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It's Not Racist, It's Preferece

Updated on November 5, 2015

Dating in this day and age is much more complex than what it was in the 20th Century. Back then, you would meet somebody in class or at work or through a friend, fall in love and get married. Now it's unlikely your friends will find you somebody, as breaking up and cycling through as many partners as you can is common place now. Also complicating the issue is online dating, and the freedom to express what you want without fear of consequences. That is until a group of people decide that you stating you won't date a certain race is racist and try to shame you for it.

Is it racist to prefer one race over another? Samantha Allen over at The Daily Beast, lays out an argument that it is in the article "No Blacks" Is not A Sexual Preference. To bolster the claim, Allen cites an Australian study that was conducted by Denton Callander, Christy Newman, and Martin Holt. They surveyed 2,000 gay and Australian men about how they felt about race and dating, using a Quick Discrimination Index. Allen quotes the results, "After putting these two data sets together, the trend was clear: 'Sexual racism… is closely associated with generic racist attitudes, which challenges the idea of racial attraction as solely a matter of personal preference.'" As this seems to be based solely on people that are white, does the same thing work the other way? A few of my friends are Caucasian but only like Black or Asian guys, is that racist as well? Or does it only work if it's a white guy (or girl) saying it about another ethnic group?

This is a dicey topic, one in which I personally have no stake in. I'm open to anybody who can make me laugh and hold a decent conversation. Does that mean I discriminate against Rednecks or Republicans? Perhaps, however I think of it as more of a personal preference. I also like blond hair on guys, but all of my boyfriends have had dark hair. Is there a reason for this? Hamilton Nolan over at Gawker tries to answer this in the article Is There A Biological Reason For Sexually Preferring a Certain Race? His answer is very scientific but essentially he says that it's more about evolution than anything else. Attraction evolves the same way that everything about the species has, and that it's more about the environment than about race actually.

...mate choice was an important adaptive problem facing our ancestors, so we should expect natural selection to have produced specialized psychological mechanisms designed to solve this problem. Mate choice actually comprises many different problems, so we should expect the evolution of many different mechanisms to solve them. Some problems might be solved by mechanisms that requires little input from the environment, and therefore develop in the same way in every environment. E.g., what's the ideal amount of acne or other visible skin diseases in a potential mate? Presumably zero. So a psychological mechanism that follows the "rule": "prefer unblemished skin, all else equal," would have been adaptive everywhere, and would develop in a relatively "innate" manner. But what about, say, skin color? Ancestral human populations lived in a wide variety of environments and consequently evolved very different skin colors to cope with those environments. And there was always some gene flow throughout the range humans lived in, which is why we remained a single species. So one would not expect selection to have favored an "innate" preference for any specific skin color. What would have made adaptive sense is a mechanism that detects skin color in the individuals one sees growing up and specifies a rule "prefer a mate with the average skin color you've seen." And that seems to be more or less what did evolve, with one caveat. Human female skin that is a bit lighter than the local average was a reliable cue of nubility (women's skin in the environments of evolutionary history tended to darken a bit with age and successive pregnancies). All else equal, the best mate was a nubile woman, so the most attractive female skin color in ancestral human environments probably was a bit lighter than the local female average. Although it's been some years since I read the scientific literature on this topic, the evidence I'm aware of supports this prediction.

Now we have two different theories as to why people are attracted to different races. One says that if you don't love everybody and see past skin color, then you must be racist. The other says that attraction is born in the environment you grew up in. What if there is a third option though? Personal preference is a thing, whether people want to acknowledge it or not. Shaming people for saying that they are not attracted to a certain race is akin to the girls who tell gay guys that they just haven't found the right female yet. In this day and age it is shameful that people are being shamed for who they are attracted.


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    • EdAnderson profile image

      EdAnderson 2 years ago

      I disagree with you wholeheartedly. I won't date a woman, does that make me sexist? No it just means that I'm gay.

      People want everyone to toe the line and say things that aren't true. I've never seriously dated a black guy because I just haven't been compatible with one. On the other hand I dated a Latino guy for a while because we clicked. After him I went out with quite a few Latin guys because it was a positive experience for me.

      Essentially I feel you want people to date others that they may not be attracted to and frankly I find that to be wrong. As I said in the article it feels like the classic line "you just haven't found the right girl yet." For me there is no right girl, I am simply not attracted to them.

    • Michaela Osiecki profile image

      Michaela 2 years ago from USA

      Yes, it IS racism because you're reducing an entire race of people down to one stereotyped look. To say you would NEVER be attracted to any black person EVER dehumanizes them and that is part of systematic racism. It is a belief that can be internalized within us that a certain races' looks are inferior to ours and again, that's part of racism.

      Likewise, a white person claiming they are ONLY attracted to a different race plays into fetishizing, they aren't dating a human being they respect, they are dating something they find exotic and strange...and that's also part of racism.

      It's okay to have preferences, like dark hair or green eyes, but to deny an entire race tells them that you think they all look exactly the same and that simply isn't true. There are surely black girls with green eyes and Asians with blonde hair, after all....

    • EdAnderson profile image

      EdAnderson 2 years ago

      Amen DashingScorpio! It really bothers me that people try to make it something more than what it is. And for someone to say that it's racist not to date someone because of race, that's just so wrong. Nobody knows besides me and my partner what gets me going.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 2 years ago

      I agree with you!

      Racism is denying someone the opportunity to get an education, purchase a home, get a job, or deny equal service.

      If someone wants only a blue car it's not discrimination against the other cars. You're entitled to prefer strawberry ice cream over vanilla. The same goes for dating people who don't smoke or drink, who aren't overweight, short, bald, unemployed, religious, or whatever. Live and let live!

      Never let anyone guilt or shame you into becoming like them.

      Life is a (personal) journey!

      Each of us gets to (choose) our own friends, lovers, and spouse.

      You're responsible for your own happiness.

      Everyone is entitled to have (their own list) of preferences!

      One person's preference is "shallow" or petty in the eyes of others!