Thursday, April 7, 2011

Are You Strategically Racist When Dating?

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


  1. Well, for your information, I find white American girls to be mostly boring.

  2. Boring how and why? Is it sexual, physical or because you're white yourself?

    And baby, could you please explain to us what's the draw in Asian women? I keep forgetting what is it about them that drives so many men wild.

  3. Uhh, well, other races have the physical features I like. I don't like common things.

    As for Asian women, well, I wrote about this in my own blog a while back. While the stereotype is that white men like Asian women, it's actually more likely that an Asian woman is into white men. (I have statistics to back it up.) As for WHY? Well, the stereotype is that Asian women are demure and submissive, but I just like them because of their youthful and exotic appearance.

  4. I have had this conversations a few times myself. My mom is PR and my father is AA. Yet Momma goes gaga for Matthew Mcconaughey and Daddy looooves Sade. I married AA but Jet Li gives me quivers lol. What I think is racist is when you stick with one race (even if it's not yours) based on appearance alone without any thought of character.

  5. Good point, but I also think it can go beyond just choosing based on appearance alone since racism can also touch upon a person's character as well. For ex: all Latin men are players; Asian women are submissive; a white guy will actually marry you while an Hispanic guy would just date you forever; African American women cause drama; etc.

    The first guy I dated, The Lawyer, was half Mexican and half Dominican, super smart and cute with dimples (and unfortunately a premature receding hairline). Even though I didn't see myself dating a Latino, I was still attracted to the guy and had a great time until we realized we wanted different things and that was that. So you just never know who will catch your eye no matter what you say your type is or isn't.

    The last two have fallen under my skinny white boy category perfectly, but that's not to say I haven't been attracted to others that don't fit that mold in any way, surprising even myself. Sometimes it's purely because of physical appearances or attractions I didn't even know I had and other times it's developed slowly as I've gotten to know how their personalities.

  6. Hiya D, your post has got me thinking, I like you ditched my own race after my first bf mom didn't like that I was from a different caste, I was really put off by the backward way of thinking, I dated men other than my race since then until I met a guy- like you was drawn to him, and then he wanted to get married in a week! (I kid you not) this is typical Indian behaviour, and though it might be a stereotype, this has been my experience. Plus they want you to conform, to marrying quick, pop out a few kids and take care of their parents, it just wasn't the life I want. Of COURSE they're not all like that, but I didn't meet that guy, so I'm quite happy to stick to men that reflect my values and beliefs, and perhaps I am predjudiced- not racist- when I see a man of my own race, because more often than not, I can see what is coming, and I'd be expected to follow just because I'm Indian in origin, but my western up bringing wretches away.
    Plus I have been judged very quickly by my own race- just for dating outside they're not so accommodating really either!

  7. Oh I also have Indian friends who come from very strict/ traditional families so the idea of bringing, say, a black guy home to the parents is just not even an option unless you want to be disowned. It's led to some heartbreaking decisions and I couldn't even imagine having to succumb to such pressure, especially when it comes to arranged marriages and that push to stay in your own race.

    Then I have other Indian friends who just can't be bothered with the idea that they'd have to fill this submissive role when they've been raised in the U.S. with completely different standards.

    Same with Greeks, I've heard.

    And perhaps prejudiced is the word to use rather than racist?

    Oh and I was talking about interracial couples with my friends and then A. a few weeks ago. How it's no novelty (or at least it shouldn't be by this point anyway), but people will still make ignorant remarks when they see one of their own dating outside of the race. And I admit it sometimes does catch my eye when I see another interracial couple out and about, but for different reasons. I think it's so pleasing to see everyone just mixing about and happy.

    Funny how it rarely dawns on me that I'm part of an "interracial couple," too. The phrase is never something I've ever considered for myself because well, I'm just part of a couple. Once the love is there, race, ethnicity and color of skin just fades into the background.

  8. Ok, so that comment about latin men not marrying you and white men actually marrying you and bla bla bla is what I consider racist. What's wrong with having preferences?

    If someone says I won't date a person who is 30 years my junior or 30 years my senior wrong? Does that make them an ageist? If someone says I won't date a man who is shorter than me or way too tall wrong? No, we are all entitled to date what we like and what we are attracted to. A god man is a good man anywhere.

