the book The Very Inside: An Anthology of Writing
by Asian and Pacific Islander Lesbian and Bisexual Women), Chinese-Canadian
writer C. Allyson Lee gives a humorous description of the GI Joe’s search of a
submissive Asian woman: “Attractive Straight White Male, middle-aged business
executive looking for that special little China Doll, preferably short, petite
and obedient. Object: to fulfill typical fantasies of the stereotype of Oriental
ladies anxious to marry a Canadian in order to get out of Hong Kong or the
Philippines and willing to do anything to pamper and please her man.”
the vast majority of White men married to Asian or Latin American women did not
meet their wives through a mail-order bride outlet (nor is the mail-order bride
business an exclusively White male-minority female phenomenon, as many such
brides are White women from Eastern Europe and some clients are Japanese men),
and most aren’t necessarily looking for a Suzy Wong to lord over. A study in
Hawaii found that White husbands of Asian women were actually less domineering
than their counterparts with Caucasian wives and that Asian women who married
outside their race weren’t any more or less submissive than their in-married
sisters. Similarly, according to a study on interracial marriages in the US as a
whole, Asian women married to White men were more likely than White women in
same-race marriages to work outside the home, which challenges the notion that
Caucasian men with Asian partners are looking for a June Cleaver incarnation.
When faced with scientific studies, the GI Joe, like most stereotypes, falls
flat on his face.
end the discussion by describing a real-life White man in an interracial
relationship. My cousin Bill is engaged to a Korean woman. She’s an engineer
with a thriving career, so if he’s looking for a geisha girl, he’s barking
up the wrong tree. Nor does he seem to be making a political statement,
especially as nowadays interracial marriage, especially Asian-White marriage,
isn’t the hotbed of controversy it once was (in fact, a very conservative
White woman I knew, a traditional Catholic woman who thought the local abortion
provider was more evil than King Herod, told me she’d be delighted to see her
daughter marry a Chinese man). And the fact that Bill is planning to marry his
Korean fiancée disqualifies him as a Sleazy White Male, although most White men
involved in interracial relationships that don’t lead to marriage aren’t
necessarily SWMs either.
feeling is that once interracial relationships become more commonplace and more
accepted, stereotypes about people who engage in them will gradually disappear.
This is kind of what’s happened with the Sleazy White Male. Now that White
women aren’t confined by the same sexual straightjackets as they were in the
past, a naturally sleazy White man can just as easily satisfy his urges with a
White woman as with one of another race. The same goes for the Political
Activist: with the growing public acceptance of interracial marriage, aspiring
PAs of either sex will find, perhaps to their disappointment, that marriage to a
minority won’t create a stir among anyone other than the extreme right (and
even here there’s a big question mark; for example, Terry Nichols, Timothy
McVeigh’s partner-in-crime in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal
building, was married to a Filipina).
course we don’t know how the future of interracial relationships and the
stereotypes that accompany them is going to unfold. There’s even a chance that
mixed-race unions could be stigmatized all over again. As a sociology professor
once said, history is not an upward straight line of progress. In the early days
of the Netherlands’ colonization of South Africa, for instance, relationships
between Dutchmen and native women were socially accepted. Later, though, such
unions were prohibited by law (until the abolition of apartheid, they fell under
the so-called Immorality Act). But it seems that given current social trends,
those who find stereotypes of interracial sex interesting, thought-provoking and
even amusing should enjoy them while they can.
my previous articles Interracial Sex and Interracial Sex #2 I
discuss stereotypes of white men and women who have sex with people of other
races. The articles touch only
briefly, however, on popular images of minorities romantically linked with
whites. Like most stereotypes, images of miscegenous non-whites are more fiction
than fact. They also tend to be derogatory. I nonetheless think it’s important
to address them because they teach us about the history of race relations in
North America and elsewhere and show us how we construct our images of different
of the most pervasive stock characters of American miscegenation lore is the
Other Man, the man of color who preys lustfully on white women. The most famous
Other Man was of course the black male in the Old South. Countless black men
there were lynched for “looking” at white women the wrong way. Given the
widely held notion that blacks had “such insatiable sexual appetites that they
had to go beyond the boundaries of their race to get satisfaction,”1
there was no doubt in white society’s mind as to what intentions lay behind
those looks. Filipino immigrants to the United States were similarly demonized
in the 1920s and ‘30s for seducing presumably innocent white women. As a
result of whites’ discomfort over these unions, several American states added
Filipinos to the list of ethnic groups prohibited from marrying whites.
