culture, music, and identity politics musings from a 20-something Australian-Asian living in Washington D.C.

Date Me, I’m Asian! December 22, 2006

Filed under: Dating,Race,Society — itslateagain @ 4:09 am

I found this article from an Asian-American interest site very true-to-form. Originally published in the Harvard Crimson, it discusses the role of media and traditional racial preferences in contemporary dating preferences.

This article, also on ‘Model Minority,’ features a fascinating running discussion on the theme of Asian female/White male dating, offering a broad spectrum of dissenting opinions which range from “stick to your own” to “look only at the individual and past media stereotypes” to all-out angry White man bigotry.

It calls to mind this interesting discussion on why Aussie girls don’t often date Asian men, which came up in the Age. Upon reading it, the entire blank catalogue from my Australian high school dating career came flooding back to mind.

From my own experience, I’ve seen very few East Asian and Black couples. In fact, I can’t remember the last one I did see. This leads me to think that Asian parents (and their children) from my own generation still have a long way to go in re-evaluating their misbegotten perceptions of people originating from Africa.

And yes, I think it remains far more common and acceptable for an Asian woman to date a white man than the other way round.

Asian men, it is often asserted, are placed at the bottom of the gene pool for most women, behind Blacks, Latinos, and Whites. I’m not sure how we fare next to Arabs or Native Americans in this country, nor whether my South Asian brethren have my measure. But a quick tour of current DC Craigslist personals (don’t ask me how I ended up there) is filled with BBWs (Big Beautiful Women) looking for Black and Latin men. Dating sites that cater to a general (read: white) clientele that allow individuals to set racial preferences offer similar results.

Is this racism? And do I feel outraged as an Asian man, getting slighted by the whims of racial and gender stereotypes (the Kung Fu fighter or the angry shop owner, for example)?

Well, I can’t say I love the situation that I find myself in. But at the end of the day, I try and take my old roommate’s advice (he is Indian) and convince myself that the right girl won’t be worried about what colour my skin is. Though I agree with him, this fact only offers so much solace after a year of non-opportunity.

I’ve spoken to many friends about this particular topic, but after much pondering, am still quite puzzled as to my inability to befriend East Asians. It’s sad to feel estranged from young people of your own race or cultural heritage, but at this point, that’s how things are with me. Growing up in a white-bread town, not being either completely Asian nor American, not Asian-American…whatever the reason, I’m looking forward to the day that this country can really move forward on race perceptions.

But boy, do we have a long way to go.

And that, my friends, is one of the reasons why Barack Obama offers so much hope to the United States, as well as the world. After all this, I will be deeply disappointed if the man doesn’t run.


A white flag and plea to bi-cultural Asian-America December 15, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — itslateagain @ 10:21 pm

How I envy you bicultural Asian Americans!

I bump into you everywhere, sipping chai outside of coffeeshops, reading legal documents on the metro, in YouTube Harvard commencement footage. There you all are, with your effortlessly fluent Hindi and Mandarin, chatting away on sliver-thin phones to your “A-ma” while I try to tune out your subtly superior bi-culturalness.

Hmm, “Bi-culturalness.” Is that a word? I don’t think it is in English, but I’m sure that you lot, with your multilingual, nation-hopping brains have at this point made up several for it, alternatives that are most likely Latin-rooted with Romance inflection and Dravidian subjunctive. Most probably some smarty-pants symbol of your tremendous new-Century intellects.

Yes, go ahead and laugh at the self-deprecating, oh-so-colonial Victorian-aping tone of my words, Asian-America. Whilst you clink your glasses to another year of self-actualization, your brother’s new position at Apple and your girlfriend’s new Classical South Indian-meets-hip hop dance opus, I will be dreaming, unsurprisingly, of escape. To where I am not even remotely sure. Most recently I have favored visions of somewhere warm and Latin, but prior to that it was Anglophone East Africa and booming coastal China. Anywhere to which I could possibly settle in and launch my own Asian white-bread cultural renaissance.

