Not Just a Preference: Racism in Sex and Romance

by Noah Lumbantobing

I always feel weird calling people out for being racist, even as a person of color. Or maybe especially as a person of color. When it is about someone else, it feels a little easier and more clear cut. You don’t get to say the n-word, white boy, no matter who your friends are. Yes, it is racist to ask people where they’re actually from. But calling people out for being racist towards me always makes my head hot and my eyes water; my voice falter and my speech stutter. Will they think I’m just being overly sensitive? Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Obviously not, but that’s double consciousness for you. It gets tiring.

What’s worse is calling people out for racist sexual and romantic practices. Not only do you have to make yourself vulnerable, exposing your desires for someone and toughing through sweaty palms and jittery hearts to see if they reciprocate. But you have to figure out a way to process the shitty way you feel after a white person tells you that you’re just not their type because they aren’t into insert-derogatory-word-for–people-of-color. We’ve heard it all. Even more annoying is when queer, supposedly radical people to say that they can’t possibly be racist because they’re gay! They know what it’s like to be oppressed, they could never be racist. It’s just a preference. A fetish. Nothing harmful. I giggle at supposed anti-racist white people who preach all day and post on Facebook: #blacklivesmatter! Justice for Trayvon! Screw you Trump! But turn around and uphold white supremacy in their bedrooms.

We discover a lot about our humanity through the erotic; through what is said, or unsaid, behind closed doors and between bed sheets.

White people are quick to say that ‘sexual preferences’ aren’t racist. They just prefer to be with “someone of the same race.” But people of color are often fooled too. We get that it’s wrong, but we settle with the same old “stereotypes aren’t nice” argument. Which is fine. It’s hard to tackle something and call out something so intimate. Hear ye white people (especially you white “social justice minded” folk. You white queers and straights alike).

The reason your sexual preferences are racist are not just because you are making a judgment based on a stereotype that you assume all people of that race adhere to. It’s not because you aren’t willing to get to know a person of color deeper because of those stereotypes.

The reason you find people of color unattractive (or, conversely, fetishize them) is part of a larger history of white supremacy that continues today, and that you contribute to by not decolonizing your mind of that ideology and perpetuating it. It has to do with how we collectively, systemically, value white bodies over black and brown bodies. It isn’t just our melanin that is devalued, it is our hair, our lips, our noses; the features that make us us. This devaluation occurs in beauty products, in movies, in casual conversations, and on beds of cotton and fabric (and lies). It is more than us being unattractive to white people (which, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about). It’s about our inherent value in the eyes of white people. It is tied to how we are treated by law enforcement, by store clerks, by real estate agents, by physicians, by our society.

I don’t care that you’re not into me, white boy number 3. What I care about is the racist practice and the racist structure that you uphold when you don’t like me for the color of my skin, and for the traits that are exclusively the purview of people like me. It’s not because you’re not attracted to my brown ass that I spit at your feet. It’s because you think, consciously or not, that I am less than, and that I am not worthy of respect and dignity in all spheres of my life. We are fucking worthy.

We know what you really think of us, white people straight and queer. Can’t hide much when you’ve stripped your clothes down to your skin.  


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