the Other Man concept wasn’t limited to the United States or even to
non-whites. Jewish men in Nazi Germany were often portrayed as lusting
predatorily after Aryan women. In Mein Kampf, Hitler thundered about the
“black-haired Jewish youth who lurks in wait [for the German girl]” (then
again, Hitler’s rant about Jews’ purported sexual prowess may have been
spurred by envy, as the Fuhrer himself was impotent). Even in Canada, a country
that prides itself on being non-racist, anti-Semitic remarks like Hitler’s
were not unheard of. One 1910 Canadian account from Quebec described Jewish
immigrant men as “corrupters of our women” (i.e. of white Christian women).
As well, Canada at one time had a law that forbade white women from working in
stores owned by Chinese men.
Other Man couldn’t have come into being, though, without a flip side
stereotype: the lily-pure white female. According to this philosophy, white
women were innately asexual. They saved any sexual feelings they did have for
the white men they married and whose children they bore as part of their duty to
reproduce Fortress Caucasia. The average white woman would be expected to shun
sexual contact with men of any race but white (and even with white men other
than her lawfully wedded husband), and so couplings between white females and
minority males were in general assumed to be rape.
such a woman trod a fine Madonna (Madonna in the sense of the Virgin Mary, not
the modern-day songs tress)/Whore line. If she were sexually assaulted by a
non-white man or, in the case of consensual intercourse, presumed to have been
“of previously chaste character” and thus seduced, society would pity her as
an innocent victim. On the other hand, women who refused to play the innocent
victim or deny their involvement with minority men fell off their pedestal as
fast as you could say “slut.” These women indeed descended to the level of
the slut (described in the essay Interracial Sex), where, being
considered beyond moral repair, they usually remained.
the castration of minority men involved with white women, and the demonization
of entire ethnic groups as sexually deviant – it’s tempting to think of
these things as relics of a distant past. Nonetheless, incidents such as the
1989 murder of a young black man accused of dating a white girl in Bensonhurst,
New York remind us that perhaps we haven’t evolved as far as we’d like to
think. Like the slut, the Other Man has faded but not gone the way of the
her informative book Ar’n’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation
South, Rutgers University professor Deborah Gray White explains that there
were two principal stereotypes of black women in pre-bellum America: Mammy and
Jezebel. While Mammy was a sort of black version of the Virgin Mary -- maternal,
reliable and basically sexless, as depicted in the novel Gone With the Wind
and the movie later made from the book -- Jezebel was her exact opposite:
lascivious, hedonistic, and completely without morals. Like the Other Man, the
Jezebel archetype stemmed from the belief that blacks were sexually insatiable.
Whereas the Other Man was problematic, however, in that he posed a threat to
white female sexual purity, Jezebel came in handy for white men. She served as
an excuse for the white man’s rape of the black woman -- or for his infidelity
to a white wife. Many Southern whites believed after all that black women
couldn’t be raped and that on the contrary they welcomed advances from white
with her male counterpart the Other Man, Jezebel wasn’t confined to the United
States or to blacks. Filipina women, for instance, were blamed for causing
Spanish priests to break their vows of celibacy in Philippine colonial times. In
the words of chronicler Sinabaldo de Mas, “[the] garb of the native women is
very seductive and girls, far from being unattainable, regard themselves as
lucky to attract the attention of the curate, and their mothers and fathers
share that sentiment. What virtue and stoicism does not the friar need to
possess!” De Mas, like European explorers and colonizers in Africa, associated
indigenous women’s wearing of light clothing -- a practical, not to mention
hygienic, habit in the tropics -- with sexual immorality.
