At the Bar with Sam Cacas
~ Special Edition Post ~
Sam Cacas is the author of BlAsian Exchanges, a Novel and the moderator of BlAsianExchanges, a Yahoo! discussion group. He has written about Blasian relationships in Today’s Black Woman and Interracial magazines. A native of Washington, D.C.and long-time Maryland resident, he currently resides in Oakland, California with his wife, authoress D.E. Love. He also blogs and writes for AsianWeek. Those who follow the "Blasian Movement" recognize Mr. Cacas as one of its most well-known and respected voices. It was one of my greatest honors to complete this interview with him on August 27th, 2010.
Mr. Cacas, it’s a great honor to interview you; yours is a name known throughout the Blasian world. In fact, it’s hard for me research Blasian news and issues without seeing you linked, quoted, or referenced somehow (I myself have done it). How did that all get started?
It’s a privilege to be chosen to be interviewed by you Ankhesen. I have been moved by your writings about the BlAsian experience so I’m moved by your invitation.
As far as being public about my BlAsian relationships, that started with the publication of an article I wrote in the March 1999 (they did not put dates on their issues but that was the date the issue came out on) Interrace Magazine titled, “Black like me: an Asian man comes to terms with his Black Identity.” This article talked about the reasons why I had been repeatedly attracted to Black women since my post-prepubescent years; much of my attraction was rooted in my involvement in Black political issues during my undergraduate days when I was a member of the Black Student Union and as a result had many interactions with many outspoken Black women. The political involvement with Black people morphed into, my own study of Black history as it related to Asian Americans, social involvement. And of course, the next thing that happened was I was asking women who were BSU members and other Black women out to the movies and dinner.
I was encouraged to write the above articles because Black women I knew whom I had shared my dating and political history with told me that the world – especially Black people – wanted to hear my story and I should tell it. I was also motivated by Black women writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Sojourner Truth. And from the reactions to the above article and a January 2000 article I authored – titled “Asian-African American relationships” - in Today’s Black Woman magazine, I can say in hindsight that I knew they were right. The Internet was just emerging around that time and I began receiving a steady stream of e-mails mostly from Black women and all very positive and anxious to read more of my writings. When the Internet discussion boards emerged around the same period, I found another vehicle for my writings on the BlAsian experience and consequently more readers, mostly Black women and some Asian men. Those reactions encouraged me to write and publish my first book, “BlAsian Exchanges, a novel” in 2007 and beginning in 2008 a column called “Black-Asian Unity” which I have been publishing in AsianWeek.com. I also blog at http://blackwomanasianman.wordpress.com
Aside for your personal reasons, why do you find the goal of Blasian unity to be an important cause? What criticism do you receive most often while working towards Blasian unity?
BlAsian unity is important because two people of color groups getting together politically, socially, and culturally is a powerful force that certainly has the potential to change at the very least how the world looks at certain race-related issues critical to both groups including discrimination, media representation, immigration, etc. This unity – I believe – applies to everyone irrespective of perceived racial background because all of humanity is originated from the African continent.
The criticism I have received most while working towards BlAsian unity has been the notion that I am somehow denying the Asian heritage I was born into and am thus a traitor who is just trying to feign being Black as a ploy to attract Black women. I believe such criticism – which I’ve heard from Blacks, whites, and Asians – wrongly assumes that an individual’s personal culture can’t include a culture other than one is born into.
I would like to point out that one of the common reactions to my book has been the question of does it see getting involved in an interracial relationship (IR) as just love or a political statement. I know the contemporary wisdom is 'it's just love 'cause you don't see race when you fall in love' but I have evolved into seeing it both ways: Yes, it is a political statement because to fall in love with someone of a race different from yours you do have to, to a certain degree, reject the racial stereotypes of that group as well as reject race as a social construct (i.e., legal invention reinforced by laws, court decisions, and public opinion) and yes at the same time you fall in love with the person because your personal cultures - beyond the ones you're born into - connect at that particular time period in your life.
I’m astounded by the Blasian Movement; no, I don’t know what else to call it, because it has some definite “movement” symptoms. First there was the word “BlAsian”, with the capitalized A, then came “Blasian”. First, it seemed to apply to couples and people of mixed blood, but now members of the movement just call themselves “Blasians”! I’m starting to see it everywhere. Why do you think the movement is expanding so quickly? What do you think is drawing people to it?
