Romantic preference needs to be honestly examined to avoid racial stereotyping

Specific attraction isn’t problematic, until it reduces whole groups of people to a few assumed traits

We all have preferences, but they shouldn’t fall back on racial stereotypes. Photo: Chris Ho / The Peak

By: Encina Roh, Peak Associate

Most of us have probably heard someone say (or perhaps even said) that a certain race is just not our “type.” As a woman of colour, I don’t take it personally when I hear individuals say, “I’m not into Asians,” because those aren’t the people I’d like to date anyway. But I wonder how confident someone must be to disqualify approximately 4.6 billion people from thousands of different cultures. Grouping together all of these people under a single homogenous entity reduces the astounding diversity of Asian communities and individuals. Essentially, racial stereotypes are reductive and shouldn’t be grouped with romantic preferences. 

It’s not racist to be attracted to certain traits, but it is racist to assume that all members of a certain race look or act the same. While opinions seem divided on whether or not having a racial preference is problematic, many fail to see that the issue isn’t in having preferences. The issue, rather, is using rhetoric that is very general and can both cause and continue to nurture harmful racist attitudes and beliefs. Sweeping generalizations that specify attraction, or lack of attraction, to a certain racial or ethnic group are based on stereotypes that leave no room for the exceptions that almost always exist. After all, there is always a one in a million chance that these assumptions might be proven wrong (or in this case, one in 4.6 billion). 

It’s important to understand that unless a consensus can be made — with no exceptions —  that accurately encompasses all members of a race, preferences are likely a product of socialization. Similar to political leanings, philosophical outlook, and social interests, romantic preference does not exist inside a vacuum. Exposure to media, political climate, or even those around us ends up affecting the way we perceive race. 

While most people who say, “I’m not into [insert race]” would actively deny that they are racist, subconscious biases still exist that promote racist tendencies. These manifest in problematic rhetoric. Instead of being fixed in an idea that only a certain race can ever be attractive, deconstruct why these preferences exist in the first place.