Spanish-Filipina unions were probably more consensual than the outright rape of
black female slaves in the American South, Filipinas’ supposed enthusiasm for
coupling with Spaniards was undoubtedly facilitated by a racist and classist
colonial structure. Like their native sisters in Spain’s American colonies,
Filipina women -- and their family members -- understood that mixed-race
children enjoyed greater social and economic status than their full-blooded
brethren, so it was in their best interest to produce them.
doesn’t appear to be a factor in modern-day relationships between Filipinas (and
other Asian women such as Sri Lankans and Thais) and men of lighter color in the
Middle East. Dozens of Asian female domestic workers in that region have
reported being raped by their employers. The best-known example of such a woman
is Sara Balabagan. A teenager from the Philippines working as a maid in the
United Arab Emirates to support her family back home, she stabbed her
eighty-four-year-old employer to death when he tried to rape her (talk about a
dirty old man!). She was originally sentenced to death for the killing but later
acquitted following international protest.
the Jezebel role has been assigned to Asian domestic workers in the Middle East
as it was to black slave women in the Southern United States is evident in a
remark quoted in Saudi princess Sultana’s bestseller Princess. On
explaining her sons’ rape of their Thai maid, one Arab woman stated that
Oriental [sic] women didn’t care who they slept with. Whereas in the West
Asian women are viewed as conservative compared to their Occidental counterparts
(which may account in part for the former’s appeal to white men disturbed by
their own women’s sexual freedom), in the Middle East Asians are seen as more
“available” than the local women. One
man’s whore is literally another man’s virgin.
the Other Man and Jezebel, the Geisha archetype has generally been applied to a
single ethnic group: East Asians. In addition, while the other two stereotypes
have been promoted principally by white society, both whites and ironically
Asians themselves have done their share to spread the Geisha image.
Geisha refers to the Asian woman who does everything in her power to please her
man. While Webster’s Dictionary defines the term, which stems from the
Japanese words “gei” (art) and “-sha” (person), as “a Japanese girl
who is trained to provide entertaining and lighthearted company esp. for a man
or a group of men,” the Geisha as a stereotype has been expanded on one hand
to include women from other Asian countries and narrowed on the other to mean
entertainment provided to white men in particular. The Geisha was immortalized
in movies like The World of Suzie Wong, plays such as Miss Saigon,
and Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly. The mail-order bride business too
has made use of the Geisha, emphasizing the wifely devotion that Filipina and
other Asian brides-to-be can bring to their Western husbands.
easy to dismiss Suzy Wong, Madama Butterfly and the mail-order bride racket as
examples of white racism and sexism. More difficult to understand is the
perpetuation of the Geisha by some Asians themselves. In an essay published in Piece
of My Heart: A Lesbian of Color Anthology, Filipina-American activist Karin
Aguilar-San Juan describes Asian female partners of white men as “[splaying]
themselves at the feet of white men - having rejected Asian men as too
effeminate” -- a statement that essentially portrays such women the same way The
World of Suzy Wong and Miss Saigon do. Aguilar-San Juan’s attitude
is also puzzling (not to mention inconsistent, given that as a lesbian, she
admits to having slept with white women) in that many other Asian-American
activists have been up in arms over the Geisha’s appearance in mainstream
works like Miss Saigon.
Geisha’s major defect, though, is that she just doesn’t measure up to
reality. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, scientific studies have found
that Asian women who marry white men aren’t necessarily any more subservient
or traditional than their sisters who marry within their race or than white
women, for that matter. And far from “having rejected Asian men as too
effeminate,” as Karin Aguilar-San Juan implies, some Asian women seek out
white partners because they find them more egalitarian than men of their
own race (whether this perception is correct is of course another matter). For
example, one Filipina interviewed in the June/July 1998 of A. Magazine:
Inside Asian America states that “when Filipino women of my generation
date American men, it’s because they don’t want the spoiled, conservative
Filipino… most of the American men treat you as an equal.” It therefore
seems unlikely that Asian women are flocking to white men in search of an ideal
ends my series on miscegenation stereotypes. There are undoubtedly others I’m
not aware of. All those I’ve covered deal with heterosexual relationships. It
might be interesting to see whether the gay community has its own gallery of
archetypes regarding interracial relationships. Arab-Canadian journalist Kamal
Al-Solaylee reports in the Toronto weekly Xtra! that some white gay men
have internalized the Geisha image in reference to Asian men. Since I’m not
gay, however, I don’t feel I have the knowledge to comment on issues within
that community. My articles have also largely focused on Western societies, with
the exception of the portrayal of Asian women in the Middle East, though other
cultures too must have their own ideas about interracial unions and the
individuals who engage in them.
