Who wins in the interracial dating game?

While mixed marriages have become more commonplace, new resentments have emerged

Steve Sailer
National Post
Sunday, May 8, 1999

Interracial marriage is growing steadily in North America. In the U.S. from 1960 to the 1990 Census, white-East Asian married couples increased almost tenfold, while black-white couples quadrupled. The reasons are obvious: greater integration and the decline of white racism. More subtly, interracial marriages are increasingly recognized as epitomizing what our society values most in a marriage: the triumph of love over convenience and prudence. What's fascinating, however, is that in recent years a startling number of non-whites -- especially East Asian men and black women -- have become bitterly opposed to interracial marriage.

The hear of the problem for Asian men and black women is that intermarriage does not treat every sex/race combination equally: On average, it has offered black men and Asian women new opportunities for finding mates among whites, while exposing Asian men and black women to new competition from whites. In the 1990 U.S. Census, 72% of black-white couples consisted of a black husband and white wife. In contrast, white-Asian pairs showed the reverse: 72% consisted of a white husband and an Asian wife. Canada does not publish statistics on interracial marriages. Still, it's striking that 12% more Canadian black men than black women are married or in common- law relationships, which suggests black-white marriages are heavily skewed towards black husbands. Conversely, the demand for women of Philippine origin is so great (see the mail-order bride ads in the backs of many magazines) that in Canada, there are 39% more Filipinas than Filipinos.

Black women's resent of intermarriage is now a staple of daytime talk shows, hit movies like Waiting to Exhale, and magazine articles. Black novelist Bebe Moor Campbell described her and her tablemates' reactions upon seeing a black actor enter with a blond: "In unison, we moaned, we groaned, we rolled our eyes heavenward... Then we all shook our heads as we lamented for the 10,000th time the perfidy of black men, and cursed trespassing white women who dared to 'take our men.'"

Like most guys, though, Asian men are reticent about admitting any frustrations in the mating game. But anger over intermarriage is visible on the Internet online discussion groups for young Asians. The men, featuring a concentration, even greater than normal for the Internet, of cranky bachelors, accuse the women of racism for dating white guys. For example, "This [dating] disparity is a manifestation of a silent conspiracy by the racist white society and self-hating Asian [nasty word for "women"] to effect the genocide of Asian Americans."

Let's review other facts about intermarriage and how they violate conventional sociological theories.

  • You would normally expect more black women than black men to marry whites because far more black women are in daily contact with whites. There may be nearly 14 young black women for every 10 young black men who are alive and unentangled with the law in the United States. Further, black women are far more prevalent than black men in universities (by 80% in grad schools), in corporate offices, and in other places where members of the bourgeoisie, black and white, meet their mates.

  • The civil-rights revolution left husband-wife imbalances among interracial couples more unequal. Back in 1960, white husbands were seen in 50% of American black-white couples (versus only 28% in 1990), and in only 62% of white-Asian couples (versus 72%). Why? Discrimination, against black men and Asian women. In the Jim Crow South, black men wishing to date white women faced pressures ranging from raised eyebrows to lynch mobs, while immigration laws long kept Chinese women out of California. In other words, as legal and social discrimination have lessened, natural inequalities have asserted themselves.

  • Keeping black men and white women apart was the main purpose of Jim Crow. Gunnar Myrdal's landmark 1944 study found that Southern white males generally grasped that keeping blacks down also retarded their own economic progress, but whites felt that was the price they had to pay to make black men less attractive to white women. To the extent that white racism persists, it should limit the proportion of black man-white woman couples.

Piecemeal explanations of why blacks are more in demand as husband than wives and vice-versa for Asians, are unpersuasive. We need a general theory.

By emphasizing how society encourages us to marry people like ourselves, sociologists miss half the picture: By definition, heterosexual attraction thrives on differences. Opposites attract. And certain kinds of interracial couples seem more opposite than others. On average, black men tend to appear more, and Asian men slightly less, masculine than white men, while Asian women are typically seen as slightly more, and black women slightly less, feminine than white women.

Obviously these are gross generalizations about the races. Nobody believes Michael Jackson could beat up kung fu star Jackie Chan or that comedian Margaret Cho is lovelier than Sports Illustrated swimsuit covergirl Tyra Banks. But life is a game of probabilities.

So, what makes blacks more masculine-seeming and Asians more feminine-seeming?

There are only three fundamental causes for the myriad ways groups differ. The first is unsatisfying, but no doubt important: random flukes in history. The second, the favourite of Thomas Sowell and Jared Diamond, is differences in geography and climate. The third is human biodiversity.

