Fellow white people, I think we need to have a talk about racism in attraction.

There are a few things I hear white people defending over and over and over again. And I’m not talking about heinous racists, I’m talking about well-meaning white people. Liberal white people. White people whose “black friends” are actual humans.

I’m talking about the de-valuing of Black/non-white culture and norms, and the writing off of that devaluation as “personal preference” or “human nature.” Specifically, expressing disdain for things like “black names,” ignoring cultural appropriation, and claiming that it’s not offensive to say you’re not attracted to an entire race of people. (It’s also fucking racist to claim you’re attracted to an entire race of people. That’s exoticizing, and it’s stupid. Don’t do it. But that’s a subject for another post.)

Like everyone else in the country, growing up I absorbed the messages that white bodies were the most beautiful bodies. Lack of non-white representation in Hollywood and fashion magazines is a real problem, because although as adults we can look critically at the media and say “that’s not representative,” as children we consume without much analysis. I have never dated a woman of another race. It’s possible that I, even if I had been raised in a less racist society, would prefer white women, but it’s far more likely that I’ve just been unsuccessful in de-programming my brainwashed aesthetic preferences.

I have a type, sure. Most people do. My type is straight-brown-haired, blue-eyed, average height, athletic women. My current partner fits that mold, but I date outside my type all the time, because people are individuals. The previous three women I dated were a very short chubby blonde woman, a very tall skinny woman with short curly hair, and a tall redhead without an athletic bone in her body. But I’ve never dated a non-white woman.

It seems obvious to me that my preferences were formed because of the overwhelming preference of the media to showcase thin white female bodies. It may have been easier for me to come to this conclusion because I’m queer. See, when I was growing up, I didn’t know any gay women. There weren’t any on television, or the movies, or in books. I thought gay women were gross, especially butch women, because I never saw them presented as desirable. I learned first-hand that once I learned to ignore the media and listen to what I really thought was attractive, the world opened up. And now I look like one of those “gross” butches I used to think were un-loveable. And I think I look hot.

I understand that it’s shitty to have someone point out that something which seems like a harmless personal preference is racist. I understand that you had roughly zero power over what kind of media you consumed growing up, and what kind of culture you were steeped in. I understand that attraction is very personal, and super-complicated.

Still. Saying “I’m not attracted to (race)” is never ok. Let me illustrate why:

via http://www.liveforfilms.com/2013/09/23/colin-farrell-paula-patton-may-be-in-the-warcraft-movie/

Paula Patton

via http://www.fansshare.com/gallery/photos/528630/gabourey-sidibe-by-suzanne-teresa/?displaying

Gabourey Sidibe

via http://www.aceshowbiz.com/events/Maya%20Rudolph/maya-rudolph-13th-annual-warner-bros-and-instyles-02.html

Maya Rudolph

via http://blackhair.about.com/od/celebritystyle/ig/2011-Grammy-Awards-Black-Hair/Janelle-Monae.htm

Janelle Monae

via http://www.crushable.com/2013/09/13/entertainment/danielle-brooks-taystee-oitnb-filmed-girls-episode/

Danielle Brooks

via http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/26/lgbt-history-month-icon-laverne-cox_n_2011651.html

Laverne Cox

via http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com/2011/07/dear-lauryn-hill-rohan-marley.html

Lauryn Hill

via http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Royalty-on-The-Oprah-Show/10

Akosua Busia

These women all identify as black. And (although they’re all performers) they’re wildly different people. They don’t share a common skin color. They don’t share common facial features. They have different hair, and they’re different heights and weights. Their only common factor is their racial identity. Saying you’re not attracted to all black women is like saying “the only thing that matters about you is your race.” Because you are erasing the individual diversity of human beings within a race.

We’re humans. We have aesthetic preferences. But those preferences are not as ingrained as we think they are. It’s our responsibility to expand the definition of what we think of as attractive. So go forth! Find gorgeous women with skin color, body types, hair and sexualities that are not sanctioned by our narrow-minded media. Enjoy them. Share them. Support productions with beautiful people of all shapes and sizes. And for god’s sake stop defending your right not to be attracted to an entire group of people based on their racial identity.