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Eurogamy among Asian-Americans: a note on Western assimilation.

In the context of assimilation Asians' preferred exogamy with Euro-Americans put the "American Dream" within reach. Exogamy with people of color can have the opposite effect requiting compensation as penalty for the loss in assimilation potential. A superior SES frequently serve the stigma associated with non-Euro-Asian exogamy (Aldridge, 1978). Immigrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka once settled in the US constantly seek ways to prove themselves "white" (Mazumdar, 1989). In the process vehement forms of denigration are acted out against people of color, particularly black Americans.

Asian - as per Mongoloid - includes an extensive array of ethnics (Logan, Alba & McNulty, 1994; Ashilova, 1971). It connotes the various groups that comprise the race. It is less threatened by the Euro gene pool although purity is valued. While Asians are Mongoloids who can be very different culturally, racially, they are brought together by common genetic traits. Furthermore, within each Asian ethnic exists beliefs and practices that further complicate the process of assimilation. One practice, however, that does seem to be indicative of a large number of Asian groups in the US and elsewhere, is their tendency toward endogamy (Kikumura & Kitano, 1973). In countries such as Canada, Great Britian, and Australia, the phenomenon is fastly fading in the quest for Western assimilation (Hall, forthcoming).

As a matter of the human condition marriage between potential mates is based upon the individual's ability to be not only perceived as attractive but particularly for men by women, a worthy prospect (Aldridge, 1978; Rhee, 1988; Sung, 1990). For Asian-American women who marry exogamously, the ability to court and marry men in the US who have light skin is regarded as an invaluable asset in their quest for assimilation (Hall, forthcoming). That makes Euro-American men a worthy prospect. It further increases or reduces the frequency of exogamy between Asian-Americans and the various ethnics of color (Hall, 1995; Hall, 1994). It also necessitates that exogamy between American citizens and immigrated Asians having equal socioeconomic status be contingent upon the ability of the citizen via off-spring to lighten the skin color and Westernize the features of their Asian counterpart. It is most apparent among foreign students who express a desire to become citizens. When the socioeconomic status between they and the potential partner is unequal, an "exchange" theory based upon a proximity to Euro skin color will be used as the selection criterion (Haslam, 1995). The darker the skin, the more will be required in socioeconomic status. This is true whether either of the couples are foreign or citizen.

Asians who marry exogamously - persons of Asian descent who exchange wedding vows with a non-Asian partner - do so in the midst of unprecedented social change. The "war bride" image, a stereotype of the humble, submissive Oriental mistress, is becoming obsolete. An objection to her traditional "war bride" mentality has undoubtedly influenced some to ignore the custom of selecting partners from within the ethnic group. Furthermore, video technology and jet propulsion have made it virtually impossible to remain isolated. When groups are isolated geographically, they are also isolated socially. As people come together via technology, social isolation - otherwise known as segregation - is viewed with less tolerance. The earlier isolation of Asians in the US hindered any effort at becoming comfortably assimilated into the mainstream of society. Access to educational opportunities and a better quality of life suffered because assimilation was less forthcoming. The unique features and "minority" status of Asian-Americans marked them as ineligible for participation in the Euro gene pool (Kaplan, 1990). That participation would have been a consequence of normal assimilation as evidenced by the relative ease of the mainstream in accepting members from among the various European ethnic groups (Bolger, 1985). The ultimate for Asian-Americans was instead limited to the economic rewards of society and a quality of life commensurate with those limited rewards.

Marriage, from the beginning, has stood as the true test and enabler of complete and total assimilation (Gurak & Fitzpatrick, 1982). But for members of Euro ethnic groups, being physically similar to the mainstream, assimilation was of less concern. That is, while Euro-American groups experienced discrimination initially, assimilation required of them to merely embrace American ideals (Alba, 1981). The status of their gene pool had already satisfied assimilation criteria. For Asian-Americans, the decision to embrace American ideals did not satisfy criteria for acceptance. They were left with the task of somehow altering themselves to affect less Asian or more European (Wong, 1978). The difference in the process for Euro-American groups and Asian-Americans then required that assimilation of Euro-Americans be little more than the decision to learn a new language, practice new customs, or develop a taste for different foods. In most cases by the second or third generation they were fully assimilated. Exogamy for Euro-Americans thus became a result of the assimilation process whereas for Asians-Americans it remains a strategy of, making for the concept of "Eurogamy."

Eurogamy is originally an extension of various forms of European domination visa vis imperialism and/or colonization. In the US it is manifested in the marital patterns of minority groups who must assimilate into a Euro mainstream. Eurogamy is the preferred marital pattern of a less powerful group, Asian-Americans, to a more powerful group, Euro-American. In acquiring Euro genes, the stigma of Asian features is minimized via offspring. The idealized light skin and round eyes then qualify Asian-Americans for assimilation and the commensurate quality of life. It occurs most frequently among those who settle in large urban centers. In the city of New York, Asian-Americans who marry eurogamously tend to be second generation or later, born in America, female, older, better educated, of higher occupational status, and have higher, incomes (Sung, 1990). Such urbanized Americans are associated less with the more customarily closed Asian community. Whether or not their marrying eurogamously adversely affects their children has not been established as fact of research, but their children do appear to have problems psychologically (Sung, 1990).

