“No I’m not married. Yes I like Korean food. Yes even kimchi.” The ajumma’s nod at each other. “Ahh. You should marry a nice Korean girl. They not like American women.” “Some of them…” And so the conversation went, trailing off into a discussion between the two of them only tangentially related to me extolling the virtues of a good Korean woman. Apparently the chief concern of these women (and of most of my hyungs) is that I get married and that relatively quickly. Being well matched is clearly at the top of their list of things I need to do.
BUT… if I need to marry a good Korean woman, where will I find her? The silent question that echoes at back of the admonitions to marry a “good Korean woman” is this: who will sacrifice their daughter so this man can get married? After all, I’m not Korean or even Asian, and most significantly, I’m not even White. The Asian woman who marries a Black man is a rarity, not because Asian women never date outside their “race” but because, well… you fill in the blank.
One of my Korean students and I were discussing this issue and he mentioned that his parents told him they would support him no matter who he wanted to marry. And so he asked what if she wasn’t Korean. That would be fine, as long as you’re happy. “What about if she was White?” This time a slight pause, but again, as long as you’re happy. “What if I wanted to marry an African-American?” His parents face went pale, their eyes widened and their mouths dropped open. They did not answer. It was quite simply too shocking a thing to even be considered.
If I were a White man I don’t know that that unasked question (who will sacrifice their daughter…) would resound quite as loudly. Certainly they would prefer their “good Korean daughters” to marry equally “good Korean men” but there are enough mixed race couples, and several of long standing that such a match would not excite much interest. In fact if I were White they might well assume that my coming to the church was so I could scope out the ladies. As it is, no such assumptions prevail, or at least none of which I am aware. Instead I am pure curiosity.
But would a good Korean woman even feel the freedom to like me? I certainly have no qualms about asking one out and my family quite honestly just wants me to marry somebody and get on with the business of enlarging our clan (my parents have a total of 19 descendants including grandchildren and great grandchildren). I would chiefly have to contend with the disapproval of the many Black women who would view me as having sold out, though not quite as badly as if I had married a White woman.
For the woman however, I think it would be a bit more challenging. Her children, for all intents and purposes, would cease to be Korean and would not really even be considered Korean-American. They would be Black, and she would have to deal with many more difficulties than me, even in the context of the church, and perhaps more so. In any event there are some fine Korean women out there and I can’t afford to let anyone’s ethnic prejudices keep me from giving them a holla if the opportunity presents itself.