The point is, of course, that you have won. For you, Ms. Asian-America (the ones I encounter are more often women), are kicking my little Australian-flag adorned behind. The personal stats: omni-single, non-profit salary, narrow row house in Shaw, and unflattering yet growing love handles, just cannot match up with  your own: MBA, summer house in Goa, business-travel boyfriend and flat abs—regardless of the cultural lens we measure our successes by. (And besides, I’m tired of living in a city where I can’t even find a single bar at which to watch the Ashes. Why are Washington pubs so oblivious to the needs of their cricket-loving diasporic customers?)

But it wasn’t always such smooth sailing, was it, Asian-America? Now that you’ve made it, perhaps you can afford a laugh at some of the more transgressional points during that rather prominent “transition period.” Because even though I might be kowtowing to your sophisticated brilliance today, you and I both know it wasn’t always so. Like most everybody else in your standard multicultural American high school, I’ve snickered and shaken my head at some of your most inexplicable, indefensible missteps.

Take, for example, Korean rap music. Rap, as part of the larger hip hop movement which currently dominates global youth culture, is a fine tool for self-expression. And young people have taken up the emcee mantle with aplomb, rapping about their short-lived crushes and social injustices in every tongue imaginable, from Turkish to Turkmeni. But there are some languages for which hip hop music was simply never meant to be uttered: like spicy curry to an Englishman’s sweat pores, rhymes spat in particular tongues leave nothing but tragically comic results. Korean is one such language.

As ham-fisted on the ears as Korean rap can be, it only begins to speak to similar sensory assaults—this time upon the eyes–courtesy of the Korean 11th grade boy hairstyle. Is it spiked or is it fringed, perhaps as some adolescent metaphor for the oppositional cultural forces that pull young men growing up Asian in America? Is it supposed to be dyed red-black or auburn-brown? It was only with only the utmost trepidation that I approached one such unfortunately-coiffed fellow during band, such was my fear for the harm that might befall my eyes: either blindness, through accidental incision-by-spike, or blackening, through an inability to cease any impending laughter.

And for every one of you immaculately well-adjusted young flashes, there must have been some of the classic Asian-FOB moves in previous incarnations: the classic (though not missed) Target-sneakers-plus-Daddy’s-dress-pants combo, the oversized glasses and floral sweat pants, the trips to the library where mother would bicker over late fees in accented English as you clicked through levels of “Math-Champion ’89.” I’m sure many of you have been there, cringing and gritting your teeth in expectant fear of Grandma picking you up, then talking to you in front of the other kids, in her mother tongue!

But you did it, and reached the other side in one particularly stylish piece. Having passed the stages during which speaking several languages and being academically-inclined was as far from coolness as your father’s dress sense, you’re now at the top of the sophisticates food chain. Bi-cultural is the new jet-set; tri-cultural will be the standard before long (if its not already here). In a wonderful inversion of the old immigration route, Bangalore and Hong Kong are now seen as lifestyle opportunities for the white corporate suit, his tail between his legs as he shops his marketing consultant CV around to various Asian firms.

I, on the other hand, remain most disappointingly monolingual, dragging along the faux-exotic nationality of a people I do not resemble, and floating along the cultural-identity sphere like an albino window-shopping outside of a beauty salon. But, be that as it may, I do have one small request, Asian-America:

Years from now, as you stride past my hostel, in some small town somewhere away from here, watching me change sheets for dirty backpackers with bad reggae music blaring from an old sound system, do not glower over my pathetic lost-boy form for too long. For though it was long ago that you found your creative niche in the world, one upon which you’re undoubtedly now well on the way to reshaping, remember that I, too, am your Asian brother.

I’m just playing catch-up.


YouTube introductory video December 10, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — itslateagain @ 4:33 am

This is a video I put together with my roommate to serve as an introduction to youTube for the Board of Directors of an NGO I sit on. It’s rough, but I hope serviceable at the very least.