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Pet Sins January 2005

Asians must 'love' blacks or hate them - no middle ground?

I occasionally have to spend time with a group of East Asians (we share a mutual friend). Most of them are quite racist against blacks, except B, who gets on their case if they say something bigoted. The rest of the gang always assumes B has a special fetish for black people. I really wonder where that assumption came from. B himself wonders so too. The absence of specific prejudice does not necessarily indicate 'special preference'. Sure, B has some black friends, but does not seem to purposely seek out people because they are black.

This is reminiscent of certain attitudes from the US Civil Rights era: whites who supported equal rights for blacks were called 'N*****-lovers". These whites did not advocate special rights for blacks; there is no indication that they love blacks more than they love non-blacks, but that was enough to earn someone the title of "n*****-lover". It also reminds me of the situation with non-Jews who were caught helping Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. They were often accused of having a special love for Jews when they merely believed in the equal humanity of people who were marked as different.

People who buy into this 'binary' mode of thinking do not seem to be able to comprehend the possibility of impartiality. And it appears that this 'either love or hate' mentality is not unique. I had a Chinese American friend K who was initially very racist against blacks. She would say things like, "It is a known fact that blacks commit most of the crimes. There is just something wrong with the race.' She claimed her attitude came from her family - her parents were immigrants, and they told their children to date whites, not blacks. Then she started hanging around other Asians who did not share her views. Some of them had black friends whom she met. In a couple of years, she began to talk openly about finding individual black people attractive - something she had not done before. I think K might have found some black individuals attractive even while she was in her extreme racist phase; but she attributed this change of heart to knowing an Asian friend who had a heavy crush on a black guy. But there is a caveat. K says she will only consider dating black women, not black men (she is bisexual). When I asked her why, she couldn't give a reason. She did date white and Asian guys. This gender double-standard reminds me of past times in which black women were allowed to work in white homes while black men couldn't find similar jobs, because whites found black women less 'threatening' than black men.

After another year or so, K was talking about wanting to 'try' dating a black woman. I'm not sure if that's real 'progress', going from not considering dating any blacks to specifically seeking to date a black person as a novel experience. Both are based on the same concept of 'Otherness' - seeing a person not as an individual, but an exotic 'Other' to be 'experienced' for fun, or someone to be excluded from the dating pool because of the same Otherness. In fact, I'm not entirely sure if she has abandoned her prior negative views of blacks, or if she simply chooses not to voice them.

I think if she was truly not racist, she wouldn't even be conscious about liking blacks or hating them because whether an individual was black or not would be a non-issue, and 'race' wouldn't factor into her dating choices at all. In an ideal world, people would make decisions on who to spend time with based solely on common interests, shared values and matching personalities. After all, those are what make relationships work, not some racial fetish or exotic fantasy.

N.
2004