Racial dating preferences are racist, reduce entire groups to race

Credit: Holly Liu / Credit: Holly Liu /
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Imagine seven billion apples. It’s an odd request, I know, but stick with me. What can you tell someone about those apples?

Well, probably that they’re all fruits, that most of them have stems, and that they pretty much all have seeds. But what do they taste like? Aside from the obvious answer (they taste like apples), it’s difficult to really describe what each apple is like. But you can probably say that Granny Smith apples are sourer, that gala apples are sweeter, and that red delicious apples taste like dust and regret.

The human brain is very bad at conceptualizing really large numbers. When we have to think about large numbers of objects and then describe these objects, we usually do so by grouping them. Grouping allows us to deal with smaller numbers, and we tend to believe that, if something has one trait in common with another, then there’s a higher likelihood of those things having another trait in common; sweet apples are better for eating, sour apples are better for cooking, and so on.

The same applies to how we think about other people. There are, after all, over seven billion people on this planet, and the likelihood that you personally know more than a couple hundred of them is fairly small. So, in our eternal quest to understand everyone around us, we often assign general characteristics to groups of similar people. One of the most common ways of grouping people in this manner is by race.

In the last issue of The Tartan, staffwriter Brandon Schmuck wrote about the racism — or lack thereof — in sexual and romantic racial preferences. He argued that these racial preferences may or may not be racist, but that it depends on the person, as “the reasons for an individual’s [race-based] sexual preferences are as diverse as the communities they make up.” While it is true that there are as many motivations behind personal inclinations as there are people, it is wrong to claim that racial preferences are not inherently racist.

This is not to say that anyone in an interracial relationship is viewing their partner through a racist lens. But an individual relationship is an entirely different thing from a generalized preference, because racial preferences aren’t about individual people. They’re explicitly about a group. When someone says they prefer one racial group, it’s usually because of some trait that they believe the vast majority of the members of that group have in common. If someone is attracted to the group defined as “Asian women,” that person is implying that their attraction is to some trait correlated to race. It implies that almost everyone of that race has that characteristic or trait.

This is a generalization based off of race — the definition of a racial stereotype. It’s the “why” behind “I prefer Asian women.” It doesn’t matter if it’s a bad “why” (because they’re more submissive, maybe) or a good “why” (because they’re smarter or cleverer or something similar). Schmuck decries “the unjust generalization of an entire population’s preferences,” but the real unjust generalization is the one we as a culture have been complicit in for a very long time; it’s assuming things about people just because of their race. It’s racism.

Schmuck makes another argument in his article, namely that the aforementioned reality of racial preferences being racist should be open to debate. He writes that comments explaining that 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, [and] provide the same destructive type of thinking as the mentioned so-called systematic racism.”

In no way do I believe that just pointing out the racism in racial preferences will end racism or change anyone’s internal thoughts. But sharing a racist thought or opinion in a public forum with the expectation people will respect your “right” to share that thought doesn’t engender discussion or spark debate — all it does is reinforce the systemic racism that probably caused the thought in the first place. And it’s that reinforcing of marginalization, not anyone’s personal bigotry, that is the problem. Wanting respect for the idea that racial preferences aren’t racist is like wanting respect for the belief that the earth is flat; it’s asking respect for being wrong.

Schmuck’s argument is that people should have the ability to state whatever opinion they have on a public forum without having to worry about any explosive repercussions to that opinion. That everyone has a right to say what they want on Overheard, and that the people who contradict any “unpopular” opinion are trying to silence discussion.

Carnegie Mellon is a private institution. Overheard, on top of that, is a privately operated group affiliated with, but not run by, that institution. No one is trying to censure the right to free speech on Overheard — because no one actually has that right in this forum of conversation. Overheard at Carnegie Mellon is not the federal government. There is no right to free speech on Overheard. The legal right to share an opinion is equally as valid as the right to ignore it or shut it down.

But what about moral rights?

We should, after all, try our best to be open-minded. To close ourselves off to opinions we disagree with is to isolate ourselves from the realities of society and culture. If we frame ourselves as people who value the input and voices of others, are we not hypocritical if we shun any voice, even those we believe are probably wrong?

In his article, Schmuck quotes Ayn Rand: “Love is the expression of one’s values.” If Rand is to be believed, then who and what we love is based on the parts of them or it that we value. The valuing of a trait linked with race causes a racial preference. What value causes a wish for a “political bubble” free world?

Perhaps it is caused by the valuing of an idealized world where any and all opinions and thoughts can be shared freely and openly, no matter who they offend or affect.The valuing of a world where people can share opinions without having to care if they hurt or offend someone; a world where the empowerment and protection of marginalized people is less important than one person’s right to make a Facebook post.

Consider this: if your voice has to be shut down by an individual person, it is because society deemed your voice worthy of listening to in the first place. Why are so many possibly racist opinions being shunned now? Because racism has had a vocal, ardent, and even lauded voice for over a century. It is only recently that a voice strong enough to oppose that has been able to exist.

At the end of his article, Schmuck expresses discontent with 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.” Whether or not this university is in a political bubble doesn’t matter, because a place where degrading and offensive opinion have free reign is a political bubble.

A place without “political correctness” is a place where people can make statements that offend people without having to contend with that offense, where one person’s opinion on a matter of fact must be taken as seriously as that fact itself. That world is a political bubble — it’s just the patriarchal, racist bubble that we are only now starting to replace with a “bubble” built on basic human respect.

The belief that racial preferences aren’t inherently racist is not a “voice less heard.” It’s just another bad apple in the usual bigoted bunch.