‘Yellow Bones’ might be the ‘Orange Guppies’ of Black People
Hidden preferences influence the evolution of sexual traits, but what causes the evolution of hidden preferences? They often arise from selection based on sensory, perceptual, and cognitive systems in other domains. Evolutionary biologist Helen Rodd and her colleagues pointed out that guppies often feed on orange fruit. The researchers suggested that the preference for food is at the root of the guppies’ preference for orange males. The females are not fooled into thinking the males are fruits, but instead, the researchers hypothesized, the females develop a gestalt attraction to orange that spills over from their food preference into their mating preference. Selection on color preferences related to food — also seen in surf perch and bowerbirds — show how selection on sensory systems in the domain of foraging results in hidden preferences for male courtship colors. In most cases, we expect the origin of the hidden preferences to be an adaptive response to the world around them, with an influence on perceptions of beauty that is incidental rather than the immediate consequence of selection and evolution.
— Excerpted from A Taste For The Beautiful: The Evolution of Attraction by Michael J. Ryan
I wonder how these hidden sexual preferences play out in the evolution of humans in social systems. I might be force fitting this hypothesis onto the wrong phenomena, but this begs me to examine how structural racism has affected the sexual relations between black females and black males.
Structural racism in places like South Africa play out because colonial powers imposed whiteness as an ideal that black people were forced to value. A consequence of this is that light skinned black women (also known as “Yellow Bones”) are sometimes perceived by some black males to be more attractive than darker females. Same goes for white males sometimes being perceived as more romantic or ideal partners by some black women.
In the absence of biological evidence of whiteness as an advantage, dark people prospecting for love and sex against competitor’s with unfair arbitrary advantages, also adjust their threat models — go to a party and notice how a minority of darker skinned people sometimes automatically dislike light skinned entrants to the social. I never understood why some people viewed them as a threat because light skinned folks are also black people who suffer systematic violence and oppression. Parties are sometimes zero sum competitions for sex, so the irrational response might make sense for the threatened.
These same arbitrary advantages resulted in some industries reaping huge profits. Skin lightening creams and businesses involved in the western mating ritual we call ‘date night’, all experienced explosive growth after South Africa first democratic election. I have no issues with anyone who prefers skin lightening creams, after all, I enjoy lingerie as a western cultural import. If you consider the cultural consequences of whiteness as a dominant evolutionary strategy in sex, work and culture among black people trying to survive and thrive, then there might be some valid cause for concern.
A consequence of this is that I am a native black South African who wrote this in English, the only language I speak and understand. Some call my mutation of black people, a ‘coconut’ — someone who evolved to become ‘white’ inside and ‘brown’ outside. I still enjoy being black.