We’ve all heard the argument that racial dating preferences are “inherently racist.” Perhaps you disagree; there’s just no way you’ll find (insert race here) as attractive as you do (another race). But for curiosity’s sake, pretend for a sec it is possible for you before reading this.
The following piece is a glimpse into one man’s fight against his socialization, and what a path toward freeing yourself of racialized dating preferences could look like.
I used to find black women unattractive. I would justify it as “preference.” I would say “I haven’t seen any attractive black women,” or I would just lie and say I thought black women were perfectly fine and just happened to have never dated one. It would have been pretty easy to hide.
But deep down, I knew damn well that my “preference” just happened to line up a little too perfectly with racist white standards of beauty. It ate away at me. It was hard to ignore that the few black women I did find attractive were light-skinned. It was even harder to ignore that my exact “preferences” were indistinguishable from those of a white supremacist.
I sat with this for a long time. I was ashamed. I felt paralyzed. What I wanted my mind to do and how I truly felt were not lining up.
I knew I didn’t want to allow myself to continue to perpetuate racist white beauty standards. As an Asian American male myself, I was oppressed by similar racist beauty standards. The way I saw myself treating Black women (not finding them attractive and ignoring them) was similar to the way I felt I was treated.
I could see the problem and my role within the problem, I just could not see the solution. So I just “tried harder.”
And then it hit me.
Society taught me that Black people, especially Black women could be ignored. I learned all the negative stereotypes about Black people. I was socialized and conditioned to be this way. It became a part of me because I had internalized it and practiced it without thinking.
I had to undo this programming. I had to literally retrain my eyes, my attention, my ears, my brain, everything to pay more attention to black women. I needed to retrain how I saw the physical bodies of black women and the minds of black women. Here are the two main steps I took:
Step 1: Look at black women
There were multiple times I would catch my eyes skipping over black women. So I challenged myself to look at them for a couple seconds longer.
I went on Instagram and followed black women. At first, I followed black models. After awhile, I was aware that only following black models, who themselves were adjacent to unrealistic standards of beauty, was just another way of objectifying/dehumanizing women. I started following some black women who I didn’t find as attractive and eventually some normal black women (don’t be lazy, follow people who post a lot of selfies).
Around this time, I would start making an effort to talk to black women when they were in the same room I was in. I focused on being non-judgemental, and giving them space to be themselves. If a white person joined our conversation, I would prioritize continuing the conversation with the black woman.
Step 2: Read their words
Finding black women physically attractive was only a part of the self-improvement I needed to do. I needed to connect with their humanity too. This meant reading their words in books, in news, celebrating their social justice victories, listening to their thoughts on social justice and their lives. It meant paying attention to black women on my newsfeed when they posted long statuses.
As an Asian male, I’ve resented that there were white people who liked me only for my ability to codeswitch into whiteness. I was unwilling to force Black women into a similar dynamic with me. I needed to challenge myself to meet them where they were at, not making them meet me where I was at.
How did I feel doing this?
There were times this felt kind of annoying. I was going against what society had conditioned me to do. I was undoing old biases, learning new habits, and thinking new thoughts. It didn’t feel familiar. Some days, it felt fucking dumb. I was asking myself to look at a black woman for a couple seconds longer. I was telling myself to follow black women on Instagram. How the fuck was this going to lead to anything?
It required effort. Again and again, I either caught myself skipping over black women, or falling into what the people around me (also conditioned by society) were doing. I was enabled by the forces around me be it people, or Instagram, or Facebook because white supremacy is baked into the culture. I had to consciously go against what was around me.
What was the end result?
At each step, black women were becoming more and more human in my mind and my heart. I was recognizing all of them, ESPECIALLY in the ways society said black women could not be.
White supremacy stripped them of their humanity, their intelligence, their emotions, and basic dignity. I was retraining my mind to reprioritize who I was listening to, who I was looking at in conversations, everything. I was undoing the internalized racism in my mind, my heart, my attention, and my behavior. I was training my mind to humanize Black women.
I started finding black women beautiful, cute, sexy.
It meant I was sometimes feeling lust for them (Yeah, I understand straight men and lust too often leads to sexual violence and rape of vulnerable women. I emphatically reject sexual violence).
It meant I was fantasizing and masturbating to them (no Louis C.K. shit, I also reject that behavior).
It meant I was seeing their scholarly work as important texts containing wisdom. I saw how Black women SHOWED UP for people in social justice spaces. As a group, top down, the number of Black women who were “woke” and “got it” is unbelievable.
It also meant treating their feelings, their hurts, their wants, their pain, their wisdom, and their ideas as worth my attention.
I felt relief too. Guilt and shame were replaced with admiration and respect.
What I did in my mind could be described in many ways. I was undoing my internalized racism. I was rebelling against white supremacy. I think the most important way to describe this was an act of love for humanity.
