Sunday, September 30, 2012


From Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion

“Pride precedes the fall,” the Bible warns us.

And pride in one’s ancestry can slide into ethnocentrism, especially among new arrivals to this country.

To be politically correct, we are very careful not to imply that one group is better or worse than another. The groups themselves are often allowed or encouraged to exhibit pride—be it black pride, Chicano pride, or gay pride. Don’t try to exhibit WASP pride, however. Pride can become a problem, despite its utility in preserving self-esteem. Tina’s family’s pride in being of Chinese ancestry insulated them from accusations of inferiority, but it obviously prevented them from welcoming her marriage to me when we were of college age.

In the spring of 1964, Tina’s parents visited my family in Rosendale, New York. Everyone was cordial, proper, nice. But both sets of parents were not eager for this relationship to progress to marriage. My parents emphasized to me the added problems for any children we might have, and thus also for the parents, of an interracial union. Tina’s parents indicated that she would be better off finding a nice Chinese boy. Both sets of parents held views that were not quite racist, yet both sets frowned on the pairing.

No doubt, similarity in background helps marriages succeed. Opposites may attract, but misunderstandings may more easily arise. “Stick to your own kind” has its rationale. But “kind” is hard to define. I jokingly say that a “mixed marriage” is one between a man and a woman, given the different ways each gender tends to approach life.

Recent statistics show that today about half of Asian Americans marry Caucasians. Tina’s second marriage was to one (me). Gene’s marriage was to one (Christy). Irene’s second marriage was to one (Bob). Irene’s elder daughter, Stephanie, married one (John). Irene’s ex-husband (Hing) married one (Therese). There’s a pattern there, although some of it may be simple statistics: with a few As and a lot of Cs you’ll get, if picking pairs merely at random, very few AA pairs, more AC pairs and mostly CCs. Minority parents (such as Asians or Jews in America) often fear that the AC pairs will no longer carry on the virtues and traditions that their parents prize.

The results of parental pressure? Limiting the options available to their children, or potential estrangement when children choose to go against parental advice.

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