“I won’t date _________ people” = Racist? Yes.

This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about the always controversial subject of racial preferences while dating. It started because a friend (who is Asian) asked if I thought it was racist to not want to date other Asians. So began a long and fascinating conversation about trying to avoid people with similar neuroses, whether those neuroses stem from being Asian, whether “Asian” is too broad a bloc to eliminate (what about South Asians? What about fifth-generation Asians? What about adopted Asians? Will they all have the same neuroses we’re trying to avoid? Probably not…)

My perspective is that you can’t make assumptions about values, beliefs, experiences, or even appearance on race. Consequently, if you say ” I don’t date ______,” the thing you’re objecting to is the census category itself (which is pretty arbitrary…) That, to my mind, is racist. Here are my thoughts in a little more detail:

Screenshot_11_21_13_1_28_PM

The feedback has already been really fascinating, and there is at least one major question I didn’t address in the original piece: what about when people of a minority or marginalized group prefer to date within their group for the purposes of solidarity and preservation of culture and traditions?

I left this out intentionally because I don’t really feel qualified to answer it, having never identified as part of a marginalized group (except for ladies, which is a moot point here). I don’t have a culture or set of traditions that it is important for me to preserve such that my dating choices would be affected. “Whiteness” is not a culture. Jewish and black friends (at least, these are the only two groups that have spoken up), both argued for an asterisk on my argument that recognized that, in the case of marginalized groups, there might be value in trying to preserve a culture or strengthen a community that might otherwise peter out if not sufficiently maintained.

What do you guys think?

Related Post: You guessed it, I’m a privileged white girl!

Related Post: Dating should not be a meal ticket.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to ““I won’t date _________ people” = Racist? Yes.

  1. I think we should be allowed to date who we are attracted to. Sometimes race plays a part in that, though I dont feel it’s fair to say “never” because that is racist. I prefer to date black men (and I am white) but I dont completely rule out the possibility that sometime I may be interested in a white man. Occasionally I am. Still, I think it’s perfectly ok to have PREFERENCES.

    To deny that many of us do is really just lying to yourself and others. Im all for being upfront.

    As far as say, black men and women who prefer to date within their race in order to keep hold of their culture, I am a-okay with that as well. I’d guess that the majority of people who use that as their “reason” are also more physically attracted to their own race and there is nothing wrong with that either. Just dont be nasty to people who happen to fall in love or date someone who you might not have chosen. We should each retain the right to date who we want. No one wants to have to force attraction to someone that they aren’t feeling.

  2. One interesting ambiguity in your article and in the responses to it is how to read “I don’t date _______ people” or “I’m not attracted to _______ people.”

    On one interpretation, you might be saying that you have a policy of not considering people from a certain group as potential romantic partners, which does seem racist (similarly for a policy of giving everyone in a certain group bonus romantic consideration).

    On a different interpretation, one might be describing how one’s dating and attraction patterns have worked out so far, and predicting how they’ll probably work out in the future based on that. I, for instance, have not dated any black women, and given my reasons for it (I don’t know all that many, problematically), it’s probably fair to predict that I won’t in the future. I might in the future, and I’m in principle open to it, but it saying “I don’t date black women” seems like a fair way to describe my non-racist behavior.

    i think there’s a similar ambiguity in discussions about sexual orientation. When people say “I’m not sexually attracted to [my gender],” they might be saying they have some sort of policy not to consider that possibility, or they might be saying that, so far, they haven’t been attracted to someone of the same gender, even though they’re in principle open to the possibility.

    • Valid point. I realized in the original post the verb is “won’t”, which is stronger and less flexible. In my repost here on my blog, I used “don’t”, which as you pointed out, is ambiguous. “Do not currently” vs. “Do not on principle.”

      I love the sexual orientation point, but I think it will lose many a reader :-) I agree with you, and while I would say I don’t date women (have not in the past, currently do not), I wouldn’t say “won’t” because what the hell do I know? Seems unlikely, but that’s no reason to kill my prospects if Casey Legler ever wants to ask me out.

  3. truly said. i liked what u wrote

  4. I think this point, in using the word “won’t,” becomes somewhat of an obvious academic point, no? How many people actually say they “won’t date” someone Asian, black, etc? Relatively few, I’d guess. I find that the interesting discussion is in the gray area, as others have commented. “I don’t generally happen to be attracted to Asians” can hardly be said to be racist, just as “I don’t generally happen to like other people’s penises” isn’t homophobic.

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