    We can't say latin men won't marry a woman, because they will, and you can't say that a white men will because as we all know there are plenty of stories of white men dating women for 8 years leaving that woman and getting a 22 year old blonde and marrying her...and there are stories of latin men dating women for 30 years with no ring in sight.

    The question becomes who are we choosing, maybe some of us just like the bad boys...and the bad boys marry no one, at least not until they are 50. No matter the race.

    Bottom line, there is nothing wrong with wanting a man from the same cultural background as you, nothing wrong with wanting a guy that sings along to PLOMO PLOMO PLOMO lol. And who understands that me moving in with him before marriage would send my father to an early grave. Or a man who understands that a good dose of Vick's Vaporub cures ALL EVILS...sprained ankles, headaches, colds, mosquito bites, even stomachaches.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting a man completely different from you either. Nothing wrong with wanting someone you can learn new things with or someone who grew up completely different from yourself. It's all about preference, it's about what you want from the relationship and what turns you on.

    It's all about LOVE. When love comes knocking the girl who dreams of her XYZ guy can fall in love with ABC guy, a guy who is the complete opposite of what she's always dated but who is The One .

    Racism would be saying XYZ men are better than ABC men just because he's of XYZ race. Um no, they are not, because no one is better than anyone and a man is a man. And when a man wants to do you wrong, believe me buddy he will so do you wrong no matter what or where he's from (this goes for women too, don't want to be lynched by the

    Racism would be condemning someone for dating someone of XYZ race just because you wouldn't do it or because you think it's incorrect. Preferences are preferences, we all have them, some of us choose a hamburger and others choose the turkey burger.

    Wow, I'm insane.....

  9. I don't think there's anything racist about having a preference for the types of people that you would want to date. You should just let it happen when it happens, but if you have a preference... Go with it!

    Personally, I prefer older guys (I find most guys my age too immature), I wouldn't be interested in someone who goes clubbing a lot (because I'm not the kind of person who enjoys things like that), and my only other rule is that they need to at least have a little bit of interest in at least some of the things I do. Well... My hubby is about 13 years older than me, hates the club scene type of lifestyle, and shares my interest in books, movies, etc (though I do read more - and more of a variety of books - than he does).

    But if people are more picky... Then that's up to them. Some people only like red heads, some people only like sporty types, some people only like people they can hold an intelligent conversation with, and some people have racial preferences. As far as I'm concerrned, as long as it doesn't spill over in to other aspects of your life (meaning, as long as it's only a "I prefer not to date them" kind of situation, and you have no racial issues when it comes to friendships, work relationships, etc) then I don't think it's a racist thing to think/feel. It's when you start making racist remarks or refusing to befriend someone of a different race that it starts to be an issue, I think.

  10. Love or being in a relation is a very pure feeling & it must not depend on any race or something else. it is a lifetime bond.
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  11. I never really had a preference about race to tell you the truth. Growing up in a school with many different cultures I saw the good and bad in all races. I have always liked dark hair though so the fact that Gabe is hispanic is not a shock. Gabe on the other hand always says he dated outside of his race because growing up his mom and cousins were rude and he had an outlook that all girls were that way in his culture. He since knows better and I since feel bad when I have to show him that white girls can have PMS too! LOL!

    Funny you say that about Asian girls, because a few of my best friends are from Vietnam and constantly have guys hitting on them for that whole stereotypical submissive thing. LOL! They are VERY strong minded though so those guys have another thing coming! ;)

  12. I've never really given it a lot of thought. The guys I've dated have all been white, but a lot of the guys I find attractive are not. Interesting...

  13. After dating AND being married....I don't like anybody.

  14. Poor Tooje.

    Add other issues like religion into the dating mix and it gets even more ... "messy".

  15. Sorry to get to this so late. I saved the link but takes me a while sometimes.

    I know a couple of women who will remain nameless, both black, of Haitian descent and upbringing in America, who won't date a Latin guy because they say the machismo is too much.

    Both those women also feel that Asian men look effeminate so that leave out Asians. I've known and seen plenty of Asian men. While there are effeminate Asian men I never thought Asian men in general were effeminate. I don't see it.

    For me I just wonder what's going on that shapes your preferences. Is it something "natural" that you were born with or an impression you have based on your upbringing or experiences you have had in life.

    Just something you reminded me of.


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