My “Big Sib” freshman year told me coming in that I might have a problem with romance at Yale because I’m black. I was like nahhhh, racism is so passé, but after three years at Yale, I had lunch with her and I was like, man I’ve given up. I’ve actually given up. And she was like, yup. She doesn’t know any Black women in her six years around this campus who have had relationships that haven’t been long distance. I do, but the numbers are still so saddening! And somehow we both do fine as soon as we leave campus. This phenomenon that has been corroborated by Latina women, Asian men and women, Indian women, Arab women, etc. (I can’t speak for most men, so yeah.) Racial preference in dating exists everywhere. But somehow it feels closer to home here.
I’m writing this article because many people — not just me, and not just black women — feel like they are being judged sexually and romantically because of their race. Being intimate with someone involves some introspection about what you like and what you don’t. It also is a good indicator of how much prejudice is forgotten in a deep dark place inside you, because nothing better signifies your true worldview than the people with whom you will and will not become intimate with.
So I just discovered the OK Cupid blog. If y’all don’t know, it is a blog of statistics based on the profiles, dates and dating preferences of the OK Cupid clientele. For some reason, the statistics really bother me. In various studies on ethnicity and dating, Asian men and Black women were found to be statistically less “desirable” mates than any other ethnic/gender group. I could maybe understand if the statistics showed that people tend to date within their own culture or religion or something like that, but that is clearly not the case. I have heard so many Asian men of different sexual orientations say to me, personally, that they feel it is harder for them date/meet people because of their ethnicity.
There’s something to their concerns. On the OK Cupid blog comments, an Asian woman justified her unwillingness to date an Asian man because she was born in a liberal place and Asian men are conservative and want their women to stay at home and cook for them. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound like any Asian guy I’ve ever met, and I’ve encountered more than a few in my lifetime. I have also heard from people, “I don’t find Asian men attractive,” or “Asian men are ugly,” and I find that blatantly false, racist and ignorant. Anyone who has ever seen a Korean drama can tell you that Asian guys can be, and are, way hot and more importantly, can take part in a loving and fulfilling relationship. But these claims and their validity are not the problem here. The biggest problem by far is the fact that people find it okay to make these broad generalizations about a billion people based on their ethnicity. And don’t think that because Yale is so “liberal” that claims like these haven’t been made, because they have, and who knows why it’s acceptable.
My next case is the romantic plight of the modern day Black woman. You wouldn’t think it, but there is an entire canon of studies, books and Essence articles dedicated to this very topic. I’ve seen books entitled “Why Black Men Choose White Women” and other such shockers, but shall we look at the statistics? According to OK Cupid (which of course is the dating statistic holy text), Black women are sending out more messages than any other group, but they are also getting the least responses of anyone. This kind of effort — with very little outcome — inspires the commonly accepted statements, “Black women will die alone,” “The standard of beauty is based on women of European descent and that’s why nobody will date Black women,” and other depressing things that Black women tell ourselves. With the rate of Black women enrolled in college far exceeding that of Black men (who many women think are choosing not to date Black women anyway), Black women are looking elsewhere for love, and being rejected most of the time.
I just regurgitated a bunch of stuff I read in books and whatnot, so let me take this to a personal level. When I was researching a paper about Black women and relationships in modern day, I interviewed my daddy, an über-white guy, about whether he thought these findings were true. He told me that as a white guy, people assume he is married to a white woman, blah blah blah, and people say some pretty awful and racist things about Black women in front of him, including at his place of work. Or course, my dad then chooses not to do business with them (HA!), but his observations led him to one conclusion. “I guarantee you many, I don’t know if it’s most, American white men would have a problem marrying a black woman. Date ‘em and well, you know, sure. But I bet you they wouldn’t take them home to meet the family.” Well that’s dismal, right? But you may be asking, “What does that have anything to do with Yale?” There is not a single Black lady here that I have ever talked to about this (and I talk about it far too much), who has not felt that race has affected her ability to date, flirt, hook up, whatever.
In my years here, I have talked to a rainbow spectrum of people and so many people have had some gripe with race in dating — but somehow, there isn’t any kind of discussion about how pervasive these feeling are. We talk about hook-up culture and sex, but not about how excluding or exclusively dating (ahem, Yellow Fever) someone based on their ethnicity is the last bastion of accepted racism. I challenge you Yalies out there to think about what you find attractive versus who you are actually willing to date. Think about maybe stepping out of your comfort zone and trying someone different on for size. Maybe you’ll find that you had a misconception about them for whatever reason, and that you have way more in common than you ever thought you would.