Students of all ethnic backgrounds debated the pros and cons of interracial dating at a panel hosted by the Asian American Association (AAA) last night.
Nearly 100 people filled the Yenching auditorium for the discussion.
"Interracial dating is still a very, very controversial topic," AAA Co-Vice President Lei Juliet Wei '01 said as she introduced the panel.
Co-Publicity Chair Jonathan M. Lee '03, who moderated the panel along with Wei, said afterwards that the panel had addressed all of the points the AAA board had hoped it would.
"Certain things were stressed more than others--fetishes, parents," he said.
He said he was surprised at the multi-racial composition of the audience. Latinos, black students, Asian-Americans and white students all were in attendance.
Maura E. LeBaron '02, who is white, said she attended the panel because her boyfriend is Asian-American.
"It definitely gave me a chance to understand more some of the pressures my boy friend might be under," she said.
Panel members included male and female students of various backgrounds, including Korean, Chinese, Japanese and half-Asian students.
Topics discussed included exoticization of Asian women, stereotyping, intimidation and issues of cultural identity.
Angela Mi Young Hur '02 said stereotyping at parties is common. She said she is accustomed to hearing such questions as, "So you work for Chinatown at [Philips Brooks House]? Take a language at Vanserg?"
She said dating is hard enough without the added worries she feels are part of interracial dating.
"Why does he like me? Is it because I'm his Jasmine flower?" Hur asks. "I totally support if they are genuinely interested in your culture, but genuinely interested in your culture and genuinely interested in you, there's a line between that."
On the other hand, William Lung-Fu "Lonnie" Everson '02 discussed the stereotypes of Asian-American males.
"Asian guys are on a roll, but they're still a long way off from building a positive image," he said.
"About the intimidation thing, I think a lot of us are intimidated, not by [white] women, but by our own image," Everson added. "If you're not nerdy you're a gangster. We're far from the masculine ideal."
"Personally I actually do feel intimidated if I ever thought of asking a [white] woman out on a date," Robert S. Lim '02 said.
Uyen-Khanh Quang-Dang '02 said women have noticed Asian men's sense of intimidation.
In her nearly two years at Harvard, "Not a single Asian guy has ever approached me," she said.
Panel members also discussed the benefits of interracial dating.
"Sometimes a shared racial background can create an unhealthy relationship," Hur said.
She said dating someone from a different culture can provide new perspectives.
"Sometimes you're trying to escape your life," Hur said.
Quang-Dang shared positive experiences from both interracial and non-interracial relationships.
"When I dated someone who was Vietnamese, it was really awesome to share the same language. When I dated a white guy, he appreciated things about me that I never thought about," she said.
Panel members also discussed how to maintain cultural traditions in interracial relationships.
"There's sort of a danger point when you assimilate too much of the white culture," Hur said.
Peggy T. Lim '00 described her father's reaction to her sister's decision to marry a Korean, rather than a Chinese man.
"To him it's like he's been cut off from his line," she said.
"For me, personally, being the first born son of a Korean family, the pressure is there to marry Korean, or at least Asian," said Robert Lim.
Jenny I. Shen '01, co-president of the AAA, said the board's curiosity about trends they've observed inspired the panel.
"Asian women date much more outside of race than men," she said. "Is it a matter of preference, media portrayal?"
The panel members were chosen by officers of the AAA.