I'm a fan of ColorLines magazine but have a hard time digesting an article by Rinku Sen entitled Black men, Asian Women. Sen writes about the growing trend of Asian female/black male relationships. As with most articles that discuss the bodies of Asian American women Sen turns to Darrell Hamamoto* for some words of wisdom. Here is an excerpt: "He [Hamamoto] asserts that the U.S. military draws large numbers of Black men looking for a ladder to the middle class, whose status changes when they go abroad. These men see Asian women as subjects of the American—and, by implication, their own—empire.
“This trend is rooted with American colonialism and occupation. Material and historical forces shape these relationships,”said Hamamoto. “You have three, four, five generations of African-American men who have served oversees in Asia, whose experience with Asian women has been pretty intense in a foreign land where they are treated not as subordinate people but as superior Americans.”
Um okay. First of all, I am so SICK and TIRED of having my body and sex written about. This is not to say that I think articles/ discussions such as these should not be had, I just feel... stuck? i'm not sure what the right word is. Anyway... So when I am already a bit tired of reading about Asian American women's bodies, sex, and relationships it really irks me that hamamoto aka "i want to start an asian american sex revolution to reclaim asian men's sexuality/ reclaim asian women" is talking about this stuff.
So back to Hamamoto's quote. I don't agree that black GIs' status dramatically changes when they go abroad. Even if some Asian people exalt "Americans" there is still a clear understanding that Black is second (or third) class in the U.S. racial order. My dad remembers the black GI who taught English in their Korean classroom as a "nice man." he continued to say that it wasn't until he came to the U.S. that he started stereotyping black people. my dad's conclusion was basically, "American media is full of negative images of black people. when i came to the U.S. then i started thinking bad things about black people. Even now in Korea people look down on black Americans beecause that's what they learn to do from watching American movies." (i do know however that black folks are "in vogue" in some parts of asia)
Plus, that does not explain why Asian American women are CHOOSING to be with black men. Black men can't just make Asian/ Asian American women into the building blocks of their "empire." Yes, military occupation and neo-colonization have led to many War Brides, post-War brides, etc. but what about my generation of U.S.-born APA women who don't need a marriage visa? The Asian Woman/ White Man arguments of women trying to "move up" or wanting to assimilate don't neatly transfer to Asian Woman/ Black Man combo. our internally colonized minds equate white not black with American, prosperous, moving on up, etc.
Sen does briefly mention that perhaps the flipside of the Whoriental aka Dragon Lady is the sexually inexperienced Asian woman who would want to pair herself with "the most sexualized actors in American culture." or perhaps asian women who won't get with a yellow brother (the most asexual actor in American culture) would choose to be the most sexualized actor in American culture.
kate rigg says: "It would be a big turn-on for an Asian girl or guy to be with people who have been more successful in asserting their rights,” said Rigg. “This is a case of like likes like. A Black person is less likely to be as racist as a white person when it comes to dating an Asian girl. And a Black person might not feel as oppressed as they would by a white person in their family structure.”
does a black man turn me on b/c i see him as a big F-you to The Man? probably not, but okay kate rigg. am i turned on by activist men? yes. does black=activist? no. also, i think an asian woman who has the hots for activists would know that asians and asian americans have played an important role in access to rights as well. Lau v Nichols and bilingual education? Wong Kim Ark & citizenship? Property rights in Fujii Sei v State of California? just because we're still taught in a black/white paradigm doesn't mean we don't know our yellow history! j/k... kinda... (interestingly enough, i think most AsAm contributions or contestations were done through the legal system, or at least that method is best documented. that probably reflects on some larger belief on the goodness of the nation-state).
also, i have heard horror stories and of course have my own about Asian daughters w/ black boyfriends, rigg needs to rething her idea that black folks don't feel as oppressed by asian families. i personally don't know any asian women who's parents have opened their homes to black boyfriends. there is definitely a racial-dating hierarchy at play in asian families that is probably different in nature but equally horrific as that in white families.
anyways, i guess what i'm saying is that it is problematic to assume that the power issues in the Asian woman/white man phenomena can be transferred onto asian woman/ black man relationship's (Hamamoto's main argument). or that the near absence of power is what makes these relationships possible (Rigg). are there powers at play? of course? what are they? hey, i'm just here to deconstruct the argument. oh how po-mo of me!
I actually like Ross' observation: “I’m not sure that African-American men have been involved in sexual relationships with Asian women in that context any more than white men; it’s just that when African-American men are doing it, it gets noticed more." word.
just in case you don't know, i'm not one of those women who are like "my love exists in a vacuum and is unaffected by power that is raced/gendered/classed/ etc" i'm not saying this issue is stupid, i just think the arguments resemble swiss cheese.
*Hamamoto is an Asian American Studies Professor at UC Davis. In the late 90s he wrote "The Joy Fuck Club: Prolegomenon to an Asian American Porno Practice." In this article he basically argues that there needs to be an Asian American porn movement to help APA men reclaim their sexual identities (Asian American, not Asian). Pretty interesting article, obviously problematic as well. A few years later he actually directs an Asian American porn called "Skin to Skin" featuring a nervous Korean American neophyte male and a Cambodian-Thai American female porn star. "Master's of the Pillow", a documentary on the filming of this porn tours the film festival circuit along with Hamamoto's DISTURBING short entitled YELLOWCAUST: A Patriot Act? (basically an abridged version of his porn w/ scrolling text abt US imperialism in Asia. come to your own conclusion here. ) When asked at a screeing by an audience member why there was no use of condom's in his porn, Hamamoto answered he made an artistic decision to omit condom use. granted the documentary showed the two getting tested for HIV, but that can take a while to show up. the lack of existing sexual health education in asian american communitities made this particularly disturbing. i'm just scratching the surface here.