On Queer Men of Color and Racial Preferences: The Introduction
As the title of this piece suggests, this is the introduction to a larger conversation that’s been missing from the topic of racial preferences. Typically, the think pieces and videos addressing the subject tend to focus on when queer white men have racial preferences, and why it’s wrong for them to have it (as you can see here, here, here, and here) — and understandably so. Getting white people in general to acknowledge and admit to the racist biases they hold is important for racial justice since white folks have access to politics in ways that people of color do not. However, that’s not the only front on which this battle should be fought. We’re missing the part where we — queer men of color — examine our own racial preferences.
Before we get there, though, I’d like to set a basic understanding of what racial preferences are, and why they’re problematic. Racial preferences are different than, say, being interested in jocks or geeks or musicians or scientists in that, well, it’s about race. Racial preferences are driven by the idea that everyone of any race conforms to a single racist caricature of the race you may, consciously or not, hold about said race(s).
Racial preferences also fall into two categories: exclusionary and fetishistic. Exclusionary racial preferences — typically seen on profiles as “No blacks, no Asians”; or “No spice, no rice”; or any variation of those — reduces people of color to one-dimensional versions of themselves, and deems them unattractive from whatever untrue stereotypes a person has of them (“I’m not into Asian men because they’re too submissive and geeky,” “I’m not into black guys because they’re too violent,” “I’m not into Latino guys because they’re dirty and lazy,” and so on).
On the flip-side, racial fetishization works from a one-dimensional idea of people of color, but as a means to drive one’s attraction to people of color (“I love black guys because they have big dicks,” “I love Asian culture,” “I love Latino guys because I love how passionate and romantic they are,” and so on).
Typically, as stated before, the conversations about why racial preferences are wrong and racist tend to focus on when queer white men have these preferences. And it’s understandable why: Queer white men hold a lot of social and political power because they’re white — most clubs for queer men tend to cater mostly towards queer white men; most queer media tend to have more white men, queer or not, as their leads or on the cover of their magazines; etc. However, we’re holding ourselves back if we don’t also ask ourselves like: What does it mean if I’m a queer person of color who will only date white or light skinned men? What does it mean if I’m a queer person of color who isn’t into black men or Asian men or Latino men or Native American men? What if I’m a queer person of color who’s not interested in dating anyone within my own race?
Now I know there’ll be a chorus of people who’ll say think that I’m trying to force them to date people they aren’t attracted to, or shame them/make them feel guilty for being attracted to whoever they’re attracted to, or that people shouldn’t care who someone else dates, so I’ll address this right now: THAT IS NOT THE CASE! You can date and fuck whoever you want — that’s not what’s being argued. It’s the idea that you think light skin is more attractive than dark skin that needs to be examined. It’s the fact that you only think white guys are attractive and worth your love and desire that’s being put under the microscope. It’s the fact that you don’t think people of your own race/ethnicity are worth your time, love, and desire that’s being picked apart. And if that makes you uncomfortable, good! It should! Our ideas on beauty and attraction don’t exist in vacuums — they’re affected by how we’re socialized, and they need to be examined.
Also, no, having a racial preference is not the same as sexual orientations. There’s no science to support that. Counter-arguing that gay men must be sexist for not being attracted to women when someone says it’s racist to not date a black guy because he’s black is asinine.
We queer men of color have to examine our own ideas on race and beauty also if we want to have better conversations about racial preferences. Because, as of now, the one we’re having — the one where we only talk to queer white men in hopes that they’ll finally find us attractive — has been had to death (and should have a moratorium put on it), and we need to talk more about the ways we contribute to white supremacy and anti-black, anti-Latino, anti-Asian, and anti-Native American racism when it comes to the broader topic of how racism affects dating and beauty standards.