Polyamory and Ethnicity

northhome

New member
Your pheremones fit into each other's brains differently depending on your sex. Of COURSE those things are going to fundamentally affect attraction! Color, on the other hand, is cosmetic.

It's not comparable.

I recently met a Chinese woman who told me she should would never have a relationship with a white man because of the way white people smell.

I wonder, is she racist, or is she simply noticing that there are differences that affect attraction?
 

nycindie

Active member
I recently met a Chinese woman who told me she should would never have a relationship with a white man because of the way white people smell.

I wonder, is she racist, or is she simply noticing that there are differences that affect attraction?

I think that statement is part of racist conditioning. I have heard white people say the same thing about black people - that they smell different, or funny, or strange. I think someone saying that a certain race turns them off because of how they smell is like equating that with garbage or something not as clean or as human as they are. It's different than being turned off by someone's cologne or garlic breath.
 

Helo

New member
Actually, I think this is a complex enough issue that you can't boil it down to such a basic question. I continue to disagree that it makes any sense to conflate hair and eye color with race, just to stick with that example. Within living memory, in our country, it was ILLEGAL for people of different races to marry. It has never been illegal for people of different eye colors to marry. Several generations ago, many white people in America considered the idea of one of their children getting involved with a black person to be, not just illegal and immoral, but distasteful, cause for *violence*. We are still struggling, as a society, with those hateful prejudices -- we've come a very, very long way, but there's too much history there, too much racism that still exists, to say that we're over it as a society. Eye color and skin color, when it comes to who we consider acceptable mates, are not the same in our societal context.
The only thing I can really do is disagree and repeat myself, I feel like we're not going to agree on this point.

It doesn't make me comfortable either, but unfortunately, it's a real thing -- http://www.livescience.com/16339-culture-racism.html

Where personal responsibility comes into it, is that you can choose to face this uncomfortable fact about what it means to have been raised in our society, work to understand it, identify where it might exist in your own life or the lives of those around you, and attempt to confront it, break it down, change it. We can make a better society by taking personal responsibility, even for the things that we didn't ask for.
I'm sorry I just don't buy the unconscious racism. I'm fully prepared to accept that some people have cultural biases towards "their own" and that plays out as unconscious bias or discomfort around a diverse environment but to call it full-blown racism, I dont see any basis for that.

Racism is out-and-out hatred for a different racial group and discomfort from lack of knowledge based on experience is not even on the same street.

One could choose to use it as an accusation to shut down conversation, sure. But that wouldn't be fair or cool, and you would deserve to be called out for it. I don't think that just because we acknowledge that unconscious racism is real, it means that people must automatically get away with using it as a brickbat to shut down others. I don't see how that follows at all, actually. Any time you make an argument, you need to back it up with why you think it is the case.
It automatically shuts down a conversation.

Joe: "You wouldn't understand, you're racist."
Jack: "What? I have friends of different ethnicities, I've dated women who were of a different ethnic group, I live in a heavily ethnic neighborhood, how am I racist?"
Joe: "Its unconscious racism."

What then can you say to that? You cant deny it because its something that you apparently cant sense and your examples of how you're not racist don't do anything against it. Even if you accept it, what do you do about it? When are you NOT unconsciously racist anymore? Do you have to go back to the original diagnoser for another test or can you just ask a whole bunch of people?

I'm against the idea that someone with zero training in ANYTHING can slap a label on someone else that has some very serious social ramifications that the target then cannot dispute without digging the label in deeper nor can they do anything to "fix" the problem themselves without the approval of others. It basically turns into a tool of marginalization for someone you dislike or disagree with and I'm not cool with that.

Skin and hair color are superficial characteristics that denote no real difference between people beyond exceedingly minor things, like, say, susceptibility to a particular genetic disease. There are infinite permutations of race when different ethnic groups blend, there is no clear dividing line. Sex (while it can be a broad and fluid spectrum with many exceptions and variations), in general, represents two distinct, real categories with physical, hormonal, pheremonal differences. Your parts fit together differently, depending on your sex. Your pheremones fit into each other's brains differently depending on your sex. Of COURSE those things are going to fundamentally affect attraction! Color, on the other hand, is cosmetic.

It's not comparable.
As I said before, I dont think we're going to see agreement on this point.
 

Hades36

New member
@Helo

So you also do not believe in unconscious sexism, ageism, nationalism, cultural bias, etc.?

I mean, its cool if you don't. Hey, live and live, right? But I tend to go with the idea that a lot of our behavior is shaped by unconscious forces that, if not examined, can cause us a lot of problems in life.

But, about the racism thing...