Eurogamy on the part of Asian-Americans is also gender biased (Shingawa & Pang, 1988). For females the participation is more obvious. For males the prospects of marriage imposes differently given the tasks of assimilation. As a result, marital choices for both may be more controlled by the influences of assimilation because assimilation of less powerful groups into more powerful groups represents a form of domination (Allen & Jewell, 1995). In the US that reduces the status of Asian males who are not members of the Euro power structure. Limited mate selection from among the marriage minded Euro-American population is one way Asian-Americans attempt to conform to what is idealized (Cunningham, 1993).

By way of eurogamy, full assimilation for Asian-Americans becomes immediately accessible. In the process they may develop ill notions relative to dark skin that discourages civil assimilation in toto. Such notions are quite common as reflected in the negative media portrayals of black men (Hall, 1993). All understand that dark skin is regarded by America's various institutions as an obstacle that might otherwise afford the opportunity for assimilation and a better quality of life (Keowan, 1986). Although it may appear illogical, such methods of embracing Eurocentrisms has been a tradition for the successful assimilation of immigrant groups into the mainstream of American society. Those wishing to assimilate under the auspices of domination must not only idealize Eurocentrisms, but alter themselves to conform to a frequently contrasting phenotype. In the aftermath a motivation for eurogamy among Asian-Americans is incurred.

As a social phenomenon, eurogamy is not unprecedented. Survival and the possibility of assimilation into the mainstream is greatly enhanced by the ability to idealize Eurocentrisms (Wortham, 1992). While blacks and Hispanics tend to congregate at the lower rung of the American socioeconomic ladder, Asian-Americans as a group enjoy one of the highest per capita incomes in the country, including that for many Euro-Americans (Hirschman & Wong, 1984). Those who aspire to assimilation dictated by domination then invest their efforts in attaining the Euro ideal without respect to the psychological and emotional costs incurred over time. By engaging in such efforts, they expect - but infrequently acquire - full assimilation into the society and the quality of life associated with it.

Why Asians - women in particular - marry eurogamously is inferred extensively in the work of Kitano. Much of it suggests the fact that in order for women to assimilate into a patriarch, power is gained indirectly via marriage; and Euro-American men are the holders of power in both the US and Canada (Sewell, 1992). While men are less likely than women to marry for power, except for Asians, high SES men of color seem to many Euro-American women at increased rates (Kalmijn, 1993). In particular that includes black and Hispanic men. The eurogamy is quite obvious if such males have some unusually large amount of wealth or power that draw attention from the media (Warner, 1995; Coleman, 1995; Kozol, 1995).

The practicality of light skin for mainstream assimilation is readily apparent. It is apparent not only in the frequency of Asian-American eurogamy, but the perception of resulting offspring. A Eurasian child - part-Asian, part-Euro-American - might be viewed as having greater assimilation potential than an Afrasian child - of Asian and black parentage (Bose, 1979). This is a very critical factor - although not always a conscious one - for Asians who make the decision to marry eurogamously. Furthermore, the "marginal" status of Eurasian offspring make for a greater inclination to idealize light skin - as well as more acceptable - because they may be but a shade from the possibility of sharing in the Euro gene pool. As the result of becoming more acceptable, eurogamy among Asian-Americans continues to increase dramatically. Furthermore, such esteemed institutions as the US Bureau of the Census verify the gender factor among Asians who marry eurogamously. In the states with the largest Asian populations - California, New York, and Washington - the combination of Asian-Euro marriages tends to be Asian Female to Euro male (Sung, 1990). The fact that women tend to marry men who are their social and economic superiors may mean that men of color are not considered eligible unless they are endowed with some compensatory trade-off. On the other hand, marriage to Euro-American men is presumed by Asian-American women to lighten their skin psychologically in the present via identification with their spouse and in the future via offspring. If the increasing rate of eurogamy does in fact reflect a disdain for dark skin, the psychological implications may eventually impair Asian self concept. The off-spring of these interracial marriages will be less facilitating to race relations in lieu of the historical concept of European having been defined as "pure" (Grove, 1991).

Given the existence of eurogamy as a factor of assimilation, the task is clear. Asian-Americans must idealize and define for themselves the worth of Asian identity. Assimilation into the mainstream must come as the result of an equally valued exchange of culturisms. In the aftermath the process of American assimilation will be enhanced. The process will become more conducive and capable of absorbing the diversity of all people.

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Author:Hall, Ronald E.
Publication:The Social Science Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1997
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