“IT’S ON MY BUCKET LIST TO HOOK UP WITH A BLACK GIRL, AND YOU'RE CUTE."
This was not the first time that a white boy had said a version of, “You’re pretty for a black girl,” as if that was supposed to turn me on. These sorts of statements imply a larger issue in the belief that black women are not as pretty as women of other races. There are beautiful people in every race and to think otherwise is, yes, racist, i.e. feeding into the system of power relations that places one race over another. This faulty logic is rooted in a long–standing history of colonialism and perpetuated by representations, or lack thereof, in all media forms in our culture.
A familiar mix of disbelief and anger rushed blood to my cheeks, thankfully hidden by my brown skin. Thank you, white boy, for letting me know that you would passed me by entirely if I wasn’t on your “bucket list.” Thank you for implying that, once you check this box off, you will never do it again. Thank you for approaching me not because I am a cute girl, but because I am a cute BLACK girl. And thank you for mystifying me as the “other” and objectifying my body. I feel so special?
I refuse to believe that such a diverse and wide–ranging demographic can somehow be classified as lesser than when we have such a wide array of looks. Black women have skin tones ranging from fair to black, kinky afros to wavy ombres, weaves to box braids, skinny to thick body types, brown to green eye colors, etc. We speak numerous languages and come from the U.S., the Dominican Republic, France, Ghana, Germany, Puerto Rico and essentially anywhere around the world.
Just because I am a minority in your world does not mean that you can limit all of us to your Eurocentric sense of what is beautiful. Be attracted to whomever you want, but keep us out of your experiments as one–time fetish objects.
FOR ANYONE WHO HAS EVER USED THE GAY HOOK–UP APP GRINDR, A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF PROFILES HAVE SOME INTERESTING BIOS.
Some more iconic ones are:
1. The excellent usage of internal rhyme found in: “Vanilla or spice, no chocolate nor rice.”
2. The historical accuracy of: “I block more Asians than the Great Wall of China!!!”
3. The classic, racist stereotype used in: “And Asians, prease reave me arone.”
There are obviously larger societal issues at play in the first quote, but it’s easy to see how Asian men have become the butt—in every queer community attracted to men—of the joke. We can easily chalk up the above bios to something as innocuous as a “preference.” It’s not your fault if you don’t find that person attractive, don’t want to date them, don’t want to have sex with them—it’s just a “preference.” But consider for a moment that your preference takes into account societal standards of what is hot and what is not. I mean, society at large is always right after all. FOX News mocking the elderly Chinese population in Philly’s Chinatown? Never heard of it.
Consider that your preference rejects an individual because of your preconceived notions of the male standard—the Aryan male is a god in the queer community after all. Consider that your preference excludes an entire “homogenous” group of people because all Asians look vaguely Chinese anyway.
Queer or straight, Asian men are caught in a Catch 22, seen as both feminine and masculine at the same time thanks to a long, colonial history that has deemed us weak and submissive on the one hand, but domineering and dangerous on the other. Although the former has mainly persisted, this defetishization—the view that Asian men can’t be hot or sexy—is so ingrained into society that many things are no longer seen as problematic. We, as a society, objectify Chinese Olympic swimmer Ning Zetao because Asian men aren’t supposed to be attractive. We are surprised when, in one Broad City episode, the hottest guy leaving a party is Asian, because Asian men are never portrayed in mass media as hot.
IT WAS A NORMAL TINDER CONVERSATION,
UNTIL HE ASKED "WHAT ARE YOU?".
IT WAS A NORMAL TINDER CONVERSATION,
UNTIL HE ASKED "WHAT ARE YOU?".
I asked him why it mattered. Of course, he couldn’t give me a straight answer, and just said he was “curious.” Eventually I answered his question, “I’m half Greek and half Black,” I said. “That’s exotic,” he replied, “you can be my little caramel prince.” I unmatched him immediately.
Conversations like this are the reality for many mixed race people today. People are constantly treating being mixed race as a point of at- traction. They compare us to food (Oreos, caramel, black and white cookies) and fetishize the concept of mixed race identity for families.
Don’t get me wrong, being from a mixed race background is beautiful, but my background is not yours to fawn over. It starts with interracial couples getting “compliments” like, “Your babies will be so beautiful,” or young adults talking about how they want to marry out of their race to have “exotic babies” with their significant others.
As children, other adults will continue idealizing certain features—darker skin with blue and green eyes, lighter skin with curly hair, darker skin with straight hair and similar combinations. As young adults and teens our identity suddenly becomes an object of sexual desire––tinder messages and pick–up lines revolving around race and our “other” identity come up more often than not.
It’s easy to dismiss this as harm- less appreciation of beauty. But calling us exotic or saying you loved mixed guys is not okay. The fetish and desire to be with mixed raced individuals stems from many stereotypes about the features of mixed race people. The ideal of a mixed person is usually lighter skinned, taller and has racially ambiguous features—but that’s not the reality for all mixed people. There is no “mixed look,” we are all different, and to have a fetish for mixed people excludes many people who identify as mixed but don’t fit the general “light skin” look popularized in the media. For those of us who do look like this, fetishizing our features perpetuates colorism, something that continues to divide the communities of many people of color.
It’s important to unlearn these stereotypes and behaviors that lead to fetishes. Not only is it offensive, but it will probably cost you any sort of relationship with anyone remotely cool.
MY FIRST KISS WAS WITH A GUY WHO HAD A CRUSH ON ME TROUGH MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL.
Whether it was out of boredom or an overall lack of fish in the Long Island Sound, I finally attempted to reciprocate my senior year of high school. He responded with an unsolicited confession of every Asian girl he had found attractive since he first laid his prepubescent eyes on me.
“I don’t know; my friends say I have yellow fever or something.”
That was when I hopped out of the backseat of his mom’s Honda.
Having grown up in one of the WASP–iest parts of Long Island, I was primed to understand that the beautiful meant blonde; this, combined with the fairytale experience I had with this smooth–talker, gave me reason to believe that being called “pretty… for an Asian” was a compliment and a half. It gave me reason to think that maybe I should lower my expectations, because I had a smaller pool of available options. Here at Penn, where hookups are often casual and most definitely more accessible, I’ve (happily) discovered that the average horny male is about as likely to check me out as my blonde best friend. There’s less of a comparison—yet the concept of “yellow fever” still persists.
I have asked people—friends, even, to try to explain the distinction between Asian beauty and “normal” beauty. They say that Asians do not typically meet the standard for what society considers “hot.” We don’t typically have great ass–tributes, but at least we’re fun in bed—that is, as long as we’re in relationships. Small and submissive is a great combination, they say. Maybe it’s how we were brought up, they speculate. I personally don’t see much fault in how my mother raised me, but again, I’m not sure how submissive I am either.
I have spoken to my Asian girlfriends, who all believe strongly in the existence of yellow fever. We agree that at any rate, it is better to be hypersexualized as Asian females, than desexualized like Asian men. Yet it is bizarre and unnatural to see how some men’s views of us will change immediately upon learning that we are some percentage “exotic.” Has something changed in the last five seconds? Because none of us threw on kimonos.