Neutral Observer asked me to comment on Gabrielle Union and John Cho’s onscreen romance on FlashForward. He writes:
Asian male bloggers have long compared their dating plight to that of black women, and have long said that maybe they need to expand their dating pool outside the asian female sphere.
Seems, at least on TV, we’re getting a dramatization of this “solution.”
Combine that with how this is a pushing back against the media’s systematic “de-sexualization” of the asian man’s image, and I’m doubly curious to get your thoughts on this.
I took a brief look around the sphere. Most bloggers think that this is a good thing–that black women and Asian men have historically been underrepresented in romantic roles, and that since black women and Asian men, as a group, seem to have the least sexual/social capital, that perhaps it’s good for the media to encourage them to date.
I think in general I’d agree. It’s hard enough to find someone compatible regardless of race, and if the media can open people up to different possibilities, I think it’s a good thing. I like the Cho/Union union. (And I loved Gabrielle’s confusion of the wedding and the funeral…I suspended disbelief because it was that cool–what other family events have the pull of weddings and funerals?) But I do have another perspective, which I’ll explain with a real life story:
In Portland, there is a diversity networking group that I attended a few years back. The group meets once a month, and the purpose of the meeting is to welcome new folk to Portland and to get minorities doing business with minorities. Since I think it’s important for minorities to own homes (and since I’m in the home business), I began attending. Here’s what happened:
Even though it’s a “diversity” group, most of the people there are black. Most are young-to-middle-aged black women, with a smattering of White folk, Asian folk, and black men. I would go there, talk to them about what I did for a living, and learn about what they do. The black women, in general, were polite, intelligent, and enthusiastic about business.
HOWEVER, something kept happening over and over again. I’d be standing there, talking to either a black woman or a group of black women, when all of a sudden, a black man would come into view. Most of the black men in this group are older and successful, and the minute a black man appeared, I would completely disappear in the eyes of any black woman with whom I was having a conversation. It would be like:
Byron: So what I was saying, Beth, is that we really need to increase minority homeownership because I think…
Beth: Okay, nice talking to you. [turns away from me to face the black guy] Hey! Excuse me! I don’t think we’ve met. My name is Beth, and I own my own company. I haven’t seen you around here.
Black guy: My name is Frank.
Susan: Uh, I don’t think we’ve met either. Excuse me, Beth. Hi Frank, I’m Susan. So what do you do, Frank?
Mary: And I’m Mary. So nice to meet you!
Byron: And uh…I’m By…
Frank: So what’s good about Portland, ladies?
All the women: So we’ve got a transplant! Let us tell you about this city.
This happened over and over and over, almost every time I attended. I think that like me, most of these black guys were married (many relocated with their families), but their presence in a roomful of black women negated the presence of all other people. I had another Asian guy friend who attended with me, and he said that he had the exact same experience. Once one of these black guys walked in, any African American woman in my presence would immediately drop what she was doing, gently scoot me out of the way, and start chatting up the black guy. From a business perspective, it made no sense for me to be there. (well, if I were smarter, I probably would’ve partnered with one of these guys…hmm…) I’d have a better chance chilling with Thurston Howell at the business version of Skull and Bones. So I eventually stopped going.
I realize it’s the Black Female Marriage issue is a big one (notice how the letter writer actually puts Asian women above White women on the attractiveness scale), and I’ve blogged about it before. In no way do I mean to criticize these women for following their instincts; when I was in college, I’d forget everything when an attractive woman walked by (although I don’t think I ever cut anyone off mid-sentence because of it…but who knows? Things look different when you’re in the throes of attraction!). I’m also not hurt that they have this preference, even though I wish I could’ve done some business there. But that’s the way things are. I imagine it would probably be similar for a black woman attending a meeting with mostly Asian people–Asian guys probably drop everything when seeing a single Asian woman come by. That’s the nature of this IR disparity–it creates power imbalances, and I don’t fault anyone for reacting to it the way they do.
This raises an issue that is pertinent to this blog post: In the land of plentiful single black women, the black man is king. Conversely, in the land of plentiful single Asian men, the Asian woman is queen. While there may be some Asian guys and Black women who feel the love (see the short fictional film below, linked from here), it’s probably pretty rare.
A majority of black women will prefer their own.
My point is not to discourage IR pairings. Indeed, I think we should see more of it. I agree with other bloggers, and I happen to know some Asian guys who strongly prefer black women and who are going crazy over these new portrayals. It’s a good thing. But looking at how people really behave in terms of their dating preferences, we would see much more explosive passion in mass audiences if the media provided what the majority are looking for: BM/BF for black women, and AM/AF for Asian men. In the case of Asian men, even though AM/AF is comparatively rare, it would speak more to most of our collective experiences. There could be a lot of audience buy-in. It’s the same thing with black women, which is why Waiting to Exhale and anything written by Eric Jerome Dickey have outsold anything made with BF/AM.
Yes, I know, in this case I’m following audience demand rather than creating something new. But in this case, could there be something good in listening to the people?
What do you think?