A Final Note
I’m oppressed by similar myopic standards of the white aesthetic. I know there are people who justify “no Asians” as “a preference.” There are people who say “I haven’t seen any attractive Asian men,” or people who just lie and say they think Asian men were perfectly fine and just happened to have never dated one. It would be pretty easy to hide it.
Knowing this, I want people to do a similar process of finding the beauty and humanity of Asian men. I want people to face the mirror, see their bias toward me, and in an act of love for humanity, find a way to love me as well.
It is just absolutely hilarious to be reading this, as someone whose is half-black. Thank you for see us as “people”, but it is sad to realize that you only decided to change your mindset now and there are other people who believe this as well.
Coming from a African woman from African American roots it hurts to already feel low because my awareness of society and my hopes to thrive no matter how hard it is but then to read people post and know still till this day people hate black women is just heart breaking we can’t help our skin color but I love my skin color which everyone else could learn to
Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.
Humanity has a lot of unlearning to do. Directly or indirectly, we’ve all learned to view Black women negatively. It’s sad, and the work is not easy, but please continue to live with pride. As the editor, I hope you felt this article took a step in the right direction of unlearning the world’s cruelty toward Black women.
As a black woman I found this article so condescending and patronizing. Honestly why don’t you all just leave us alone? We don’t need you writing articles about how you used to think of us as less than human and how you had to FORCE yourselves to look at us daily as if you’re trying to love something repulsive. This was offensive. Then to to sum it all up it was just a way for an Asian man to say “so you see, I forced myself to see the good in disgusting black women so white women could you please do the same for me and men like me so we can date you more?”. Are you serious? How pathetic. First of all, black women aren’t attracted to Asian men either. Yes there are a few cases here and there but have you ever considered that as Asian men you don’t exist to us either??? I’m an attractive black woman engaged to a white man (about to be married at a destination wedding in Mexico next month actually) and trust me, when I was single, it never even once occurred to me to consider Asian men as possible mates. Just like you don’t look at black women, we don’t look at you either but we’re not purposely ignoring you like you do us. You simply don’t exist in our universe (for most of us). If there are 10 men in a room of all races and 3 are Asian I would only see 7 men. Get it? Like the idea of being with an Asian is simply unfathomable to most of us. First of all, though I’m slim, I’m 5’8” and I also wear heels. That means most of you wouldn’t be in my line of vision anyway. Not stereotyping but let’s be honest. The average height of an Asian man is 5’6”. To top that off, most Asian men I see have dainty physiques. No muscle tone. Very girl like. There’s also no overall confidence and “swag” with a lot of you Asian men to make our backs tingly and excite our female senses (and that’s for most women of all races). There’s just an overall “umph!” that lacks with many of you. I have never once imagined or fantasized about an Asian man rocking my world in bed and I doubt most women have. Most of you just don’t seem masculine enough (whereas you would see black women as too masculine). It makes sense the the standard of beauty in most Asian country is very petite, extra skinny, child like women that look more like little boys than fully developed grown women. I suppose that’s how far a woman would have to go to make many of you finally feel masculine. Honestly the only time I interact with Asian men is when I go to a Korean, Japanese or Vietnamese restaurant (I don’t like Chinese food) or when I patronize a local black hair store (which is rare now since many of us that are enlightened shop black owned hair stores online). A lot of times the experience is not good either. I can confidently say that I have never experienced in your face outward racism from any white person ever but I have from ignorant Asians. Asians will go out of their way to be racist. It’s rarely ever a good experience. What’s disgusting is when I’m at these restaurants with my white fiancé and they have the nerve to treat him amazingly and then accord me poor service at the same time. We have gotten up and walked out many times. When it comes to the Asian community and black people, the most we do is tolerate each other. Why? Because Asians, by and large, are ignorant and ride the wave of minority rights black people fought for while simultaneously believing themselves superior. This superiority complex quickly turns into inferiority when around white people. You love playing the number 2 spot! Bow down to white people then try to make the other races bow down to you. You all are an interesting lot. While we fight for equality you fight for a number 2 spot then when you face racism and social injustices from YOUR superior race, you turn around and use civil rights black people fought for to get your way. No one takes you seriously. Honestly this is another pathetic show of this. If you want white women to consider you more seriously look for other ways to vie for their attention and leave black women out of this! This is a stupid article. The delusion and entitlement is crazy. LOL. Once again LEAVE US BLACK WOMEN ALONE! Please and thank you. Now let’s see if you actually have the balls and decency to post this comment because I’m sure most black people that come across this f*d up article feel the exact same way. SMH.
Thanks for the comment, PrettyProudBlackGirl. I understand how reading this piece would trigger any Black woman and make it difficult to find the value in it. Certain things I’ll leave for the author to answer, but I’ll do my best to respond as the person who chose to publish the piece.
