Sexual racism is a thing and no matter how uncomfortable it may be we need to discuss it.
Who we are attracted to seems impossible to change, inherently built into our core or even DNA… but is it OK to discriminate our potential sexual or love partners based on ‘race’? We need to understand that ‘race’ is a social construct, it is learned, and therefore there’s nothing natural about having racialised attractions. In this week’s five-minute think piece, I’m talking about ‘race’ and in particular sexual racism, and linking it with sexuality, as sexual racism seems to be particularly strong within the gay community. Yes, sexual racism is actually a thing and it’s very uncomfortable to realise that we may be complicit in it. That’s why this think-piece is so important to read. But first things first…
What is ‘race’ and racism
The common understanding of ‘race’ stems from an 18/19th century product of colonialist greed and eugenics (pseudo-science) which created ‘race’ as a global pseudo-biological concept (Saini, 2019). It was White Europeans that orchestrated it (it was racists who invented ‘race’ not the other way around) and at the end of the day Whiteness (an oppressive social structure which recognises, validates and centres White cultures, bodies and experiences at the cost of those of people of colour) is the culprit from which all racist tropes stem. That’s why, in order to achieve racial equality, the equality legislation has to first recognise that racism is not about the acts of individuals as much as about systemic (dis)advantage. Racism is not a two-way street and “reverse” racism (remember racism is a system) does not exist. The Equality Act 2010 should put more emphasis on systemic issues, such as, using its words, indirect discrimination. But how does that link with sexual attraction? Let’s see…
“No Blacks, no Asians”
If you’re White and only attracted to other White people, or not attracted to Asians, or attracted to Black men but only because you want a big d*ck but wouldn’t actually date them - that amounts to sexual racism. Why? Because it stems from and writes itself perfectly into racist discourses, which are ubiquitous in the society. Racism is obviously about ‘race’ but it is also about power relations in the society - so in that way also Black men can be engaging in racist acts when saying “no Asians” or Asians can be engaging in racist acts through, for example, fetishising Black men by “seeking BBC”, etc. Ultimately, however, those tropes stem from White-orchestrated racism. That’s why this think piece is primarily dedicated to my fellow White people.
Expressing your sexual “preferences” on dating apps as “no Asians”, “no Blacks”, “only BBC”, “only White”, etc. equates to actively engaging in racism. Obviously, there’s a difference between an actual preference (which allows all ethnicities) and pseudo “preference” which is a euphemistic code for a complete blanket exclusion of a particular ‘race’. Saying “No Asians” is not a preference - it’s a blanket racist statement. Yes, some people of colour (POC) do prefer to know what they’re dealing with and when they see such phrases on dating apps they know they don’t have to waste their time. However, the bigger issue here is that such statements pollute young minds and make them think that such attitudes are acceptable.
Now, I’m not telling anyone to change who they’re attracted to or who to sleep with - it’s your body do with it what you will. But know that there’s nothing natural about discriminating based on ‘race’- it’s a learned phenomenon. If anything, from a genetic point of view, mating with the most different partner to you makes much more sense as it lowers the risk of genetic mutations (insert an inappropriate joke about the royal family) and therefore increases the chances for the survival of offspring.
A racist (person) vs a racist act
There’s a difference between “racist” (racist acts) and “a racist” (a person). For the purposes of this think piece let’s assume a definition of “a racist” as someone who actively, knowingly and intentionally engages in racist acts. This understanding is important because racism and racist acts are not actually about the intent but about the outcome. I’m not calling anyone a racist here, only calling the above actions racist. To call you a racist person I’d have to know your intent, and you’d have to knowingly and intentionally engage in racist acts. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, as being White you might have benefited from White privilege which allowed you to never concern yourself with issues of racism, and so you don’t understand how deep it runs within the society. Well it does. However, if listening (reading) to what I’m saying (writing) you get offended and write an angry comment then you are actively defending the racist status quo... and that will be an act of active engagement in racism, which will actually make you a racist.
Take an anti-racist stance
So instead of questioning my words (which are merely echoing those of people of colour and other scholars of ‘race’ and racism) and getting angry at being called a racist (which I actually didn’t do) which is a sign of White fragility, i.e. a discomfort stemming from having one’s actions called out as in fact racist (DiAngelo, 2011), by all means do get angry but get angry at the racism in the society and do get educated - grab a book or read an article about (sexual) racism and how it makes ethnic minorities feel, make a stance - post something anti-racist on your Facebook (yes the old people’s app), Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. Most importantly do some reflexivity – look inside yourself and be honest with yourself, think about why it is that you’re attracted to some people not others, does that fit into omnipresent discourses (hyper-sexualisation of Black men, desexualisation and emasculation of Asian men, sexualisation of Asian women, etc.), think about how many people of a certain ‘race’ you dated (and can you really use the excuse of them being a minority when you live in, say, London?).
And finally, yes, you are entitled to your opinion, but an opinion is about likes and dislikes not about facts. What is and isn’t racism is not a matter of opinion (especially if it’s an uneducated opinion), it’s a matter of fact, which is studied by scholars of ‘race’ and racism (including my humble White self)… so no, we don’t want your uneducated opinion, that you feel entitled to share despite knowing absolutely nothing about the subject, just because you were raised in whiteness and told that you’re entitled to having an opinion on everything. So, if you don’t like Black/Asian people sexually - you’re entitled to that (your opinion), but if despite knowing better (and now that you’ve read this piece you should know better) you still actively engage in sexual discrimination based on ‘race’ it will amount to sexual racism (fact).