It’s 2016. You’d think we’re over antiquated beliefs and prejudices, and yet once in a while we catch wind of self-righteous personalities spouting narrow-minded generalisations against unsuspecting targets.
This has become part and parcel of the online world, what with the proliferation of trolls, however, even in the real world hasty judgments and offensive remarks abound.
Interracial relationships are especially prone to misguided and ignorant rants.
The question remains: Does racism still exist?
The United States, in particular, has a long and sordid history with racism, most notably rooted in their history with slavery. Though media mostly focuses on the dichotomy of Blacks and Whites, subjugation is by no means limited to people of African descent.
US photographer Donna Pinckley, in her series Sticks and Stones, pairs black and white images of interracial couples with captions of the type of racial slurs they’ve received. In the process of documenting married persons of different racial backgrounds, among the hurtful comments included: “Don’t you like American women?”, “White men have taken everything, including our women”, and the loaded statement “I’ll bet your parents are really proud of you.”
Interracial marriages in Asia
For Asians, the issue of marriage is much more complicated than the colour of the skin; tradition, religion, and politics come into play. Even now Chinese parents are known for discouraging their children from marrying outside their race for various cultural reasons.
Asian-Caucasian unions are especially tricky, especially when the woman is a local. When such a coupling occurs, it can oftentimes be seen as a move towards financial stability or a way out of poverty. This stereotypical view stems from the proliferation of “mail-order brides” that even Caucasian men who meet their wife under different circumstances have to deal with the stink eye and subjected to an uncomfortable line of questioning regarding the background of their relationship.
Unfairly, this kind of treatment seems to be more prevalent when the woman is a local and the man a foreigner, less so when it’s the other way around. Perhaps it is because of the widely patriarchal societies in Asia were men marrying foreigners are seen more as a choice, hence marrying for love. Whereas for women, marrying a foreigner is seen more as a marriage for convenience, hence marrying for money. Even by just walking the street in Asia, there is a certain look interracial couples are subjected to that gives away people’s deep-seated prejudice.
However, changing norms has brought about marked increase in interracial marriages and with it comes growing acceptance, according to PEW Research. Part of the acceptance for miscegenation may be attributed to high-profile interracial romances and its portrayal in pop culture. Popular shows like Scandal portrays interracial pairing to the delight of fans worldwide. Unfortunately, seeming acceptance may only be superficial, as even celebrities involved in interracial relationships still have to deal with a more subtle form of racism—one that’s wrapped in humour and dripping with sarcasm.
When Twilight star Robert Pattinson started dating FKA Twigs, there was an immediate backlash from Twihards strongly shipping Pattinson with co-star and ex-girlfriend Kristen Stewart. While FKA Twigs knows bashers come with the territory, the language used by a certain group of bashers contained racially-charged accusations. Even more disturbing, the media reporting on their relationship as well as commenters used a tongue-in-cheek approach, calling Twigs an “alternative” or ”edgy” choice for Pattinson as a roundabout way of commenting on her appearance and skin tone.
Whether this subtle version of racism is better than outright rudeness is up in the air, but it’s obvious that prejudice over mixed pairings still persists to this day, people are just more “polite” about it.
Alicia Tham writes for A Better Florist.