Friday, April 1, 2011

"I'm just not attracted to _(insert race)_ women.": racial preferences and dating.

Black Socrates read Jenée Desmond- Harris's excellent article (found here) a year ago and I've just now come up with an answer to the normative question she raises therein: Is there anything wrong with acting on one's racial preferences when it comes to dating? (or, to be more clear, when looking for a mate on or offline, is it wrong [or " problematic" or "troubling"...choose your favorite negative normative term] to exclude some potential partners simply because of their race?)

Most people who do act on racial preferences in this way defend the practice by stating that they are not racist, but are simply not attracted to _(insert race)_ women (or men). So, the claim is this: I don't think there is anything wrong with _(insert race)_ women (or men), I'm just not attracted to them.

But is this an acceptable defense of the practice?

I think it is. No one should be blamed for not dating someone they're not attracted to. But what is blameworthy is this: approving of one's racial preferences. If one thinks that there is nothing wrong with _(insert race)_ women (or men) then one should lament the fact that one finds oneself unable to date_(insert race)_ women (or men).

One's attitude toward one's racial preferences should be similar to one's attitude toward a food allergy. If one takes it that there is nothing wrong with shrimp, say, one should lament the fact that one is unable to eat shrimp dishes due to an allergy. And, one should hop on any opportunity to rid oneself of the allergy.

But this isn't the attitude that most people take toward their racial preferences.

Most people see no problem with the fact that they have racial preferences. Most celebrate (or at least take a flippant attitude toward) their racial preferences:

"Him? No. You know I'm not feeling _(insert race)_dudes."

And, most do not make any effort to overcome their preferences (by, say, spending more time with _(insert race)_ people).

Having racial preferences is not blameworthy. Even acting on one's racial preferences when it comes to dating is not blameworthy (at least in most cases). But taking a flippant or celebratory attitude toward one's racial preferences, I contend, is blameworthy.