It’s no secret that society’s messaging about Black women is as violent and oppressive as it gets and it runs deep. I’m sure you don’t need examples of what that looks like. The author describes ignoring Black women and not finding them attractive on an unconscious level because of his social programming. They weren’t “in his universe” to use your words. To me, his writing did not suggest he found Black women “disgusting” and in need of pity acknowledgement. Rather, he realized he was a passive vehicle in the erasure of Black women and tried things to include Black women in his universe. For what it’s worth, he did not have any Black women do any of this work for him.
I’ll let the author have the option to discuss the parallels he drew between Asian-American men and Black women.
Basically, I published this piece because I believe the author’s concern for the unchecked erasure of Black women is genuine and that his writing was honest enough to make for productive conversation. That being said, I cannot force you to feel or look at this piece a different way.
I approved your comment because your frustration is valid. However, I find much of your comment to be in bad faith. You’ve used your frustration with this author to justify recycling age-old Asian stereotypes, making blanket statements about the Asian-American community, and operating with the unfounded assumption that the author wrote this piece to shoot his shot with White women. I agree that there are deep flaws in how the Asian-American community, collectively, has engaged with the Black American community. But your statements seem dissonant with the piece as the author discusses actively resisting White supremacist standards, however flawed his methods may be.
Again, your frustration is valid and this is not a perfect piece. That being said, I hope you have experiences with Asian-Americans beyond Asian restaurants and salons. There is great diversity within the Asian-American community on many fronts, and there are a number of phenomenal writers and thinkers that may convince you the Asian-American community, collectively, does not exist solely to shit on Black Americans and enjoy “model minority” status. Celeste Ng and Viet Thanh Nguyen come to mind, and I’m sure there are many more popular Asian-American figures that can lead you to non-famous, everyday Asian-Americans who are anti-racist.
I’ve tried very hard to find beauty in black women but I find them nasty in everyway. Like you I am suffering from guilt and trying my best to find something to value and appreciate about them. I haven’t found anything. I find the ugliness in them both inside and out. No sense of honor, nobility, grace. They are too selfish for love. That is the root of their ugliness. Very, very few reach higher levels of intelligence (only the ones with white blood). The stereotypes tend to be true lazy, unclean, demanding seem to characterize their behavior. In many cases loud, immodest. Even the way they eat food shows no sense of dignity/honor.
I do strongly believe ugliness can be made up with beauty of one’s soul. This is why I don’t understand that not a single example of truly beautiful soul has been associated to them.
This is Kai, the writer of the original piece. I think it’s important to recognize that you are recognizing something about yourself that is making you feel guilty. Honestly, I don’t think a lot of people even get to that point.
I think it’s interesting that most of the criticisms you mentioned are not about physical beauty, but about personality and mannerisms.
So my questions are this:
1. Are you challenging yourself to pay attention to black women? (Not just the ones who draw your attention for behavior you don’t like?) If not, you should start to. Just look at them, take them in and try not to judge positively or negatively. Just let them exist.
2. For all the traits you list and associate with Black women, do you also dislike them in other people? Do you react as harshly towards them? If you find you are mentally being more harsh with Black women than other people who exhibit the same traits, I think you should be more forgiving towards Black women. I am okay if I find myself not liking people who are extremely loud. It’s a personal preference that I’m very consistent with and I still treat them with respect. I am not okay with catching myself hating someone because they were extremely loud AND Black. That’s treating someone worse for the color of their skin and I don’t want to be that kind of person.
3. Are you expecting Black women to act like white women? Black culture is not White culture. To try to judge Black culture by measuring it against White culture is of course going to lead to the conclusion that it’s “worse”.
Some of your criticisms could also easily be turned into positive attributes. You may say loud; I may say lively. You may say demanding; I may say clear communicating (and/or trying to get better treatment in a world that wants to deny them of it). Immodest (in conversation?); I might call being real. I tend to find messy eaters kind of comforting. I don’t have to worry about eating something “properly” and cleanly. There are no airs we have to put on.
I would encourage you to keep looking both internally and externally. No matter how many Black women you encounter, you have not met all of them. There are many layers of what we are told to find attractive that need to be peeled back.
Don’t be deranged. Far more important things in life than to force yourself to find a particular race of people attractive that you don’t find attractive.
Respect and Treat people equal irrespective of any attraction or lack of .That is more important.
Thanks for the comment. I’m sure we all agree with the principle of treating everyone with respect regardless of your sexual attraction to them. However, I wouldn’t call a man deranged for asking questions about their quiet biases.
We’re all socialized a certain way. We’re all taught to find certain jobs, partners, and appearances as ideal. Of course, no one can live without biases, but some, like beauty standards, can block opportunities for meaningful human connection. It probably looks crazy to see someone try to view different people as attractive, but it’s no less crazy than Eurocentric beauty standards dominating the whole world and being taught that straighter hair and fairer skin are inherently better.