Asian-Americans and Endogamy

For Asian-American Couples, a Tie That Binds” (NYT article)

The video above, “Yellow Fever,” is about 6 years old, but I feel like the “issue” portrayed in it is one that won’t be going away any time soon. Yellow fever is a real disease, but the yellow fever that the guys at Wong Fu Productions speak of is more of a social epidemic. If you are unfamiliar, it refers to couples that are generally composed of a white man and an (East) Asian woman.

It’s not that rare to see an interracial couple these days, and it may not even consciously register in people’s minds (since it has become so common), but as an Asian-American, I always notice when a couple is white male and Asian female. I’ll be honest and say that I use to be one to think “Oh, that guy has an Asian fetish” or “She’s a mail-order bride.” However, that is not the case anymore and I do believe that people of different race backgrounds can make a relationship work if they put the work into it.

The video of course is satirical, but as with any piece of satire, there’s some truth to it. Earlier this summer I went to my cousin’s wedding and of all the young, unmarried couples, I would have to say that 90% of them were white man and Asian woman. I’ll have to take into consideration that my cousin’s friends were mostly from a small, farming town in western Massachusetts, but there’s no denying that yellow fever was running rampant.

The New York Times article actually points out that what I saw at the wedding was an exception – that “yellow fever” kind of relationships has been on the decline since 1980, even though Asian-Americans still hold the highest percentage of interracial marriages (Swarns, NYT). I can relate to what many of the interviewed couples shared in that there is an ease with marrying or being in a relationship with someone of the same or similar racial/cultural backgrounds. Although communication is necessary in any relationship, there’s sort of an unspoken understanding of what is expected from each other for Asian-American couples. For example, a female cousin of mine is currently dating a Jewish man. Whenever he comes over for family dinner, he asks what all the “weird” food is. I appreciate him wanting to know more about his girlfriend’s family and their cultures and traditions, but it can get a bit annoying/tiring to explain everything.

It seems like a trend of “returning to your roots,” but I’m sure some subconsciously racist grandparents out there are glad that their grandchildren are choosing mates from within their own group.

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