Most of us have our preferences when it comes to dating. Maybe you like funny men or women of a particular body shape, but race could also factor into who captures your attention and who's going to strike out right off the bat. Perhaps you'll only go for Asian women or deem dating a Latin man completely unacceptable. We all have a right to choose who we date and, hey, some things just turn us on more than others, but at what point does being specific become straight-up racism?
I don't know when I stopped being interested in my own race. It could have happened after I'd heard enough horror stories of friends' dealings with smooth-talking Latin players who apart from being amazing on the dance floor - and in bed - turned out to be terrible human beings. But more than likely it was when I went off to college and a student body from around the globe had me interacting with people of all backgrounds and made me wish I were mixed myself. Suddenly I was curious about every other culture but my own; I already know what being Dominican was all about!
Asians, Bajans and Haitians, I crushed on them all and imagined someday starting a family where two different cultures happily co-existed under one roof. I'd teach him about mine and he about his. And then I zoned in on my type before entering grad school: cute and nerdy skinny white boys.
"I could never date a white guy," my Latina friends have said. "Are they...small?"
"And then he won't understand when I curse him out in Spanish!" others have exclaimed. "I need someone who gets where I come from without needing to explain everything."
Yes, there are times when I wish I could tell A. things and have him instantly know what I mean or that he could easily communicate with my parents, but I've also enjoyed teaching him how to dance bachata, what I mean when I call him inteligente after he makes a dumbass move and the deliciousness that is moro con pernil or mangu con queso geo y salchichon. He might not be fond of two major Dominican food groups - rice and plantains - but the man loves his salchichon more than bacon itself. And going off on him in a language he doesn't understand only serves to turn him on. (It's kind of hard to stay serious after that.)
I have friends who would never dream of bringing a Puerto Rican guy home. "Racist," I quip. I say I can't see myself with a Dominican and get the same comment from them. During an afternoon stroll with The Bantu Girl, a Kenya native, she wondered why Africans just wouldn't leave her alone.
"It's strategic racism," she offered after I asked why is it that we write off whole races from our dating pool.
Are we doing ourselves a disservice by limiting our choices or focusing on a set type? Should we just stick with what we know will make us happy? Or should we be open and accepting of the attractions that occur despite where the person is from? I think the racist tendencies creep up when we go beyond the qualities we find attractive and instead use stereotypes to automatically include or cross someone off our list based solely on their background. Family pressures, old-school mentalities, even religion also impact who we allow ourselves to get close to thus wiring our brains to see certain groups as "undateable."
Relationships and who we respond favorably to is such a complex and personal process so unfortunately I've no clear-cut answers here, but maybe we could start with the intentions behind your choices and asking yourself if you're cutting someone off because you truly feel no attraction to this person or because of the prejudices attached to his or her race.
UPDATE: I'm loving the comments you guys are leaving! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and let's keep the convo going. Also, A.'s photographer sister, Mikie, just sent me a photo she took the last time she was in NYC visiting her brother and I just had to switch out the other sub-par picture in favor of this one. It's so much better.
Image: Mikie Ericson