Are your dating preferences racist?
Throughout history, and even into today, racism continues to make itself known in daily newscasts and on the internet.
And one word stirs up the strongest feelings: "Racist".
So what IS racism, really? And why are people racist in the first place?
Racism has more than one definition. But it is, technically, discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity.
To answer that, we first have to examine the three basic types of racism that affect us all. And yes, I do mean all of us:
1. Explicit racism.
People’s negative reactions to another group or race is termed as explicit racism, (a.k.a. conscious racism).
But the most troubling aspect of racial preferences is that it is exclusive rather than inclusive.
For example, “I only date white people.”
That says it all, doesn't it?
Whether you admit it or not, or whatever you deny or say it out loud, when you think excluding thoughts about a particular group, party, race, religion, ethnic group, it's racism, prejudice, or bias.
Bias and prejudice can be found within all races including people of color biased against another race or biased against their own race.
For example, even among people who identify as Black, there is bias.
This is, no doubt, influenced by dominant society, but it is still carried through members of that group. Since the time of slavery, it was overtly demonstrated that the light skinned female slave would work in the house whereas the darker skinned slaves would be sent to tend the fields. These biases are very persistent.
2. Unconscious racism.
A more subtle form of racism is termed as “implicit bias” ( a.k.a. unconscious racism).
This is a bias in judgment and/or behavior that results from a subtle mindset, which operates at a level below conscious awareness.
In other words ... this is when you think you aren’t racist, but your actions say something different.
A sociology blog called it “hidden in our unconsciousness”, describing how individuals might consciously work to not be racist, but that it is hard not to have implicit bias when we live in a racist society with a “racist legacy”.
A common example is how we are socialized to think that white is good or pure and black is bad.
This disparity is clearly evident by the media, too.
One powerful example is how, on August 30, 2005, when the Associated Press wrote an article reinforcing racist ideology, showing a photo of a black boy wading in the flood waters in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina with a caption stating: “…after looting a grocery store”; while underneath it showing a photo of a white couple wading through the same flood waters with the caption: “…finding bread and soda from a local grocery store”.
Same action, different interpretation.
That is implicit bias, and it reinforces racism.
2. Institutional racism.
Another less-familiar form of racism is called institutional racism.
This is racism that is expressed socially or politically, and stirs up and reinforces active racism.
Whether implicitly or explicitly expressed, institutional racism occurs when a certain group is targeted and discriminated against based upon race.
Institutional racism was explained in 1967 by Kwame Ture (formerly Stokely Carmichael) and Charles V. Hamilton in Black Power: The Politics of Liberation, stating that while individual racism is often identifiable because of its overt nature, institutional racism is less perceptible and "less overt, far more subtle in nature."
One powerful example:
After reading Blooomberg Businessweek, March 31,2016, one might come to the same conclusion that big business once again is David vs. Goliath. The big corporations against all of the little people equally, as members of society.
But institutional racism shows how that's not true, in this case, and many others.
Johnson & Johnson was found liable for negligence, conspiracy and failure to warn women of the potential risk of using baby powder in the genital area, which resulted in a 72 million dollar verdict against them.
The big news though is that in the 1990’s while the company “acknowledged concerns in the health community” they were ramping up marketing efforts to Black and Hispanic women.
In other words, they knew it was dangerous, but they marketed it to Women of Color more than ever.
That is a pure definition of institutional racism, whether it is corporate America, a university program policy, public policy, or federal government guidelines … and when you open your eyes you see it everywhere.
So, why is the history lesson important?
Because it lays the foundation for how each of us was raised in our families, how we’ve been socialized in our neighborhoods, and how we’ve integrated into our larger communities and cities.
How many education and career opportunities have we been exposed to? What is the racial composition of the companies who employ us? Is there diversity in their leadership team? What do the corporate values stand for and what is the quality of their products?
We need to think these things through and ask ourselves honest questions, if we are to understand the root of racism, not only in society but within ourselves, too.
Finally, we are impacted by our legislative bodies, our courts and our judicial system.
The 2016 stats for white men vs black men reveals what we already know: Black people represent 13.3 percent of the US population and white people make up approximately 77 percent.
Yet, black people are five times as likely to be incarcerated than white.
So, are we all protected by our civil rights, or, just some of us? Of course, these inequities negatively shadow a consistently narrow way of thinking and perception of bias whether it is explicit, implicit or institutional.
Bottom line — we are affected by the events that we see and we hear. It effects us emotionally, viscerally, cognitively ... and then we act out our feelings.
