East Meets West – and Likes it Better?

inter1by Foram Mehta

Surveying a crowd of happy couples today an onlooker may be surprised when he considers how much has changed in only the last 42 years. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Virginia statute barring Whites from marrying interracially in a monumental move.

Nowadays the mix of brown, olive, white, and black faces has come to concoct the perfect blend of skin colors on the modern-day American face. Segregation, it seems, is a thing of the past as the numbers behind interracial relationships have steadily risen since the onset of the ‘70s. Immersed in American culture, Asian Americans are also jumping on the interracial bandwagon as it speeds down the path to racial oblivion – and the statistics are there to prove it.

Data collected from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2006 show that boundary lines between Asian and non-Asian cultures are rapidly fading as more and more Asian Americans are marrying individuals outside of their native ethnic backgrounds. For those marrying out, analysts have noticed a striking pattern amongst younger Asian Americans – specifically those belonging to the 1.5 and 2nd generation of Asian Americans. The individuals that fall into these categories either emigrated to the West during adolescence or were born and raised entirely here, respectively. Research shows that they are much more likely to marry out of their ethnic backgrounds than those in the previous generation, who emigrated to the West as adults.

While Southeast Asians are the least likely Asian group to marry out, information gathered by Asian-Nation.org from the 2006 Census Bureau data shows that only about 57% of Indian American men and 54% of Indian American women of the 2nd generation also married other Indian Americans of the same generation.

The statistics show that Asian American women, in general, are more likely to interracially marry than their male counterparts.

A number of sociologists believe that an immersion into mainstream American society and exposure to more liberal American cultures and customs is most likely the prime factor for the high number of interracial marriages in the Asian American community.

Indian American Amar Patel, 27, agrees with this theory.

“I do believe that being raised in the US has had a major effect with my relationships,” says Patel, who has been in a serious relationship with his White girlfriend for more than a year and half. “For example, if I was raised in India my chance of meeting a girl from another culture would [have been] extremely difficult.”

Well, that makes sense.

Concerning the women, some experts believe that negative stereotypes associated with Asian men to be sexist and old-fashioned may be to blame for their lower level of appeal.

Generalizations about White men being more masculine, and therefore having more sex appeal may also be a factor.

“[A White man] would be a better boyfriend than an Indian,” says Priya Mehta, 18, who was born and raised in the States.

“I feel like they would be more concerned and actually feel protective of their girlfriends, unlike Indian guys.”

Studies conducted through the late 1990s and the early 2000s also show that the level of education has played an important role in breaking the racial barriers between Asian Americans and Westerners.

Asian Americans with higher educational levels are the most expected to marry with Whites. A higher education usually allows for higher-paying jobs, life in more sophisticated societies and expensive neighborhoods – all of which tend to be dominated by Whites.

inter3A Stanford University sociologist calculates that more than seven percent of American’s 59 million married couples were interracial in 2005 compared to less than two percent in 1970. Generally speaking, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a massive 667% increase in interracial couples during that time span, and it’s no surprise that demographers predict that by the year 2020, almost 20% of all Asian Americans will be multiracial.

Many in the 1.5 and 2nd generation are optimistic, however, that ethnicity will not be a deciding factor for marital bliss in their futures. Instead, they believe that other aspects of a relationship are more important for a successful marriage.

“The fact that we love each other is a start,” says Sanjay Bakshi, 28, another Indian American, who says he sometimes worries about the cultural differences between himself and his Caucasian girlfriend. In the end, however, it just comes down to credentials.

“She should have good morals and [a good] upbringing to fit into my family and culture. If I marry [a non-Indian] girl then she still has to be good enough [to get] my family’s approval.”

By the way things are going, making a distinction between an Asian American and American may be more difficult for future generations than one might have imagined before. From what experts predict, whether there will even be room for distinction is uncertain.

One thing, however, is for sure – it seems to be that when East met West, sparks flew.

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