People from back home sometimes ask me what it’s like being a minority in a community that is dominated by white people. I usually smile sweetly and respond, “I don’t see race. It’s just not an issue with me.”
Being lucky enough to have grown up exposed to people from all walks of life, I’d like to think that I’m good at seeing people for who they are, rarely letting skin color affect any judgments I might initially make of a person. But there is one thing about my dating track record that is blaringly noticeable: The vast majority of the guys I’ve dated are Caucasian.
Interracial dating has never been a particularly controversial subject for me. Perhaps this is because every relationship I have been in as a Filipino-American girl has somehow transcended cultural boundaries. But I think about the guys I’ve dated, and I wonder if my preference for white guys reflects some underlying racist sentiment that I bury deep beneath my culturally accepting exterior. Is it possible? Could I, the open-minded, racially tolerant person I’ve always thought I was, somehow be racist?
As minorities, it is almost expected that we stick by our people. The simple matter of physical attraction can transform into an issue of cultural pride as we leave the confines of our own ethnicities to explore others. I think we’re naturally inclined to look twice when we see a member of our own race romantically involved with a member of a different one, if for no other reason than the fact that it goes against the norm set by society. Thus, when we venture outside our race, it’s hard not to hear that voice in the back of our heads asking, “Is your own culture not good enough?”
Most of us, in one way or another, have preferences when it comes to race, whether subtle or blatant, openly acknowledged or not. Beauty is beauty, but sooner or later certain patterns in the people we find attractive inevitably come to the surface. Like art, we all bear physical attributes – from height and body type to hair and eye color – that carry varying degrees of magnetic appeal from person to person. For me, race, though obviously inclusive of more than mere physicality, is one more factor in determining my personal aesthetic.
Unfortunately, the inclusion of race into our standards of personal preference sets off some sensitive issues. It used to piss me off to no end whenever I realized a guy’s interest in me was based purely on my Asian looks. Having had my share of run-ins with guys suffering from severe cases of “yellow fever,” I would get so frustrated, always feeling like my sole purpose was to fulfill some island-girl fantasy. It was like they had this vision of a raven-tressed, almond-eyed girl like me actually carrying out every idea of what they thought an Asian girl should have been, and I hated it. They’d take me to sushi bars and spout their expertise of Eastern thought and Asian languages, all the while oblivious to what it was I really wanted. I appreciated their enthusiastic fixation on my culture somewhat, but I wanted to be seen as an individual – not as a representative from some exotic land.
But then again, is my weakness for tan-bodied, dark-haired guys from the Mediterranean or blue-eyed, fair-skinned Irish guys with cute accents any different? By having this aesthetic, am I subconsciously writing off guys from other races simply because they don’t fit my particular bill? And if so, am I harnessing some awful superiority complex and in some way betraying my own race?
It’s hard to say in the midst of such a constantly evolving society. While racial boundaries will always exist, I can only hope that, if nothing else, the future holds acceptance.
Meghan Palma is the Daily Nexus assistant opinion editor.