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Internalized Racism and Romantic Preferences

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In our national discussion of racism we are now having, at least some whites are finally waking up more to the reality that racism isn’t this thing that other people are. It’s a constant condition of white life that is inside of us, no matter our politics, and needs to be fought. The conversations we have here over schools and the strong resistance that many commenters have to even admitting that their actions around their children and where they are sent to school are in fact racist is a prime example of the problems so many white liberals have in taking race seriously. Maybe, just maybe that’s beginning to change. Certainly another area where this is common is dating preferences.

Amongst the sea of black squares and lists of black businesses to support that flowed through my Facebook feed since the death of George Floyd, one post socked me in the gut. “Is it racist if someone excludes a particular race in their dating preferences?” matchmaker Carmelia Ray asked in a Facebook group for love coaches of which we are both members. Even as a child, I was keenly aware of the piercing stares directed toward my white father and black mother, so I had to answer unequivocally: Yes, it’s racist.

Like so many prior actions that Americans are now reevaluating about race, dating preference has to be put under the microscope. Racial bias is insidious, only surfacing when someone challenges a societal norm or a personal choice. My industry has allowed daters who claim to be friendly advocates of black people to hide racial bias under the guise of dating preferences for far too long.

In my very first session with clients, as they begin the process of identifying their ideal mate, we always discuss racial preferences. It’s usually easy to convince them that inner qualities matter more for long-term compatibility than physical attributes such as height and weight, yet if a racial preference comes up, we have to dig in deeper.

But what if you’re just not attracted to someone outside of your race? That’s hard to defend when you understand why we have attraction to certain races and aversion to others. Did you only have a model of a successful white couple in your household? Have you, like most of us, been limited to European standards of beauty in media and advertising? Are you simply terrified of saying the wrong thing at Thanksgiving dinner?

Carmelia speaks for many love professionals like Francesca and me when she says, “Eliminating an entire race of people truly limits one’s potential to date and find a life partner.” Furthermore, I tell my clients that no choice in life is more important than who you choose to spend it with, so if you really believe that black lives matter, it’s time to put your dating choices in alignment with your values.

This is how racial prejudice works. For those who have a preference for blondes or whatever, you might not even know why you have that preference. But with racism teaching us white supremacy every day of our lives, this is going to be a part of how it occurs. Maybe not for everyone, but for lots of people, including those whose politics might be quite liberal.

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