Not sure if preference based on our own personal Imago can be considered racist, at least not reasonably. I've never been that attracted to pale, skinny women because I really like thick, curvy women with dark hair. Doesn't matter if they are thick and curvy Polynesians, Puerto Ricans, Italians, Blacks, etc. I don't think that makes me a racist, although I KNOW that I have some racist beliefs (as do we all, America!) that I have been working on...mostly towards my own race (LOL).
 

Helo

New member
@Helo

So you also do not believe in unconscious sexism, ageism, nationalism, cultural bias, etc.?

I mean, its cool if you don't. Hey, live and live, right? But I tend to go with the idea that a lot of our behavior is shaped by unconscious forces that, if not examined, can cause us a lot of problems in life.
I think we need to stick to the dictionary definition of racism and its especially important that we do that because this is such a loaded term.

Racism is defined, basically, as "hatred or intolerance of another race or other races." That's a very active and aware statement. I've always preferred the distinction between ignorance and racist as such; ignorant means you don't know any better but you're willing to learn, racist means you DO know better but you're deliberately ignoring it.

Cultural bias is not the same thing as racism though I do accept that bias of all types exists, I just wouldn't put it on the same level as racism.

When you have a label like "unconscious racism" then, as I said, its a completely indefensible and invisible accusation and ultimately I feel creates even more of a divide between people because they want to avoid being "unconsciously racist." If you've got a situation where people are so nervous about talking with each other, you've made the situation worse than if you just sat down and said "Yeah, we're all biased, as long as it doesn't effect good sense, who cares?"
 

Emm

Stealth Mod
How about "you don't know any better and you don't realise there is anything to learn"?

In this case your* actions are still racist and you're making no effort to change them. If someone calls you out on your behaviour there's a chance you might realise you have unconscious prejudices and start trying to learn, moving from Unconscious to Ignorant on the Helo Scale. If everyone avoids mentioning it because it might make you nervous then you're being denied the opportunity to learn and instead go though life with everyone thinking of you as a bit of an arsehole.

* generic "you", not you personally.
 

AnnabelMore

Active member
The only thing I can really do is disagree and repeat myself, I feel like we're not going to agree on this point.

It seems like you're right that we're not going to agree, and I don't care for a pointless back-and-forth either, though how you can put difference in hair color on the same plane as difference in skin color in our cultural context, I really don't know. I mean, I did explain why I think they're different, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts in response as to why they're not?

I'm sorry I just don't buy the unconscious racism. I'm fully prepared to accept that some people have cultural biases towards "their own" and that plays out as unconscious bias or discomfort around a diverse environment but to call it full-blown racism, I dont see any basis for that.

Ok, again, would you care to explain why you don't buy into the concept? There are many more studies out there, not just the one I linked. I didn't make this up as a talking point

It automatically shuts down a conversation.

Joe: "You wouldn't understand, you're racist."
Jack: "What? I have friends of different ethnicities, I've dated women who were of a different ethnic group, I live in a heavily ethnic neighborhood, how am I racist?"
Joe: "Its unconscious racism."

What then can you say to that? You cant deny it because its something that you apparently cant sense and your examples of how you're not racist don't do anything against it. Even if you accept it, what do you do about it? When are you NOT unconsciously racist anymore? Do you have to go back to the original diagnoser for another test or can you just ask a whole bunch of people?

Anyone who would talk like Joe in your example would be being a jerk. I mean, I'm talking about the concept of unconscious racism, am I talking like Joe, throwing out accusations and refusing to back them up? No, I'm positing suggestions, saying it would be worth considering why something would be the case, and explaining my position. As for what you can say, you can say "I disagree, and if you're not willing to back up your point, then you're not interested in having a real discussion." Then, if the person with whom you're speaking does convince you that there's something you ought to consider, it's on YOU to consider it. YOU figure it out for yourself, by reading, thinking, examining yourself. Sure, you can talk to other people but they can't "diagnose" you nor "test" you.

I completely get it, as someone who was raised to be fair-minded it SUCKS to think that one might be walking around with prejudices banging around in your head. But then, for example (this is a real example from my life), a friend wants to transition genders and you have a knee-jerk negative reaction and then you realize you have a bunch of stuff to learn about and work through. Or maybe you realize that, despite living in an ethnically mixed society, you've never once been attracted to a black person, even ones who would have been perfect for you, and you have to step back and say "Huh, what is this about, is it a matter of prejudice?" and you just start being conscious of it and actively considering black people as potential partners and see if anything changes. Maybe, in the end, it won't, maybe it really IS just like a preference for blonds -- but why not consider the idea that there's something else going on? Is the thought that threatening?