serve a variety of purposes. At the most basic level, they provide us with an
easy way of categorizing people superficially rather than examining them as
individuals. In addition, throughout history societies have used stereotypes to
maintain the status quo. Jezebel, for instance, allowed white men to justify
their dalliances with and even rape of colonized and/or enslaved women of other
races. The Other Man on the other hand served as a tool to keep white women and
non-white men apart, while the slut was used to punish women who consorted with
men of color nonetheless.
modern North America, the fading of past sexual and racial taboos has diminished
the power of popular images of miscegenous men and women. Nonetheless, it is
interesting and in some way socially useful to examine these stereotypes,
because they tell us not only about our history and society but our psychology
a previous column, I discussed the issue of reverse racism.
My conclusion: at least in terms of interracial relationships, it’s
more fiction than reality. Proponents
of reverse racism have to explain why for example study after study shows blacks
to be more accepting of intermarriage than whites.
To illustrate, a 1997 Gallup poll found that while majorities of both
races approved of interracial marriage, the percentage among blacks exceeded
that for whites by nearly twenty points (79% versus 61%).
A survey in Alabama revealed an even greater disparity, with two thirds
of African Americans but only 31% of whites endorsing miscegenation.
some blacks do oppose marriage with whites.
One group of African Americans who have expressed their misgivings about
such unions are black women who feel that as the number of black male/white
female relationships rises, they themselves are being shut out of the marriage
glance at some statistics confirms their fears.
According to the US Bureau of the Census, in 1990 4.5% of married black
men had non-black (primarily white) spouses, compared to 1.5% in 1970.
While intermarriage among black women also rose during this period - from
0.8% to just under 2% - it stood at less than half the rate for their male
counterparts. This despite the
much-publicized black man shortage, the tendency for more African American women
than men to enter institutions of higher learning (where they would have more
contact with whites), and the stronger taboo against black male/white female
relationships than the opposite combination. As a result, more than a few black women are ending up
hard statistics, though, don’t capture the actual feelings of individual black
women. In recent years, many have
voiced their frustration at watching “their” men (especially the
well-educated, financially successful ones) fall into the arms of white women. This frustration can be seen in novels like Terry
McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale, in which one character’s husband leaves
her for his white bookkeeper, movies such as Jungle Fever, where the
black protagonist deserts his mixed-race wife for an Italian secretary, and
personal accounts by real-life black women.
amusing yet informative example of the third appeared in a 1992 New York
Times article. Novelist Bebe
Moore Campbell recalls sitting in a restaurant with some black female friends
and seeing a handsome African American actor enter the establishment –
accompanied by a blonde. Instantly,
Moore Campbell says, “we moaned, we groaned, we raised our eyes heavenward.
We gnashed our teeth in harmony and made ugly faces… then we all shook
black women go even further than Moore Campbell and directly attack the white
women in question. In an article in
Ms. Magazine, Angela Ards seethes at white female colleagues who want to
“share their latest jungle-fever escapade while vacationing in the Caribbean
or their lusty crushes on the new, rare black-male hire.”
Others appear to believe there is some kind of white female conspiracy to
“steal” black men from women of their own kind. For instance, one contributor to the book Miscegenation
Blues: Voices of Mixed-Race Women speaks ominously of the ways in which
white women attempt to undermine black male-female relationships.
people would be tempted to call these attacks an example of reverse racism.
To use an analogy, if I accused Thai and Filipina mail order brides of
trying to sabotage white male-female relationships, I would immediately be
branded a racist, and rightly so. (Curiously,
some black men say they choose white mates because they find them more docile
and less outspoken than African American women – the same reason some white
men give for preferring Asian over white women.)
But there’s no real equivalence here.
A few hundred or even thousand Asian women in the mail order bride
industry wouldn’t affect my chances of finding a white husband or boyfriend.
