The Thinking 

A Marriage of East and West

October 18, 2012


SEBASTIEN writes from France:

I have read some of the commentary regarding interracial marriage at your site and wanted to add my own perspective as my wife is of Asian origin.

I married a woman who is ethnically Asian but culturally white. In Russia, there are several Far Eastern Republics originally colonised by the Tsars who sent many settlers. Under the Tsars, the ethnic groups such as Yakuts and Evenks lived alongside the white Russians but there was very little assimilation during this period. With arrival of the Red Army, all changed and the ethnic groups were assimilated at the point of a gun. There wasn’t much interracial marriage but these assimilated Yakuts and Evenks took Russian names, spoke only Russian, adopted Pushkin and Tolstoy as their cultural heritage and, for better or worst, joined the modern age. I mention this historical background to explain that culturally my wife is European. As a long time Russophile and Russian speaker, there were no troubling cultural barriers for either of us to cross.

There are many rivers to cross before eventually marrying someone that you are charmed by, especially if they are of a different race. I naturally accept that it’s far better to marry within your race, if only to ensure that your children look like you and that their sense of identity is rock solid. The world, however, is not how we wish it were and after 20 years of ‘dating’ I had become quite resigned to a future alone.

That was until I met my wife. As I got to better know her, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Pocahontas, in the marvellous Terrence Malick film The New World. If you watch the film you will see with what grace Pocahontas charms not only her husband Captain John Smith, but the entire English court. My wife, with exquisite charm and patience, turned me away from my cynicism.

As a Catholic, you will understand how being touched by grace can have a profound effect on your life. We have three children, including a Down Syndrome boy, and if God grants us more, we will be very happy.

I realize that if everyone did what I did and married out of their race, the world would be a total mess. I know of several who have done so and their lifestyle is the usual modern mishmash of jeans, fastfood, boring tolerance and an atomized life disconnected from all roots and culture. But to be fair, this is the lifestyle of most whites who marry within their race.

Our half Asian children are culturally 100 percent French. Their cultural references are Saint Joan of Arc, Louis XVI, Mozart, traditional Catholicism and a rejection of the ugliness of modernity. Our family is touched by divine grace, and whatever difficulties our children may have difficulties fitting in as they get older, I pray that they will be less troubling than mine whose parents bathed in the uncertainties of modernism and built their values on emotional quicksand.

—— Comments —–

James Guinivan writes:

Sebastien writes that “If you watch the film [Terrence Malick’s “The New World”] you will see with what grace Pocahontas charms not only her husband Captain John Smith, but the entire English court.” At the risk of being pedantic, I should point out that the husband of Pocahontas was not Captain John Smith, but John Rolfe (played in the film by Christian Bale).

I would add, to Sebastien’s observations about his own marriage, a note that the many Virginians who proudly claim descent from Pocahontas (or Rebecca, to give her Christian name) and John Rolfe would be reluctant to condemn all interracial marriages out of hand.

Laura writes:

May I ask why you refer to “condemn[ing] all interracial marriages out of hand?”

 Mr. Guinivan writes:

Uh, because your blog has contained a series of posts discussing the question of miscegenation? “[C]ondemn[ing] all interracial marriages out of hand” is a position on one extreme of the possible positions one might take on that issue. I was pointing out that, even in Virginia (the state that enacted the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 that that thus might be expected to condemn such marriages), respectable opinion has been at least partially ambivalent on the subject.

Perhaps you thought I was accusing you or some of your commenters of taking such an extreme position. You will notice that I did no such thing.

Laura writes:

I did think that was the implication, which is why I asked you to clarify.

By the way, I would imagine respectable opinion in Virginia has not been very ambivalent about the issue in recent years.  Most respectable Virginians probably wholly accept interracial marriage.

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