First, I believe the movement is expanding because the new internet media (i.e., YouTube, Facebook, Wordpress, Yahoo!, Twitter) are encouraging more BlAsian interested persons, particularly Black women, to push the interracial relationships discussions beyond Black female and white male genre which is where the gatekeepers of the traditional media (news and silver screen) have wanted to keep IR over the years. Many of the proponents of our movement have created their own videos on YouTube which have drawn hundreds to thousands of hits and many more have participated in the discussions of social network sites such as Facebook and Yahoo! And they have also – like myself – created blogs on sites like Wordpress or microblogs on sites like Twitter. The resulting traffic of all these sites has created a buzz that the media and corporate America have recognized enough to create commercials featuring Black women/Asian men couples such as the Ikea commercial a few years back, a Bloomingdale’s vid on the ‘net last year, and parts of t.v. shows like FlashForward last year. We have yet, though, to see a blockbuster type of movie with an Asian man/Black female character cast on the same level that we have seen the same cast for white male/Black female character castings. It would also be nice if the BlAsian movie I keep wishing for had an Asian American guy who spoke English like a native-born American and actually fell in love with a Black women in the many ways that white and Black male actors are allowed to do so. The Asian male portrayals with Black women have too often fit into the asexual, no-emotion, unromantic stereotypes that Americans harbor about Asian men. “Romeo Must Die” was the most recent example of this; while the Asian guy wound up getting the girl in the end – and a Black girl at that – there was a stark lack of kissing, romantic dialogue, lovemaking, and other indications of a hot romance that audiences have seen in interracial movies involving white guys and Black women. Walking away from such a movie, one would reasonably think that Asian guys don’t really fall in love like most regular human beings do. Such a notion fits in with other images of Asian men as America’s constant war enemies (i.e., those we’ve been fighting since World War II including Japanese, Korea, Vietnam, Middle East), fresh off the boat immigrants who take jobs and resources from “real (i.e., white and Black) Americans,” etc.
Thank you for letting me get some steam off my head there. But to jump back on track to what you’re saying I’ll summarize by saying that the new media (i.e., blogs, micro-blogs, discussion boards, and video sites) are pushing the envelope and starting to burst the bubble of the traditional white male/Black female view of interracial relationships. To put it in the words of one Black woman I talked to at one of my author events, ‘We BlAsians have always been kept out of the IR discussions and media until recently when we started throwing our own party and they started listening.’
A second factor is the increased globalization due to the internet and trade between U.S. and Asian countries has brought the exchanges between Blacks and Asians to a higher level than it was previously. The result is that BWAM have come together socially on the internet or have come together because of business-related travel. The effect on Black women and Asian men who have done neither but who have seen their peers interact transracially in social, sexual and romantic ways that neither race has seen before is making toast out of that tired line that ‘East is East and West is West and never shall the ‘twain meet.’ A Black woman wanting to meet an Asian man for romance is as easy as easy a clicking to a social networking site like MeetUp or Facebook, making e-mail exchanges with a BlAsian-interested person of interest, then sooner (or later) meeting up with them face-to-face.
A third factor is the increase in the multiracial community which reportedly increased by 25% in the last decade. I don’t know what part of that are children born from Black-Asian marriages, but I have seen many of those children showing up in the sites I’ve mentioned above. Many of them have been the most understanding and avid readers of my book, “BlAsian Exchanges, a novel.” And many of these BlAsian folks want to know more. I don’t think that society knows how to deal with a Black woman who has some Filipino blood in her who could never see herself dating a white guy, hasn’t found what she wanted in Black guys but is anxious about the prospect of finding an Asian guy – the type of guy that mirrors her father phenotypically and at the same time the type of guy her mother has shared good vibes about.
When I penned Folklore as part of an experiment, I noticed that the critics didn’t bat a single eyelash about the BW/AM pairing. It almost seemed “normal” to them (I’ve also seen that type of phrasing on the Narrative). Why do you think this “bond” between the peoples goes unnoticed in America?
Several reasons. First of all, relative to the total population there are not many Asians living in America (you’re talking about five percent of the total U.S. population according to the last count available which is the 2000 census) so that leaves very few Asian men in relation to the higher number of Black women and because of the small numbers (due to racist immigration laws of the past and present) of Asian Americans in most cities the majority of Americans including Blacks know relatively little about Asians in America, particularly their history here and there cultures including their American-based culture. Despite the growth rate of Asian Americans over the last four decades, we are still largely looked upon by Americans as strangers from another shore even though we are a majority of the total world population and many Asian countries are now leading, major economic forces in the world.
Second, most of the Asian men in America are relative newcomers to this country culturally and language-wise (even if they are limited English speaking), so they are not fully aware of the socio-political dynamics of important issues like race, sexual empowerment, and interracial attraction the way everyone else including Black women are. Their ignorance as newcomers trickles down to Asian men who are American-born because the ignorance of the foreign born Asian men confuses the racial perceptions of American-born Asian men which creates overall confusion about Asian men society-wide. To break down the “confusion” I am talking about please refer to my discussion in #3 response for details on the stereotypes of Asian men.