And even if some white men might snub me for an Asian woman, I could
easily replace them with a black or, for that matter, Asian or Latino partner.
a strange way, as an Italian Canadian woman I can empathize with my African
American sisters’ dismay over black male/white female pairings.
I remember that at my overwhelmingly white high school most of my crushes
were Italian boys, whom I then regarded as the best thing since sliced bread.
But alas, they rarely returned the favor.
I can’t count the times my spirits came crashing downwards and my blood
pressure went soaring upwards on seeing my latest flame walk hand in hand with
some Nordic blonde. I felt like
Bebe Moore Campbell and her friends did at the restaurant.
Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that blondes - even if they attained
that status with the help of a bottle - seemed to be the big thing in Italian
beauty pageants, TV shows, and films (brunettes like Sophia Loren and Gina
Lollobrigida may have won the hearts of Anglo-Saxon moviegoers, but when I was a
teenager the most popular stars in Italy were actress Monica Vitti and variety
show hostess Raffaella Carrà – both bleach blondes).
women also have to live with the reality that at least in the present era, white
women represent the epitome of female beauty according to American standards. This is true for both the black and white communities.
In their book The Color Complex, authors Kathy Russell, Midge
Wilson and Ronald Hall describe how Caucasian features such as light skin and
straight hair are idolized by many African Americans
– hence the booming business in products like hair straighteners.
It isn’t surprising therefore that marrying “out” – which in most
cases means marrying white – is considered an achievement in some black
families. The authors cite the case
of one African American man who gleefully remarked that “before long,
there’ll be no more Black left in our family” when all his children married
situation isn’t much more heartwarming outside the United States.
In places like Brazil and the Caribbean, where race mixing has gone on
for over half a millennium, terms like “good hair” (for straight and fine as
opposed to kinky hair) abound. Even
in regions where miscegenation has involved whites and Asians or whites and
American Indians rather than whites and blacks, the “white is right”
mentality remains. The Philippine
movie industry, for instance, is full of actors and actresses who could easily
be mistaken for Italians or Spaniards. Such
is what European imperialism has wrought, so to speak.
I can’t completely condone African American women’s criticism of black male/white
female relations. While I
personally am not offended by these criticisms, I sympathize with the many black
men who love their mothers, sisters and other female relatives and feel great
solidarity with their people but who happen to love white women. At times these men are treated like traitors to the black
community. And just because some of
them are not physically attracted to women of their own race does not
necessarily mean they hate African American women or blacks in general.
I myself have received mail telling me the reason I date interracially is
because I hate white men. In
response, I explain that just because I’m not sexually attracted to white men
doesn’t mean I hate them, any more than the fact I’m not a lesbian means I
also skeptical of attempts to politicize sexual relationships.
For example, the popular ‘60s notion that miscegenation would put an
end to racism turned out to be a dud. In
addition, how much control do we really have over our sexual attractions?
Many gays and lesbians, for instance, say no matter how hard they’ve
tried and been pressured to become heterosexual, they can’t get rid of their
feelings towards the same sex. I myself can’t help the fact that I possess absolutely zero
sexual attraction to Anglo-Saxon men, despite having grown up in their midst and
having a plethora of WASP male platonic friends I love dearly.
So black men drawn to white women shouldn’t be faulted for acting on
women who feel unable to find a mate of their own kind might look to males of
other races. Though white men are
the most obvious example, given that whites form the majority of the American
population at this point in time, other non-black males may be worth a try as
well. Author Steve Sailer suggests
that black women team up with Asian men, who are experiencing a mate shortage of
their own as more Asian women than men marry interracially. Latinos too might be a consideration, especially since
surveys show Hispanics to be more open to interracial marriage than whites.
decision to date outside of one’s race or ethnic group isn’t always easy.
After all, to a certain extent we’re attracted to who and what seem
familiar to us. In high school I
never thought I would be attracted to non-Italian men, but since “expanding my
horizons” after that time, I’ve gotten to the point where Hispanic,
Caribbean and Pacific Islander men are the ones who attract me.
course there’s no easy solution to black women’s “marriage squeeze.”
No matter how we as individuals feel about the issue of interracial
relations and their effect on black women in particular, it’s important to
understand the phenomenon and the feelings of everyone – black men, black
women, white men and white women – involved.