Racial preference… it’s a loaded phrase that comes with a lot of strong emotion. Some people believe it’s based in racism, while others argue it’s a normal part of attraction. Personally, I’m in the unspoken third camp of people who tend to date all over the spectrum of the rainbow. In all seriousness, this is a big topic with a lot of intricacies… but we can at least start the conversation. There are two primary facets of racial preference: physical traits and personality traits.
Physical Traits: Maybe you have a thing for almond eyes and petite frames, maybe you have a thing for a big booty and ample tits, maybe there’s something about redheads that make your heart swirl. You get the gist. Having a preference for physical traits is not inherently racist, though it’s generally dictated by your environment and experiences. Maybe your first crush was the yellow power-ranger and now you feel more attracted to Asian women. Is it racist? Not at all, it’s super normal. Expected, even. Attraction is generally an acquired taste for humans. We develop preference through our experiences, generally starting as children. Does that mean that racism isn’t related to physical attraction? It’s not that simple. It affects your perceptions of other races, and probably in ways that you don’t even recognize.
We’re indoctrinated with millions of small signals about what we should consider attractive by movies, TV, magazines, family, our friends, and our community. There are hundreds of examples of Asian men being depicted as sexless nerds in media, of Asian women who are either the nerdy girl or the sex kitten (usually both), the black woman who has to be sassy or angry, and the lazy or dangerous black man etc… and it has an impact on how we feel about their physical appearance. If we’re constantly watching images of sexless Asian men, it makes sense that we will value their physical characteristics less, yeah? Seriously, spend a week paying attention to it in the media. I started pointing out every Asian actor (no matter how small) in the movies/TV shows my boyfriend and I watch together, and they were all typecast as those stereotypes. Racist or not, objectifying your partner based on their physical attributes isn’t cool and doesn’t lend itself to a healthy relationship. If you’re attracted to your partner’s dark hair and almond eyes, I’m glad the two of you found each other… but if your favorite thing about her is her physical appearance, there’s a problem. Ultimately, having a physical preference isn’t inherently wrong, but it can be really helpful to do some self reflection and figure out where your preference or aversion comes from.
Personality traits/behavior: If you have a preference for a certain race based on assumptions of how that person will behave or will view the world, it’s a little racist man. It doesn’t make you a bad person, but stereotyping someone based on race is objectifying in a way that prevents you from ever really getting to know them. No one likes to be dehumanized. We humans tend to view ourselves as unique little butterflies, and when someone makes assumptions about me because of my race, it feels like an attempt to take away my humanity… and I like my humanity just fine, thank you very much.
It’s also not a super effective way to find a compatible partner. My boyfriend would tell you that I’m far from the subservient, humble, academic, domestic, musical genius the media depicts me to be… I’m loud, bossy, hilarious, clever AF, tone deaf, and would make a sailor uncomfortable with my creative uses of profanity. If your racial preference is based on perceived character traits, it isn’t attraction, it’s fetishization and it makes people (especially of color) feel really uncomfortable. I would suggest that you seek out the traits you’re attracted to with a widened, more colorful, net. The pigmentation of our skin doesn’t really say a whole lot about us other than how much sunscreen we need to survive a day at the beach.
Racial preference is complicated and steeped in centuries of painful history. The short answer to the question, Is racial preference racist? is: Certainly Not, and Absolutely. There is no way to separate the parts of our development that have had an impact on attraction… and in terms of practicality, it doesn’t really matter. There’s nothing wrong with being attracted to blue eyes and black hair… but when fetishization is masquerading as attraction it’s hurtful and dehumanizing to everyone it touches.
What matters is how we treat people, and if your preference is based on unfounded assumptions, you aren’t treating people very well. If this is something you’ve realized you struggle with, don’t be hard on yourself. It doesn’t make you an asshole, it just means that you now have an opportunity to get to know people in a more intimate and profound way. The best way to move forward is to start the conversation. Hi, I’m Chloe. I play too many video games, I’m super competitive, whiny AF when I’m losing, insufferable when I’m winning, I love to read, I love to write, I’m obsessed with human behavior, and my favorite snacks are cock and blueberries. It’s very nice to meet you.
Your turn :)