Dealing with online trolls is an unfortunate reality when you share information about your personal life on the Internet, something YouTube personality and actor Natalie Tran knows firsthand. But what do you do when the insults get uncomfortably personal? After Tran, who is Asian, faced a wave of backlash for having a white partner, she made a documentary exploring the judgment Asian women face for dating white men. The 40-minute piece, which was created in partnership with YouTube's Creators for Change program, tells us a ton about interracial relationships.
Tran talks to professional matchmakers, social science experts and people in interracial relationships to figure out why people — and in particular, Asian men — reacted so negatively to her love life. She shares some of the nasty comments she gets when she shares pictures of her mixed-race nieces and nephews, and explores the complex reactions that interracial couples get from people of all ethnicities. She concludes that the people who troll her are often dealing with their own identity crises and feelings of hurt.
"This video was a weird experience because it started with my being hurt and angry, and ended up with me wanting to help and learn more," she says in the video.
I'm grateful for Tran's project because I can relate on a very personal level. While she specifically focuses on white men and Asian women in this documentary, anyone who's ever been in an interracial relationship can attest to the complications it can bring. I'm a Black woman married to a Latinx man who looks like a white guy, and people have hinted I fell for him because of some fetishization for whiteness and distaste for Blackness. It feels like an unfair assumption, but it's not like it just appeared out of thin air. We live in a society where white supremacy and systemic racism are norms, and people of color — especially men — are often demonized and looked down upon.
One of the experts Tran talks to is Katie Chen of Two Asian Matchmakers. Chen tells Tran that her matchmaking service, which is targeted toward Asian people, sometimes receives requests from women who only want to date white men. "Not only are more Asian women wanting to date non-Asians, but it's harder for an Asian guy to date a non-Asian women," Chen says in the documentary. She says dating is more all-around difficult for Asian men.
Chen says her Asian clients looking for non-Asian partners sometimes think of Asian men as "nerdy" and "less engaging." When people are specifically seeking white partners, it's hard to say that the skepticism some people of color feel toward interracial relationships is misplaced. What's remarkable about the documentary is how Tran is able to unpack that skepticism, and use it as a jumping off point to talk more about these issues.
It isn't fair to view someone's relationship as a blanket rejection of people of color, but it is more complicated than most people realize. As Tran learns by the end of the documentary, the resentment that people feel toward her and her partner can stem from a very real and painful place. The day after my wedding, my new husband and I both received messages from a fake Facebook account that simply said "race traitor." It's hard to know if I was dealing with a white supremacist or someone who was expressing their hurt in an unhealthy way. Messaging a stranger (or even someone you know, for that matter) to let them know you disapprove of their relationship is always going to be a problematic choice. But as Tran points out, these uncomfortable confrontations often offer an opportunity for dialogue that wouldn't be had otherwise.