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March 01, 2003

Asian Nations

Eric Lien has an interesting post up titled "Yellow/Brown Conflict and Self-Segregation". Eric always has his finger on the pulse of Yellow Amerika. He says:

I've noticed that South Asians tend to more segregated in the realm of dating and relationships, but less segregated in their daily social life

But the recent article that duende linked to about American-Born South Asians getting arranged marriages states that the most recent Census shows that 50% of the 2nd generation (those born here) are marrying non-South Asians (no gender break-down, but I suspect it will be about 50/50, rather than the typical Asian ratio). Eric's observation might be a result of the fact that South Asians have a higher proportion of new immigrants than the older established Chinese and Japanese communities. But, it is still interesting that he feels that South Asians mix socially more with whites. Earlier, Eric & others have stated that compared to East Asians, South Asians tend to be more outgoing, loud and verbose, so this might explain their affinity with whites who share the same qualities (on a relative scale-don't tell me that the typical WASP is loquacious, but some Jewess' I've met would give a Bengali Babu a run for their money). Additionally, the South Asians that come to the United States are somewhat on the more "Caucasoid" end of the phenotype spectrum [1]. Though almost all Arab-white marriages in the United States result in children that can "pass" (including two stars of Baywatch and the singer Tiffany), a large portion of the offspring of Indian-white marriages also can pass as white (this is dependent on the phenotype of the Indian parent, I knew a light-skinned man from Uttar Pradesh who ended up with red-headed twins, who had his large nose at a young age, so I don't think he was cuckolded) [1].

Finally, Eric does not mention the Southeast/Northeast Asian split. I had a friend who was Korean-American who had a crush on a rather attractive girl of Hmong Laotian origin, and his Korean-American female friends would always blurt out "but she's Hmong!" (imagine sneering disgust). I have met Thais who are my complexion as well as Vietnamese that are no darker than the typical Korean or north Chinese (and they were not Chinese Vietnamese), so the phenotype would probably matter....

[1] Or any other race. My mother is convinced that brown people who "breed out" lose their ethnic look. The actress Tatyana Ali and TLC member Chili are half-black & half-brown, but identify as black (and to most people, look "black"). The singer Norah Jones is half-brown, but most people don't know until Ravi Shankar is mentioned. Jimmy Smits has a father that is of East Indian origin from Suriname, but his Puerto Rican mother tends to determine his ethnic identification as a Latino. I knew two girls (twins) who were half-Filipino & half-Sri Lankan, and I just assumed they were dark Southeast Asians when I first met them.

[2] One of the most peculiar arguments I had was with a friend of mine who I once went on a date with. I mentioned offhand how I'm "Asian-American," and she objected to me using that label, she thought of me as a "white person with brown skin," and when I pointed out to her that someone who was white but was brown was a ludicrous definition she became angry. Later I found out she tended not to find "Asian" men attractive, and I know she found me attractive, ergo, in her mind, I just couldn't be Asian....

Posted by razib at 12:15 PM

What about same-sex relationships? Do the same patterns hold true?

Posted by: Syd at March 1, 2003 12:37 PM

you would know better than i....

is jody webb around? he takes an interest in these sort of things....

Posted by: razib at March 1, 2003 12:43 PM

I mentioned offhand how I'm "Asian-American," and she objected to me using that label, she thought of me as a "white person with brown skin," and when I pointed out to her that someone who was white but was brown was a ludicrous definition she became angry.

Of course she got angry, you were playing mind games. There's lots of Mediterranean (spanish, italian, greek, semitic) people who are "white people with brown skin". Not to mention all those darkly tanned "white" California chicks. She was referring to "whites" not as an appearance, but as a certain intuitive cluster of the human genetic tree. Certainly, the term is better suited to flatter Europeans, but you knew what she was getting at, right? You've mentioned before that you have relatives that could pass as east-asians, but also that the himalayan division between bangladesh and burma does create a noticeable boundary for genetic flow.

Posted by: Jason Malloy at March 1, 2003 01:18 PM

yes-what you are saying might be historically & scientifically correct, but the american system creates a pretty big gap between whites & "asians." and sometimes it works the other way-my family's immigration lawyer in the 80s said he was getting many more clients from "the orient," and he included us in that category. in the context of culture, south asia is ambiguous, but beyond the purview of the blog & my time constraints....

Posted by: razib at March 1, 2003 01:35 PM

I concur w/ Eric's observation about social vs. romantic integration between South and East Asians & have a theory or 2....