Let's look at three physical differences between the races.

  • Asian men tend to be shorter than white and black men. Does this matter in the mating game? One leading hands-on researcher into this question, 7 feet, 1 inch, 280-pound basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, reports that in his ample experience, being tall and strong never hurt. Biological anthropologists confirm this, finding that taller tends to be better in the eyes of most women in just about all cultures.

    Like most traits, height is determined by the interaction of genetic and social factors (e.g. nutrition). For example, New York Yankee pitcher Hideki Irabu is 6 feet, 3 inches, an almost unheard-of height for any Japanese men 50 years ago, owing to the near-starvation diets of the era. While the height gap between Japanese and whites narrowed significantly after the Second World War, this trend has slowed in recent years as well-fed Japanese began bumping up against genetic limits. Furthermore, the source of immigrants to North America is shifting from well-fed Northeast Asia to undernourished Southeast Asia, so the average Asian immigrant will continue to be not as tall as his genetic potential allows. Finally, it can be a cold comfort to a 5 feet, 7 inch Asian who is competing for dates with white and black guys averaging 5 feet, 11 inches to hear, "Your sons will grow up on average a couple inches taller than you, assuming, of course, that you ever meet a girl and have kids."

  • This general principle -- the more racial integration there is, the more important become physical differences between the races -- can also be seen with regard to hair length. The ability to grow long hair is a useful indicator of youth and good health. (Ask anybody on chemotherapy.) Since women do not go bald and can generally grow their hair about one foot longer than men can, most cultures associate longer hair with femininity. Although blacks' hair doesn't grow as long as whites' or Asians' hair, that's not a problem for black women in all-black societies. After integration, though, hair often becomes an intense concern for black women competing with longer-haired women of other races. While most intellectuals in black-studies departments' ebony towers denounce "Eurocentric standards of beauty," most black women respond more pragmatically. They one-up white women by buying straight from the source of the longest hair: The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the booming business in furnishing black women with "weaves" and "extensions" harvested from the follicularly gifted women of China.

  • Muscularity may most sharply differentiate the races in terms of sexual attractiveness. Women like men who are stronger than they; men like women who are rounder and softer. The ending of segregation in sports has made racial differences in muscularity harder to ignore. Although the men's 100-metre dash is among the world's most widely contested events, in the last four Olympic all 32 finalists have been blacks of West African descent. Is muscularity quantifiable? PBS fitness expert Covert Bailey finds that he needs to recommend different goals -- in terms of percentage of body fat -- to his clients of different races. His standard goal for adult black men is 12% body fat, 15% for whites and 18% for Asian men. The goals for women are seven points higher than for men of the same race. Thus, body fat percentage goals in Asian men (18%) and black women (19%) are practically indistinguishable. In contrast, well-exercised black men (12%) have much larger and harder muscles than fit Asian women (25%), which is probably why black male-Asian female couples, while still uncommon, are so much less uncommon than Asian male-black female couples

Understanding the impact of genetic racial differences on North American life is a necessity for anybody who wants to understand our increasingly complex society. For example, the sense of betrayal felt by Asian men certainly makes sense. After all, they tend to surpass the national average in those long-term virtues -- industry, self-restraint, law-abidingness -- that society used to train young women to look for in a husband. Yet, now that discrimination has finally declined enough for Asian men to expect to reap the rewards of fulfilling traditional North American standards of manliness, our culture has largely lost interest in indoctrinating young women to prize those qualities.

The frustrations of Asian men are a warning sign. When, in the names of freedom and feminism, young women listen less to the hard-earned wisdom of older women about how to pick Mr. Right, they listen even more to their hormones. This allows cruder measures of a man's worth -- like the size of his muscles -- to return to prominence. The result is not a feminist utopia, but a society in which genetically gifted guys can more easily get away with acting like Mr. Wrong.

George Orwell noted, "To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle." We can no longer afford fashionable philosophies that insist upon ignoring the obvious. The realities of interracial marriage, like those of professional sports, show that diversity and integration turn out in practice to be fatal to the assumption of racial uniformity. The courageous individuals in interracial marriages have moved farthest past old hostilities. Yet, they've discovered not the featureless landscape of utter equality predicted by progressive pundits, but a landscape rich with fascinating racial patterns. Intellectuals should stop dreading the ever-increasing evidence of human biodiversity and start delighting in it.

Steve Sailer is a businessman and writer.