It's all about perspective


I’m a member of a few social networking sites. Myspace, Facebook, Atheist Nexus, and a place called OkCupid. OkCupid is an entertaining site as it mashes up a dating site like Yahoo personals or with a social network site like Myspace. I have some fun on there and have met a few entertaining people. But what sucks the hours right out of my day is the forums.

Just like any forum there are varied and sometimes quixotic topics ranging from “how many drinks would it take to sleep with the poster above you” to “critique my profile.” Today though, I was looking through the forums and ran across this topic titled “In the name of God…” It was started by a thirtysomething white male in response to a few emails he had received.  Apparently the original poster (OP) specifies on his profile that he is only looking for a single white female. The person who emailed the OP inquired about this and wondered if he would be willing to “give up on all other races and possible love connections just because they are not white.” The OP responed to this by relegating his choice in skin color on his potential mate to the same level as hair and eye color, weight, or height. The woman emailing the OP brought in God and made the OP out to be a racist and herself to be more enlightened because she’s a God-fearing woman and the OP must not be. What followed has been a flurry of topic responses calling him prejudiced, racist, a bigot, and many others. There are plenty of responses that back the OP, but far more that denounce his choice of potential mates.

So I have been wondering, is this man’s exclusion of several ethnicities from his pool of potential mates based on racism or on a measurement of attraction he has no conscious control over?

Before we can answer that question, we need to define what it means to be a racist. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines racism in two ways:

  1. a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
  2. racial prejudice or discrimination

What behaviors would we have to witness in the OP to accurately define him as racist? If we believe Merriam-Webster we would have to believe and witness at least two things. If neither of these are fulfilled then the OP is probably not a racist.

  1. The OP would have to show racial preference
  2. The person must show a belief in the superiority of one race based solely on racial characteristics

Does the OP show racial preference? Yes. By his own admission he prefers white women to non-white women. Strike one.

Is the OP’s attraction to white women based on a belief that non-white women are inferior simply because they are not white? No. The OP describes his choice in skin color as merely a matter of biological taste that he can not consciously control. He does not think non-whites are inferior choices for everyone because they aren’t white, he thinks they are inferior for him. He prefers white women because he is not physically attracted to non-white women. He equates this to be as simple as being born gay or born strait. We do not choose to be gay any more than we can choose who we are attracted to.

This would lead me to believe that the OP is not a racist. However it does lead me to believe that he is prejudiced. Let me make this clear; prejudiced does not equate to racism. Remember both qualifiers have to be fulfilled before we can call someone a racist. Prejudiced views are a part of the equation but not the only part. He is prejudiced because he allows his strong attraction for white women to allow him to pre-judge a large portion of the population. This prevents him from meeting potential mates and shrinks his potential for gene dispersal. A foolish attitude at best and disasterous attitude at worse.

I wonder if we’re throwing around racist when prejudiced would do?

There is also the part about god that the original emailer brought up. How utterly silly to think that the OP’s biological urges can be fixed by some transient figment of someone else’s imagination. Just like the billboards say: “There is no god. Now stop worrying and get on with your life.”

Comments on: "Racism?" (9)

  1. hellenistic said:

    I am inclined to think that prejudice may be a better term here. When people talk of racism I believe that they are specifically addressing attitudes and behaviors that put people of a certain race at a disadvantage. When race is the sole criteria used to judge an individual it can be a problem, but it is really no one’s business until the moment that such thoughts are used to detrimentally affect the rights and liberties of others.

    In this case the only person put at a disadvantage is the one holding the opinion. Unless his detractors want to argue that he is such an amazing man that his refusal to accept a woman of any race is an actual violation of some inherent rights of theirs, they don’t really have much to stand on.

    • You would be correct and is what I concluded at the end of the post. You bring up another great subject in your second paragraph. Why is he so important? Is this person so attractive to non-white females that they feel disadvantaged because of his prejudice or are they just offended that he displays his prejudice so blatantly?

      Thank you for your input!

  2. Well we really don’t know why the OP made his choice, do we now? He could say all sorts of politically correct things but in reality be a raging white supremacist. Of course, more likely, he’s just sticking to what he knows best and treating skin color like any other attribute but I had to bring up that possibility.

    However, his choice is probably learned rather than made unconsciously and outside his control. We know that in the ancient past, before city states, before nations, before empires, humans mated with whoever looked healthy and was available. We learned the idea of “sticking to your own kind” and “not sleeping around with outsiders” with the rise of urbanization and multi-generational tribalism. If you blame anyone for this, blame his parents.

    PS: I would argue that the person who brought God into the discussion has dragged it down to an obscene level. Let’s leave deities out of it and using a charge of bigotry to make oneself look morally superior is just not right.

    • Yes gfish, he could be a raging nazi, but we must take him at his word unfortunately. Also, without a more in-depth study of his history and character, I had no basis for thinking it might have been learned. I’m not discounting the possibility that you are more than likely correct. I was just checking the waters of a case study.

      However his concept of unconscious choice is not without merit. If you believe, as I do, that sexual preference is genetic and not conscious then the possibility of skin preference being caused by something other than institutionalized racism is quite high.

      Thank you for the input!

  3. hellenistic said:

    On the subject of “learned” preferences, well I am tempted to say “of course”. Everything we do is colored by our past experiences and upbringing. I would go on to argue that this does not make it any more conscious than a genetic predisposition, nor does is it a bad thing we should blame on the parents.

    Let me ask this question:

    Is selecting a mate based on hair color, gender, weight or other factors an example of “bad bias”?

    In my opinion regardless of whether it is skin tone or hair color to judge someone on external appearance is somewhat superficial…as well as absolutely understandable and strongly rooted in basic biology.

    • In answer to your question; no I don’t think its bad bias. Genes are prejudiced and selfish and I don’t find anything wrong with that.

      I think what you talking about is the root of the issue though. We have the ability to override our biology by thought. Does it become racism because we choose to follow our biology? Or, in choosing not to follow our biology, does that somehow us “better” than those who do not? I would say definitely not to the latter, but a slippery slope on the former.

      Great points hellenistic.

  4. If you believe, as I do, that sexual preference is genetic and not conscious then the possibility of skin preference being caused by something other than institutionalized racism is quite high.

    Genetic encoding for sexual preference plays a key role in determining sexual orientation. I don’t believe I’ve seen any evidence there are genes that make us prefer say, pale redheads over tanned brunettes. If anything, nature should make us attracted to all sorts of people because variety fuels evolution and makes a species much more resilient.

    Here’s a cultural example: I was raised in the former USSR where racism in the US was a frequent propaganda point of how evil and intolerant that States were. Later in life, I had relationships with people well outside my ethnicity, which as it turns out is a huge deal in the US but very common in Europe, almost mundane in fact.

  5. […] on August 8, 2009 at 5:11 pm So I want to talk about race. I’ve done this before, but in my previous post I only talked about science and splitting hairs between the definitions. This time, I want to talk […]

  6. […] I want to talk about race. I’ve done this before, but in my previous post I only talked about science and splitting hairs between the definitions. This time, I want to talk […]

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