One theory is that South Asian "male" phenotypes and stereotypes integrate far better with dominant "white" ideas about masculinity vs. East Asian (hence Razib's date anecdote).

There's pretty murky causality, BUT social integration of Men into the mainstream correlates pretty strongly with general integration of the "group" into the mainstream (shall we look at the Afro-American example?)

By contrast, East Asian women integrate FAR more deeply into the dominant social network than their male counterparts. (dating & mating stats can be repeated ad nauseum here... I had enough East Asian friends in college who witnessed this first hand pretty horrifically).

For many an Asian dude, masculine self image & confidence starts with your access to the dating pool. Not having that pool leads to some pretty strong resentment and somewhat antagonistic, self-segregation.

Posted by: anon at March 1, 2003 03:47 PM

In South Asia, people are often swarmed by beggars on the street, and they sometimes physically push the beggars out of the way (as harsh as that may sound). There is an unlimited number of street vendors who try to rip people off, and it takes an assertive demeanor in order to hold your ground and get a fair price. The roads are congested beyond belief, and the driver needs to have a degree of gung-ho confidence in terms of not waiting for every little person to cross-- sometimes the driver just needs to push forward with the car and force others to move out of his way. There are beggars everywhere, even in the same areas where the rich live, so even the rich are not isolated from seeing heartbreaking poverty with their own eyes-- and this causes people to developed a steeled heart that is trained to never cry.

The point is, daily life in South Asia has a certain "mob atmosphere" that encourages the development of a dominant male personality. Obviously, South Asians in America are generally timid in comparison to whites (for a variety of reasons I won't go into here). But South Asians have more "dominant maleness" than East Asians because of the mob atmosphere of South Asia versus the relatively smooth "Confucian atmosphere" of East Asia.

**I know, I know...I definitely over-generalized here. Things vary depending on the specific region of South Asia, and of course people vary in their personalities. But hopefully you get my drift.

Posted by: Sanjay Das at March 1, 2003 04:38 PM

One other factor that at least applies to Indians-- Indian immigrants associate mainly with people who speak the same native language. Indians are only 0.7% of the U.S. population, and that number is further subdivided into Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, etc. So networks of Indians are very small-- of course, East Asians are subdivided into many countries, and I don't know the stats for them, but overall it seems that they have more numbers than any particular Indian language group. I know of Chinese private schools that served as full-time schools, but I have never heard of a full-time Indian private school in the U.S. Perhaps the relatively smaller size of Indian social networks contributes to Indians assimilating better than East Asians?

Posted by: Sanjay Das at March 1, 2003 05:01 PM

Hmmm.... since South Asians are white people with brown skin, then East Asians must be white people with the epithantic fold? Doesn't this make East Asians more "white" in terms of the definition of the word than South Asians (and even many so-called whites) since East Asians actually ARE physically white? Oh, the irony...

Posted by: Sen at March 1, 2003 05:10 PM

I agree that segregation is a function of numbers of the ethnic group. A good test case is the earlier Asians who somehow managed to migrate to Australia even during the days of the White Australia policy - you find for instance, Asian families who end up settling in rural Australia and run the sole Chinese restaurant. Then the recent Asians some of them from highly urbanised Asian countries and settle in urban-suburban areas. You'd think that rural rednecks would warm less to Asians that cosmpolitans and you'd be wrong - the Asian families in rural areas are among the most assimilated and integrated of all, more so than recent migrants.

Re the dating imbalance issue which I've heard a lot about - I think it's more of an issue in Hollywood-programmed America than in other countries. I perceive there being not much of an imbalance in Australia, and I suspect it's even less of an issue in other countries like France. I suspect it's an issue of culture rather than anything else. I used to live in a suburb which was heavily Fillipino and the ratio was almost even. Fillipinos are into all that rap and hip-hop crap and less self-consciously Asian in values (even those without Spanish ancestry) so if anything they probably had even more cachet value if they were able to play on their darker skin to look like homeboys.

To some extent it may well be that because there are so many Asians in the US, there are more opportunities for self-segregation and this promotes perpetuation among Asian males of the sorts of traits that render them outside of the mainstream and this combined with the expectation by parents that the males carry on the heritage then introduces this dating issue. Whereas because the Asian females have less (conscious or unconscious) parental expectations about carrying on the heritage invested in them they are freer to become integrated. Plus females are more disposed to be verbal than males anyway and verbalising is a strong part of Western courtship customs (for want of a better term) and most Asian males go into autistic occupations like computer programming and accounting so they further lose their ability to cultivate the right habits for integration.

