Jason Erik Lundberg (jlundberg) wrote,
Jason Erik Lundberg
jlundberg

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reader request week #3 (MUCH belated): interracial relationships

Over a year ago, I put out a call for reader requests, questions that LundBlog readers were keen to get the answers to. For whatever reason, I stopped after one entry. I don't even remember now why. It was a lame move, and I've felt bad about it all this time. Well, I have the rest of this week before going back to school, so I want to try to knock these out. My apologies for the tardiness of these entries, and my everlasting thanks for your patience.

From shveta_thakrar here:

I'm in an interracial relationship, too, so I'd love to hear your thoughts on that. :)

I started this entry a few days ago, and I'm still thinking about how to approach the topic. Discussions of race are a potential minefield and I have to be careful to avoid talk that can lead to something like RaceFail '09 (although I was only peripherally aware of this controversy, as it happened during some particularly busy and stressful periods earlier in the school year). I try to be empathetic as a general rule, but I'm also naturally clumsy, both physically and verbally, so there's a good chance I'll bumble this up and get called out as a racist.

But Shveta asked, and she's a very nice person, so I'll attempt nonetheless. (For more eloquently written discussions of race, two blogs I heartily recommend are The Angry Black Woman and SeeLight.)

Race isn't something I normally think about when I think about my relationship. When I look at my awesome wife, I still think of her as this cool geeky woman that I met at Clarion, who saw some redeeming qualities in me and decided I was somehow worth her time. When I look at Janet, I don't see A Chinese Woman, I just see Janet. This doesn't mean that I'm unaware of her race, or of the fact that we're of two different races, but there are enough things that we have in common that race just doesn't become an issue.

I don't know if this has anything at all to do with the Caucasian Man / Asian Woman dynamic (more informed people will be more able to answer this), rather than another combination, but I think it has more to do with what we both geek out over, and our common pop-cultural childhoods. Despite the fact that we grew up on opposite sides of the Earth, we both watched similar cartoons when we were kids, listened to similar music, discovered similar writers in science fiction and fantasy, and cultivated a similar curiosity about the world around us.

Janet is Peranakan (pronounced piranha-khan), an ethnic subset that has an important tradition in Singapore; again, this does not define Janet any more than the fact that she loves 80s music, but it does inform her life in one important way, being that Peranakan families are matriarchal. Janet's extended family (and now mine) is full of strong-minded and independent women, and this is one of the many things that attracted me to her in the first place. When I was growing up, my two role models for women were my mother and Phylicia Rashād; both are strong, intelligent, capable women who showed me through their actions and behavior (my mother in person, and Rashād on The Cosby Show) that women are in no way inferior to men. It's said that boys look for women who are like their mothers, and this was certainly true in my case.

If there have been conflicts between Janet and me, other than the typical male/female ones, they have been cultural rather than racial. Especially during the first year that I lived in Singapore. It wouldn't have so much to do with the fact that Janet is Chinese as it is that she's Singaporean. Singapore has its own distinctive culture apart from China or Malaysia, and some of the social mores here sometimes butt up against my Western sensibilities, things like kissing Janet goodbye at the train station, or complaining about people burning joss paper or spitting in public, or the inconsistent and conflicting attitudes regarding sex (which I also recently commented on at SHAMblog).

Living with Janet in her home country has afforded me a much wider perspective than if I had stayed in the US. Not that I felt stunted in any way by my experiences or upbringing, as my parents did much to open my eyes to the wider world and lots of different cultures. But there's something about living for an extended period in a country and culture different from the one in which you grew up; it forces you to leave your comfort zone and explore something big and new that encompasses your life, and I recommend it to anyone.

It is interesting to note that many people, both in Singapore and in the US, have mentioned that our biracial daughter (arriving in mid-October) will be beautiful. I'm not sure if this a comment on how outstandingly good-looking Janet and I are, or of the prevailing societal notion that biracial children are somehow more attractive, but I do nonetheless appreciate the compliment on behalf of my forthcoming daughter. For whatever reason, she's going to be beautiful to me because she shares half her chromosomes with the most beautiful woman I know.

So, like I said, a bit bumbling and not that organized, but there you go. Hope I wasn't too offensive.
Tags: reader request week, social issues
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