Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Taboo or Tabula Rasa: Cross-Racial/Cultural Dating Preferences Amongst Chinese, Japanese, and Korean International Students in an American University

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Taboo or Tabula Rasa: Cross-Racial/Cultural Dating Preferences Amongst Chinese, Japanese, and Korean International Students in an American University

Article excerpt


International students bring racial attitudes and group preferences that affect campus climates. Forty-seven Chinese, Japanese, and Korean college international students were interviewed, regarding their perceptions of race/ethnicity and nationality, when it comes to dating and romantic relationships on college campuses. Thirty-five out of forty-seven students interviewed said they would ideally want to date someone from their own cultural background, so that communication gaps would not occur, but when probed beyond language barriers, international students appeared to have a racial hierarchy when it came to dating. Students were not only influenced by parental approval of dating partners, but also US media images that helped create a racial hierarchy of dating and cultural capital. White Americans were the most desirable dating partner for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean international students; Asian-Americans were slightly below white Americans, while African-American, Latino, and Southeast Asian students were the least desirous.

Keywords: Interracial dating, Asian international students, Cross-cultural interactions, Racial attitudes, Stereotype reduction

Chinese, Japanese, and Korean international students bring with them racial stereotypes that affect who they choose to befriend and date (Ritter, 2013). These racial stereotypes often stem from a complex history of race relations, as illustrated by football player Hines Ward's life. "I'm a half-Korean. I will do my best for the Korean community. My (Korean) mother's blood flows in my body" (Ahn, 2013). Hines Ward, a mixed heritage African-American and Korean National Football League (NFL) player addressed a Korean audience, as he visited Korea, for the first time. His visit triggered a discussion of Korea's troubled history of mixed-race relations, signaling a new awareness of racial politics in Korea (Ahn, 2013). His mother was a waitress and his father was an American soldier stationed in South Korea. They moved to America when Ward was one year old, because his mother's family was ashamed of her marriage to a black man. When the newly desegregated American military arrived in Korea, during the Korean War (1950-1953), Korean civilians were influenced by white GI's racial attitudes of white superiority and black inferiority. The adoption of negative black stereotypes stemmed from Koreans' fear of 'regressing' back into a perceived dark-skinned third world status, in a world composed of a black, white, and Asian global hierarchy (Russell, 1991).

Korean society's embrace of Ward's blackness (only on the grounds that he embraced his mother's Koreanness more) illustrates the racial divides that still exist in transnational romantic relationships as well as the racism mixed heritage individuals often face in East Asia. Ward's bloodline was always in question because of his dark skin; therefore, he had to prove his Koreanness by demonstrating that he ate kimchi, and that he had a close bond with his mother (whom he bought a mansion for and decorated it in a Korean style). Interethnic marriages comprised eleven percent of marriages in Korea in 2007, but many of these unions were Vietnamese and Filipina brides seeking better lives with Korean men, in the Korean countryside (Le, 2011). While intermarriage in East Asian cities continues to be somewhat taboo, American rates of intermarriage are increasing, albeit slowly.

In the 2012-2013 academic year, US college enrollment of international students rose to 819,644 students (Institute of International Education, 2013). As Chinese, Japanese, and Korean international students become a larger portion of the U.S. higher education landscape (194,029, 19,966, 72,295, respectively, studied in the U.S. in 2011/2012 academic year), there must be more research looking at all aspects of how international students are changing U.S. campus racial climates (Institute of International Education, 2013). As this population grows, researchers must take a closer look at racial attitudes of these students who will be future employers and will assume positions of power in both America and their home countries. …

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