Posted by: Jason Soon at March 1, 2003 06:07 PM

Re my comments about rural Asian-Australians, ironically, the first Asian Senator in Australia was a Senator Bill O'Chee from the National Party which represents conservative rural constitutents
(he got the name O'Chee because it was Oh Chee or something and it ended up getting spelt thay way by customs people who misheard what his grandfather said)

Posted by: Jason Soon at March 1, 2003 06:18 PM

How about approaching the subject from the old sex and violence angle? The U.S. has been involved in a number of wars in Asia, from Japan, to Korea, and Vietnam. Consequently, some Asian immigrants may have decidely mixed feelings towards a country that in some respects fought the Cold War in their backyard. (The biggest misconception about the Cold War is that it was peaceful) Plus, the heavy American troop presence in a number of Asian nations can be a sore spot. While such troops provide a degree of stability, they are sometimes viewed by the locals as the army of a colonizer. You can picture one of those Korean student protesters, wondering alound why a prosperous country like their's needs 30,000 American troops on their soil, that are sometimes above the law.

Then there is sex. Where there are troops, there are brothels. So, again, some Asians may view Americans as the corrupters of Asian women. And then when they settle in the states, they see a disproportionate amount of Asian women marrying Americans.

From the American viewpoint, the experience that some American soldiers experienced in various Asian conflicts may color their attitude towards Asians in general. I've always sensed a degree of acceptance towards Filipinos by Americans that was not often extended to Chinese, Koreans, etc. And it has to be more than that American sailors referring to Filipina bargirls as LBFMs.

On the other hand, there has historically been little American interest in South Asia, outside of academia and the CIA paling around with their Pakistani ISI buddies during the 80s. So, Americans cannot really point to their own experience, or that of their parents, when it comes to Indians. There is no 'template' if you will, that could shape interactions between Americans and Indians. With little negative history between the two populations, integration may be easier.


Posted by: KXB at March 1, 2003 08:49 PM

Sanjay: Though you may be onto something with the whole beggars thing (general consensus in Malaysia is that Indians have a lower rate of charitable giving than, and this would seem to be born out in the funding for schools and ethnic organizations, though there don't seem to be formal statistics by the government or academia), the rest of what you point out (bargaining and traffic) applies to pretty much any poor country, and some rich ones too (traffic laws in Taiwan are a joke and bargaining is a major feature of the night markets. Even HK with its British colonial history and British levels of income still demands bargaining skills if you buy stuff on the street in Mong Kok, which is always packed, instead of in malls.)

also, Korean-Americans are fewer in number than Indian-Americans. but the general impression is that they're both the least socially integrated and the least culturally assimilated - low out-marriage rates, retain a better command of the ancestral language, actually enjoy watching Korean tv programs, cliquish, won't even date other Asians besides Koreans (note Razib's anecdote, and my own experiences - never heard of ABCs giving trouble to their co-ethnics who were dating KAs, but you hear a lot about Korean and KA girls getting both parental and peer complaints for dating a Chinese guy.

Posted by: Eric at March 1, 2003 09:13 PM

did anyone else read this article on Indian arranged marriages and laugh at how the reporter was wetting herself over the tall, dark, and handsome interview subject?

Some of these criteria come from his parents. Vinay (pronounced Vin-NEIGH) thinks it's pointless to talk about appearances -- though he himself actually is good-looking, rangy and dark-eyed, with an easy grin

Posted by: hahaha at March 1, 2003 09:43 PM

I'm with your friend -- by USA standards you (and I) are not Asian-American. In Canada, I qualify as South-Asian (what, in the old days, was called Indo-Canadian, before Pakistanis and Bangladeshis started being so particular).

In the UK, Britons of chinese ancestry are not "Asian" as the term is popularly used. Only South Asians are Asian. I believe Chinese are Orientals (a word hardly heard in NAmerica anymore).

As for South Asian outmarriage -- I would think the sample size for second-generation South Asians in 1990 is too small that the figures are not meaningful (I'll check the Canadian census site to see what's available). UK data may be more useful.

I do like the line in tha article about the arranged-marriage suitor He was as self-aware as a coconut.

Posted by: Ikram Saeed at March 3, 2003 06:42 AM