Interracial relationships are too often whitewashed as a step in the right direction: members of two different races transcending their tribal affiliations to form intimate connections with “the other” and in the process discovering that “the other” is not so different after all. That’s all well and good, but I think that sort of Disney-esque narrative mischaracterizes most interracial relationships and allows those minorities who have deep self-hatred issues to pat themselves on the back for being racially enlightened.
The way I see it, there are 5 evolutionary dating stages for racial minorities:
Stage 1: In this stage, we have consumed all the messages we receive on a daily basis about our race being inferior. We have digested and processed these ideas unconsciously, but they manifest in our dating selections. We seek out “the other” and avoid dating people who look like us. When we’re in this stage we will overlook someone in our own race that is a solid 8 out of 10 for someone of another race that’s a 4 out of 10. We come to see features that are inherent to our race as unattractive: i.e. Blacks that don’t like nappy hair or broader noses; Asians that don’t find “smaller eyes” attractive. Because of this and general notions of racial inferiority that are so pervasive, “the other” becomes coveted and desired and eventually required. One of the many problems with this phase is that no one knows they’re in it until they’re out of it. Most minorities I know who are in interracial relationships are in this stage but they confuse it for the more flattering Stage 5.
Stage 2: In this stage you date people in your race, but you seek out those who have features that are atypical for your race: i.e. black folks who constantly find themselves attracted to blacks with the lightest skin, or lighter eyes or straighter hair. Again, people in this category are often afflicted with both self-hatred and deep denial.
Stage 3: In this stage, you only date people of your own race. You find beauty in those that look like you, and you love the common points of cultural identification that normally accompany same-race relationships. This is a healthy stage to find yourself in, but it’s not the most evolved because often times you’re willing to overlook too many flaws in a potential partner just because they’re of the same race: maybe your partner doesn’t have the level of education you’d like in a mate, or maybe he doesn’t treat you the way you think you deserve to be treated, or he doesn’t your same spiritual values—but because your skin tones match you’re willing to overlook all that.
Stage 4: You’re usually only attracted to people of your race, but every once a while someone of a different race comes around and tickles your fancy. While you hope to be in a relationship and eventually settle down with someone of your race, if some stellar “other” comes-a-knockin’, you won’t be closed off to the opportunity. But still, being of the same race gets a potential suitor a lot of points in your book, and so again, you find yourself overlooking potentially major flaws.
Stage 5: In this ever-elusive stage, you’re equally open to any and every race. You find beauty in all races, including your own. Your exes look like a model UN. None of your friends know who you’re going to end up with, and neither do you. But you’re not just obsessed with “tasting the rainbow” and keeping up the appearance of being counter-culture. Rather, you genuinely connect with people of all races. However, VERY few people ever get to this stage, but those who do are much more likely to find happiness because they have so many more options for mates and can choose them based on authentic connections.
The problem with minorities that date interracially is that almost all of us assume we’re in Stage 5 when most are in Stage 1. So here are some signs that you might be stuck in Stage 1*:
1. None of the last 5 people you dated or had a crush on were of your race.
2. The people you check out on the streets are usually of different races.
3. You have few friends of your race.
4. In school, you refused to join your race’s affinity group (i.e. The Latino Student Association, The Black Student Association, The Asian Student Association, etc.)
While none of these are dispositive, I’ve found that people in Stage 1 usually have at least one of these characteristics.
The final problem with being in either of the first 2 stages is that because you’re so often more attracted to the idea of what “the other” represents, than you are to the actual person (granted, the two can become conflated), you run a big risk of attracting a partner that is also more attracted to the idea of you, than they are to you (see: The Secret—“Like Attracts Like”). So you get the guy with an Asian fetish, or the woman who’s looking for a Mandingo, or a Latino Lover. But you can only be attracted to an idea for so long; eventually, you’ll need someone who sees and loves who you really are and not the culturally prescribed role that you’re supposed to play.
The key sign that your mate has some kind of racial fetish, and this goes for whites as well as minorities: They have rarely been in same-race relationships, and:
1. If almost all of their exes are of the same race (i.e. a white guy who has almost exclusively dated Asian women), then they probably have a fetish for your race and you need to pack up your bags and go.
2. If their exes are of many different races but never their own (i.e. a black guy who doesn’t date black women but dates Whites, Asians, Native Americans, Latinos, etc), then they’re probably just looking for something “exotic,” and you need to not let yourself be their walk on the wild side.
As for me, when I was just a young buck I found myself in Stage 2, but that was pretty short lived. For most of my life, I’ve been in Stage 3. But within the last few years I’ve lived in a number of countries where blacks were few and far between so out of necessity I was pushed to Stage 4, and I’m glad I was. Now, I’ve been able to form a genuine connection with someone from a completely different walk of life. But instead of being mired in dysfunctional racial complexes, we’ve been able to connect in a way that transcends the confines of race and religion. Now, if we were to call it quits today, I’d almost certainly find myself trolling black gay bars just as he’d probably find himself searching profiles on JDate, so I’m not saying Stage 4 is my permanent stage, but it’s the one I find myself in today.
To be clear: I do think that the willingness to be in an interracial relationship can be indicative of a couple being racially enlightened, but for minorities it can’t be ignored that these relationships can also be a sign that we’ve become so psychologically damaged by living in a society with pervasive racism that we can no longer see our own beauty and worth. Sadly, all too often the former becomes confused for the latter and so we don’t do the work necessary to pull ourselves out of this muck. But none of these stages are immutable: someone in Stage 1 can find themselves in Stage 5 if they do the sort of difficult, introspective work required. Although the end result—being in an interracial relationship—is the same, it’s faulty to measure progress solely by looking at the destination. When it comes to love and race, the path you take really does matter.