How race affects dating and relationships:
Due to the fact that race can have physical markers (hair, skin color, body type, etc.), it is the first thing we see.
Race cannot be ignored. It is the first layer of our perceptions and our judgments!
So, why would our dating preferences be any different? Why would that be separate and distinct from all that we’ve been exposed?
We are certainly a composite of ALL of our life experiences.
But we shouldn't be surprised.
Both society and culture influence the words we speak just as our words shape our cultural definition and direction.
Culture influences our preferences our comfort zone and our values, which impacts our choices.
As a product of our thoughts, we feel emotions which cyclically can shape and morph our attitudes towards others.
Now that you have explored the larger societal impact on us as to what we think and how we behave, what are your thoughts about who you like to date, be friends with and marry, to raise a family?
Ask yourself these questions, honestly:
Who shapes your preferences (likes/dislikes). Is it your parents? Is it your teachers? Is it your friends?
Is who you marry, part of your cultural expectation? Or is it driven by other values (money, education, good looks, etc.)?
Or, is it libido-driven, and what drives that?
When you list your preferences, is it characterological? Such as: sense of humor, logical, creative, educated, etc.? Or is it, physical: tall, thin, blonde, dark skin, black hair, freckles, athletic physique, etc.?
Is it the combination of traits and attributes, such as: height, religion, career paths, movie choices, sports, eye color / skin color that flavors your list of preferences?
Or, have you never really given it much thought?
You just know what you like, right?
Well, consider that your white friend only dates young ladies in their early 20’s and they all have to be blonde and skinny.
He’s white and they’re white. Is that racist? Or what if he’s African-American and he only dates women within his race? Does that mean he’s racist?
The list of variables can go on and on. Based upon what you’ve read so far, there are numerous layers of reasons why you may be drawn to one type or one kind of female or male.
Susie Lee, CEO of Siren Dating summed it up nicely in a Huffington Post article entitled: “Yes Even Online Dating has White Privilege”. She reports that biases and snap judgments are pervasive across societal boundaries.
In a glance, the viewer on the dating website makes knee jerk responses based on viewing profile photos.
She reported that dating sites frustrate people of color because photos are vulnerable to stereotypes and implicit biases when viewers scan possible matches.
In other words, the seeker takes one look and immediately makes a judgment.
So, yes, technology is amplifying our biases!
In other words, we are regressing in our racial attitudes.
OK CUPID indicated that data from Facebook and various academic studies indicate that a vast majority of website users prefer to date someone of the same race as them. They also concur that the trend is due to negative stereotypes.
White men preferred White women, Latin men preferred White women first, Asian women second and Latin women by a slight margin. Asian men preferred Asian women. However, Black men had no preference across racial categories.
There was a slight gender disparity with female preferences, except that White women significantly preferred White men by a distinctly large margin.
Whereas, Latin women chose Latin men slightly over White men. Black women significantly chose Black men over all other races. Asian women selected White men significantly over Asian men without preference for other races.
What about the fact that men of all races negatively rated Black women? That bias cannot, and should not, be ignored.
What does that say about our racial standards for beauty: on TV advertisements, the silver screen, most votes for the High School Prom Queen, magazine ads and the internet?
We are force-fed through intravenous media hype as to what should be considered beauty by “societal” standards.
Basically, we are allowing ourselves to be programmed...
...but who determines the litmus test for beauty?
The answer to that is YOU! YOU determine all of it, by your thoughts, feelings and behavior. You determine it by the shows you watch, the websites you visit, and the products you buy... and so on.
What can we do to contradict our biases and racism?
Start thinking outside your comfort zone.
Start stretching your mental muscle to be a little bit more open-minded and then expand it to a lot more open-minded. You can do it one thought at a time.
Nothing in our world will change if you leave it up to the other person. Start paying attention to advertisements and media blitz.
Become a thinking individual. Does this mean that you must date someone outside your race? Not necessarily.
What’s important is that each of us start examining our values, and actions (or non-action) and become connected to each other in positive ways. Start seeing people through another filter of their words and values.
Look beyond that first glance.
This article ends with the wise words of Susie Lee: "We’ve been conditioned to respond to people based upon their appearance. It is time to have that one-to-one connection with that individual including them in your world rather than excluding them due to a stereotype.
Margot Brown has helped couples and individuals create happier lives for 20 years. She’s the author of: “Kickstart Your Relationship Now! Move On or Move Out” You can find it on Amazon or in a local bookstore near you.