I used to find Black women unattractive

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(@citystylebritt via @travelingblack, Instagram)

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.

-Zander


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.”

No progress.

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.

4 COMMENTS

  1. 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.

    • Hi Wild1,

      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.

      Kai

  2. 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.

    Good day.

    • Hi Kei,

      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.

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