The brain is elastic. Our families, and our societies, imprint it with ALL sorts of things. We can choose to create new imprints that match OUR values, if we want to.

I'm against the idea that someone with zero training in ANYTHING can slap a label on someone else that has some very serious social ramifications that the target then cannot dispute without digging the label in deeper nor can they do anything to "fix" the problem themselves without the approval of others. It basically turns into a tool of marginalization for someone you dislike or disagree with and I'm not cool with that.

It's really not about trying to slap labels on people, I promise. If that's what I'm doing, for example, please show me where I did. I don't see why we should avoid discussing something that science has proven is real, just because someone *could* try to use it as a conversational weapon -- in which case we can just call them on what they're doing! If we don't talk about hard topics, how can we deal with them?
 

SkylerSquirrel

New member
Okay, so here's a question about the unconscious racism thing as far as being attracted to people of a certain race.

What if you're not attracted to people of other races, but it's in the context of only being attracted to people like you?

As in, you not only prefer your own race, but your own height, your own body type, your own age, etc.?

Is that still unconscious racism?
 

AnnabelMore

Active member
Okay, so here's a question about the unconscious racism thing as far as being attracted to people of a certain race.

What if you're not attracted to people of other races, but it's in the context of only being attracted to people like you?

As in, you not only prefer your own race, but your own height, your own body type, your own age, etc.?

Is that still unconscious racism?

I can't look inside anyone's brain, especially not a hypothetical person's, so how could I say what's going on in their unconscious mind? If I had to try to say what's going on with someone who only wants to be involved with someone else exactly like them, I guess maybe they're a narcissist?

Just to be perfectly clear, my thinking is that if you cross people off your possible-partners list based solely on skin color, 1) that's kinda messed up, imho, people are unique individuals and you never know who might be right for you, you could be missing out on someone amazing because of this really random cosmetic thing, maybe you should try to get over it, and 2) it may well be due to... call it bias, prejudice, racism, whatever term you prefer... negative associations with people of that skin color, that you might not consciously think about, and that it is a good idea to take a hard look inside and work to figure out if that could be the case.

Since this concept seems to have caused some controversy, let's remove the issue from the touchy subject of partner selection and look at it in a different context. Case in point -- http://mblogs.discovermagazine.com/...ination-against-muslims-in-french-job-market/

Did those HR people realize they were pre-judging Muslims as less fit employees? Perhaps some did, but I would imagine in many cases, or at LEAST in some, probably not, they probably didn't realize they were discriminating and would have told you they judged everyone fairly and believed it. And yet they would have been missing out on perfectly well-qualified people that they otherwise would have liked to have had in their company, solely because of a bias -- a bias they weren't even conscious of!
 

Helo

New member
It seems like you're right that we're not going to agree, and I don't care for a pointless back-and-forth either, though how you can put difference in hair color on the same plane as difference in skin color in our cultural context, I really don't know. I mean, I did explain why I think they're different, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts in response as to why they're not?
I would put sexuality and race as closer points of comparison though I do feel hair color is still within the ballpark. Different races have different physical characteristics and refusing to date someone because they "look too Asian" is basically the same net effect as refusing to date someone because they're Asian. That and the definition of racism does not encompass the idea of unconscious racism; racism is defined as a hatred of other racial groups. Avoiding dating or sleeping with a specific racial group that you otherwise have no problem with does not indicate hatred.

Ok, again, would you care to explain why you don't buy into the concept? There are many more studies out there, not just the one I linked. I didn't make this up as a talking point
I already have; its basically a bomb you can drop that nobody can defend against or get rid of once its been dropped.

The link you provided didnt actually have a study in it, it talked about a study but I didnt see any information about the study itself.

Anyone who would talk like Joe in your example would be being a jerk. I mean, I'm talking about the concept of unconscious racism, am I talking like Joe, throwing out accusations and refusing to back them up? No, I'm positing suggestions, saying it would be worth considering why something would be the case, and explaining my position. As for what you can say, you can say "I disagree, and if you're not willing to back up your point, then you're not interested in having a real discussion." Then, if the person with whom you're speaking does convince you that there's something you ought to consider, it's on YOU to consider it. YOU figure it out for yourself, by reading, thinking, examining yourself. Sure, you can talk to other people but they can't "diagnose" you nor "test" you.
That's the way you intend the use of the term and I totally understand it but that isnt the way it gets used or understood. People use the term "racist" the way Joe does every day and its frustrating as hell because it shuts the conversation down and you can call the other guy a dick for doing it as much as you want but at the end of the day you've still been called a racist and in our society, that's a hard label to get away from.

