When Do Racial Dating Preferences Become Racist?

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interracial couple snuggles during a romantic date

"Am I attracted to a certain race ... or am I just plain racist?"

That’s a question that always comes up when talking about racial dating preferences.

While we all naturally have our ideas of what we like in a person, such as smarts or humor, is it racist to prefer to date someone of a specific race?

It's a complicated question with a lot of complicated answers, but it's definitely worth exploring. 

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Let’s look at the facts first:

Statistics from OkCupid’s blog post show us that Black women and Asian men fall at the bottom of the preference lists, while Asian women score pretty high on the list. (Note: these statistics are based on heterosexual samples).

Why is this?

Dating experts have explained that dating preferences have been based on stereotypes within media representations

For Asian men, they're oftentimes represented as the geeky, sexless sidekick or the overbearing parent. History has actually shown that Asian men are, time and time again, overlooked for romantic leads in films and on TV, and always portrayed as the emasculated male

For Black women, Essence magazine found that images of Black women consistently fell into the categories of “The angry Black woman”, “The baby momma”, “the uneducated sister” or the “unhealthy fat black woman”. Stereotypes that are absolutely, 100% racist and just another way Black women are systematically oppressed by this society. 

This is obviously a misrepresentation of these populations, but due to these negative stereotypes, Asian men and Black women are getting poor preference ratings. 

But it’s not just these groups that have stereotypes perpetuated about them. 

Although Asian women get positive ratings, the ratings are based on the stereotype of the hypersexualized or submissive Asian woman and Asian women have reported receiving their fair share of offensive messages when online dating, as well.

The bigger picture here is that people are expressing preferences based on racial stereotypes — negative or "positive". 

In other words, these trends exist because of racism in our society.

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So, are an individual person's racial dating preferences inherently racist?

It depends.

When you think about your preferred person, what do you think about? Do you think about someone who's funny, smart and loves to cook? Or do you think about someone who perpetuates a stereotype? 

You'll find that your answer can help you determine if your dating preference is racist.

It’s a well-known fact that most people prefer to date someone of the same race as them. And in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to date someone who has the same lived experience as you.

But if you’re dating someone based on stereotypes, that's racist.

When dating outside the race, what are the thoughts that come to your mind? 

Are you going out on a date with this person because you genuinely want to get to know them, or are you going out on a date with them because of what you’ve heard?

When you decide not to go out on a date with someone, are you rejecting them because they’re not the right fit for you, or because of what you’ve seen on TV?

It takes time to settle into the truth about how you answer this. You have to be honest in a way that might be uncomfortable, but if you're not willing to do that, you might be perpetuating racism — and you could end up hurting someone or even limiting your own potential to find real love.

Again, it’s very different to be a person of color wanting to date someone of the same race, because as oppressed minorities, we may want someone who understands our struggle and experience.

But dating someone based off of stereotypes, consciously or subconsciously, perpetuates white supremacy. And that is very racist. 

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Angelique Beluso is a sex educator and writer who covers feminism, pop culture and relationship topics. Follow her @AngeliqueBeluso