Third, Americans still – despite some progress – have a long way to go when it comes to matters concerning race including interracial relationships and especially when it concerns Asians. Besides the Asian male stereotypes I’ve mentioned, there remain many society-wide stereotypes of Black women which I have heard over the years during my involvement with Black women that many folks still believe. There are the views, for example that Black women do not wash their hair and are repeatedly compulsive about how to wear it, are sexually promiscuous, good in bed, or have an attitude. In the views of many I’ve talked to who believe in these stereotypes to whatever degree, Black women are therefore not good partners for romance. In my humble opinion based on over four decades of experience, I beg to differ considerably.
Of course, all of this is trumped by factors I delineated in #3.
The Blasian world has been repeatedly let down by Hollywood. You've mentioned Romeo Must Die, but what are your thoughts about what Hollywood has proffered the Blasians since then (e.g., Ninja Assassin, FlashForward)?
I’ve not seen Ninja Assassin. However, I liked the real-life characterizations of the romance between Zoey (the Black woman character played by Gabrielle Union) and Demetri (the Asian male character played by John Cho) in FlashForward. For a change, you had an American-born Asian guy who had no accent, is pretty cool about expressing himself to women especially Black women, and the couple as a whole showed the verbal and non-verbal expressions of a couple that was close enough that they were repeatedly talking about married life. Unfortunately, this series did not last beyond the eight-month mark.
Audrey & Dre, of course, stand apart from Hollywood...in writing, casting, and even distribution. How did you find out about the show?
I found out about it by doing a search on YouTube one day and just fell in love with this vid which I found not only humorous but very real in how it struck a responsive chord with my current and prior BlAsian relationships. My first BlAsian marriage ended in divorce. And literally all my BlAsian relationships including my current, 2nd marriage have involved significant degrees of rapture not to mention those hilarious episodes of fighting for the bedsheets during sleeptime. As a dance whore, I also marveled at how the couple were macking their dancing skills.
The cast of the show are optimistic about its reception in Asia. What are your thoughts on this?
I share the same optimism. Folks in Asian countries are curious about the newest trends happening in American culture including those in interracial relationships; remember, unlike many people in the United States, Asians are not as hesitant on interracial kind of matters and my feeling from talking to many foreign-based, foreign-born Asians is that they are sitting on the fence when it comes to IR, want to know more about Black people especially Black women and are not totally sold on the racist stuff they’ve heard about Black women [remember, Asian countries lack a lot of the sort of racial history that the U.S. has had] from American media. And business wise, since rates for video cellphones are more affordable in Asian countries (they don’t require two or three-year contracts like American companies do) and thus more common usage of cell phones to view videos, there is a more readily accessible market for shows like Audrey & Dre in Asian countries than here in the U.S.
This increased Asian interest in black women...is it something you've observed personally?
Yes. I do discern personally an increased interest for BW in Asia. I have no figures to back that up but I have continued to receive e-mails from Asian men after my wife and I had our picture in a Chinese Language daily newspaper February of '09 in an article about BlAsian couples in which I was quoted in many lines. They are curious in many ways, such as how to approach BW and questions about how to bridge cultural gaps and personal preferences and where to meet BW and why I had recurrently been attracted to BW and they wanted to know more about the common history of Blacks and Asians that I had touched on in the article and in my novel (to see a copy of the article go to my blog at http://blackwomanasianman.wordpress.com and scroll down to the entries for Feb. 09 and March 09).
With Sino-African relations basically picking up where they left off centuries ago, do you think they too will influence the movement?
I do believe that Sino-African relations are part of the interest as well as China's continuing influence in the globalization of trade and the economy (e.g., China took $1.25 billion of U.S. consumer debt nearly two years ago). There are also a growing number of BW who have ventured to China on their own, e.g., Jo Bai, a Florida resident who is married to an AM, has relocated to China with her husband and also there is an African journalist who after her education here in the U.S. took a job as anchor of a Chinese TV station and thus is a daily presence.
Overall, I don't discern a sea change level of interest but I do see an increased interest in BW by Asian men in Asian countries especially China.
Do you think it has something to do with male-female disparity as well? I remember from grad school that by 2006, there were 110 million more men in China than there were women. That was equivalent to the entire population of Mexico.
That could be a factor. Other factors could include: (1) China doing business with African countries and some Chinese men (and conversely some African women) desiring to position themselves to cash in on that business as marital partners); (2) more positive images of Black women in Chinese media; (3) the Obama factor which is changing how mixed-race children are being viewed in Asian countries since Obama spent his formative years in Indonesia which is a factor that is repeated in many Asian language newspapers; (4) the growing number of African Americans who are migrating (permanently or temporary) to China for career-related and sometimes reasons related to marrying a Chinese partner; (4) the high, burgeoning number of Chinese men and other Asian men migrating to the U.S. for business and/or educational reasons who see more positive images of Black women in this country than in Asian countries they are from [consequently they spread these broader positive images of Black women in their countries of origin to other Asian men who wind up getting their curiosity fulfilled by internet surfing about Black women].
Well...the ladies will most definitely be glad to hear that! I look forward to reactions on the Narrative. Mr. Cacas, thank you very much for "stopping by".