By Nathan Allen
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area - seemingly, one of the least racist places in the U.S. It was so tolerant and diverse that when I moved to New York City, my barber was shocked to hear me mention that the city's "lack of diversity" disappointed me. Sure, New York is diverse, but it didn't feel that way compared to the Bay Area...perhaps because it seemed much more segregated.
Of course, I grew up with kids of all races and cultures - from around the world. What's more, as we got older and started dating, it was common to see interracial couples. Still, though, some of my friends mentioned how their parents wouldn't allow inter-racial / cultural dating. As a kid who grew up in the Bay Area, this infuriated me.
It seemed unacceptable; archaic...racist, even.
Then one day a close Vietnamese-American friend of mine mentioned that even though she had no problem dating outside of her race, her parents didn't want her to. What was even more shocking to me was that she completely understood why her parents felt that way. On the surface, it seemed like blatant hypocrisy.
Later, after spending years studying different cultures abroad - I see the wisdom in her words. To an extent, I have been able to cast aside my western values and perspectives...and learn a great deal from cultures that in many ways are a stark contrast to mine. Each time I return back to the U.S. and connect with Filipino, Chinese, and Vietnamese Americans, the real weight of their cultural loss hits me. Don't get me wrong - I don't blame them. It must be so difficult to grow up a "third culture kid" and have a foot in two worlds like that.
So, in a very real way, I now understand and appreciate the need to preserve this heritage. After all, our differences are a large part of what makes the "human experience" so special. As a (socially) liberal west-coast American, I have been raised to think we should bring down all the walls of race and gender.
However, now I think sometimes some walls should remain up. I don't think we should be so hard on those trying to preserve their culture.
Sure, if you are drawn to different races and cultures (or you just plain fall in love and are willing to work through your differences), go for it - "strengthen the gene pool", as they say. However, conversely, if you feel the need to keep the tradition and continuity of your race or culture going, sure, keep the genes close to home - and more power to you! I don't care if you're Filipino, Indian, German, or a white American.
I believe the world needs people from both sides.
In my observation, without substantial effort to curtail it, it seems that intermarriage can result in very rapid deterioration of cultural values (of course especially on the "immigrant" side). It can take as little as one generation to eradicate all but traces of cultural heritage. One or two more generations, and you might have to kiss those original (immigrant) values goodbye.
Now, I'm not saying that everybody should even want to preserve these values - to each his (or her!) own, really. I guess I just don't look forward to a day far into the future where all these fascinating races and cultures have vanished from the earth (as some futurists predict).
The question for these "preservationists" is: How do we protect and preserve our culture and heritage without placing ourselves above others...how do we promote finding the common thread between us while celebrating our differences? In my opinion, that is our unique challenge. I personally still have no problem dating outside of my race. However, now, I have a new-found understanding and respect for those that do.
I feel for those in the middle of this struggle with their parents - I can't imagine it's easy. It's just that, for the first time, I see things from the perspective of the parents as well...those hoping to keep thousands of years of culture and family tradition intact.
Yes, I am surprised to find myself in support of those who do not approve of interracial and intercultural dating. I have a compassion for them that I didn't previously, and I support their right to feel the way they do. It was hard to see because of my very "hot button" liberal American culture, but I have come to realize that the desire to preserve this heritage does not necessarily have to come from a place of prejudice and/or racism. That, I definitely don't support.
Do you have any experience with this? I'm curious if anybody's parents didn't approve at first, but changed their stance over time? Or about those who have succesfully joined and preserved two cultures?
- Nathan Allen
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