Outcry on Overheard: Are Racial Preferences in Dating Racist?

Credit: Simin Li/Art Editor Credit: Simin Li/Art Editor
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A week ago, people were angered by my response to a post on Overheard at Carnegie Mellon regarding a white college student with a “thing for Asian chicks.” Regardless of this post’s morality, I felt the need to respond to people crying out racism and call them out on their double standard. Upon doing so, I received a number of messages of people thanking me for sharing a voice less heard, even if it meant being destroyed in a political bubble. This is the inspiration for my new column, Outcry on Overheard.

In this column, I look to express opinions less heard on campus and bring real debates (not just artificial ones where you are entirely wrong if you do not 100 percent agree with another person’s viewpoints). I look to also call out the hypocrisy of one-sided debates.

The controversy of this week regards the “thing for Asian chicks.” Is it racism for one’s sexual preferences to be racial? Initially, I oversimplified my stance to a clear “no”. However, after extensive research on the matter and discovering an endless sea of contradictory studies, my conclusion is this: it depends. Like most issues, staunchly taking one stance or the other does not result in a constructive discussion. Responses to my comment, like, “your [racial] preferences are a product of and contribute to systematic bias and thus are part of systemic racism” oversimplify the issue, assume the thoughts of others, provide the same destructive type of thinking as the mentioned so-called systematic racism, and assume that we are all society’s prisoners void of any free-will in thinking.

The coining of terms like “yellow fever” show the commonality of white–male, Asian–female couples. However, the use of this type of slang is a generalization and assumes that the root of this racial combination is always the male’s desire for the sexual hyper-feminine stereotype painted by pornography. Countless studies have tried to investigate the commonality of this relationship combination, but each seems to yield different results. One study was conducted at Columbia, where four hundred heterosexual individuals engaged in four minute speed dates. The conclusion of this study was that women preferred men of their own race, and race held no bearing on the women that were chosen by men. However, East Asian women tended to not discriminate against white men (holding them at the same level of their own race). This neutrality resulted in Asian-white being the most common interracial couple.

Contrast this with 2014 data from OKCupid for DateHookup, in which men rate Asian women as 18 percent more attractive than the average woman and Asian women rate white men 19 percent more attractive than the average male. In this community, there is a clear skew of racial preference. Add in contrasting data from other studies, and it becomes clear that sexual preferences are a derivative of their community.

The reasons for an individual’s sexual preference are as diverse as the communities they make up. To reduce an entire population’s preferences to the fact that Asian porn yields destructive stereotypes is as racist as the videos themselves. I will not deny the fact that there exist individuals who have attraction rooted from false racial stereotypes. What I will deny is the unjust generalization of an entire population’s preferences to these stereotypes. The subjectivity of sexual preference is the reason why research studies on the matter are so complex and often, contradictory. There are so many root causes for individual’s upholding of various traits that can’t be generalized. Preference in physical characteristics, a culture’s ideals, and a vastly contrastive background, as well as bias from previous relationships, can all play a role in determining one’s attraction towards various races.

As Ayn Rand stated, “love is the expression of one’s values.” In other words, you are attracted to traits in individuals that uphold the values which you hold the greatest. That can be ideas, physical aesthetics, cultures, beliefs, etc. One’s values can be rooted in racial bias but to generalize this to an entire group of people is to hold the same closed-minded discrimination as those that are truly engaging in “yellow fever”.

However, I would like the takeaway from this column to be something more than just this Asian–white phenomena: issues are often not as simple as they seem. By overgeneralizing either side of an argument, you are closing yourself to new ideas. I see no greater irony than the fact that the university — a symbol of free thought and discovery — has become a political bubble, where people are so afraid of breaking political correctness that they are now afraid to speak their minds.