Its comparable to negative ads in political campaigns; we all dislike them, we all complain about them, we know 90% of them are bullshit, but at the end of the day, they still work.

I completely get it, as someone who was raised to be fair-minded it SUCKS to think that one might be walking around with prejudices banging around in your head. But then, for example (this is a real example from my life), a friend wants to transition genders and you have a knee-jerk negative reaction and then you realize you have a bunch of stuff to learn about and work through. Or maybe you realize that, despite living in an ethnically mixed society, you've never once been attracted to a black person, even ones who would have been perfect for you, and you have to step back and say "Huh, what is this about, is it a matter of prejudice?" and you just start being conscious of it and actively considering black people as potential partners and see if anything changes. Maybe, in the end, it won't, maybe it really IS just like a preference for blonds -- but why not consider the idea that there's something else going on? Is the thought that threatening?
I dont think its right to call that kind of thing racism though, as I've said before the term racism (or genderism or sexism as the case may be) means a HATRED of other races (or genders or sexual orientations) and simply being a little uncomfortable or unsteady around someone of a different group than you because it runs contrary to your social programming or you have little to no experience being around members of that group does not equate to hatred.

I've worked with someone in the past who preferred to be considered sexless and be referred to as "it" instead of "she" as well as taking a gender-neutral name. It was incredibly hard dealing with this person because their mode of communication when it came to pronouns was so different I had never experienced it before and I was extremely uncomfortable referring to her as "it" because to me that was an insulting thing to do. I was uncomfortable talking to her because I had to basically completely re-write my social programming to do so and I never knew if I was going to say something that was accidentally offensive. I got used to it after a while but other than a mild discomfort for the risk of insult and an irritation at the English language for not being more pliable (something I often complain about with polyamory), I had no problems with her as a human being. I certainly didn't HATE her.

Dealing with her was outside of my communicative and experiential norms which caused stress. If you have someone who is in a similar position except with a racial group instead of people who choose to identify as genderless, I dont think its right to drop the "racism" bomb because, as I have said, racism is defined as hatred and denotes a willful hatred of a racial group and in that person's case there is no hatred.

It's really not about trying to slap labels on people, I promise. If that's what I'm doing, for example, please show me where I did. I don't see why we should avoid discussing something that science has proven is real, just because someone *could* try to use it as a conversational weapon -- in which case we can just call them on what they're doing! If we don't talk about hard topics, how can we deal with them?
I dont think you specifically are, I understand that you have no ill-will towards anyone but we have to look at the letter AND the spirit of our words. Its not intended to be a verbal weapon but it WILL be used that way and I feel that is a great detriment to our ability to communicate with people who are different than ourselves. Adding the "unconscious" part exacerbates it because its something you personally aren't aware of and cant really "fix" on your own.
 

AnnabelMore

Active member
Ah, gotcha. It honestly hadn't occurred to me that "it's too dangerous of a conversational tool" was meant to argue the case for "it doesn't exist", which is what I took "I don't buy into it" to mean.

You were right about that link, I grabbed it quickly. Here are a few actual studies, then:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1374497
http://newswise.com/articles/study-...ation-with-patients-dissatisfaction-with-care
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-06/uow-ssv061709.php
http://www.news-medical.net/news/20...ias-may-affect-pain-medication-decisions.aspx
http://m.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474

As you can see, this is about a lot more than partner selection. Let's say you're right, let's say many/most people are going to use the concept to shut down others in conversation. I think the chance that someone might get unfairly shut down in conversation if we talk about this issue is not nearly as significant as the chance that we might help society make fairer choices on so many different levels if we talk about this issue. I mean, is one person's conversational comfort really equivalent to another person's chance for employment, better medical care, fairer sentencing terms? But then, I'm in favor of communication when it comes to almost everything -- which helps with poly, generally. :D

I'm really not a fan of arguing semantics though, so if that's the issue (note, for the record, that in my first post on the topic, I said prejudice, not racism), let me reframe my argument:
As little as we'd like to believe it, a critical mass of both studies and anecdotal evidence have shown that many of us carry biases related to characteristics such as race, of which we may not be aware. These biases can affect everything from partner choice, to hiring decisions, to things like how doctors and judges make their decisions. If you notice that you seem to exhibit such a bias in one area of your life, chances are good you may be employing it in others as well. In order to create a more egalitarian world, and a self that acts more in accordance with your ideals, you may wish to examine your actions and attitudes, in every area, including, say, who you invite to your parties and who you consider a viable partner. These things may seem inconsequential, but if you can break down bias in one area of your life, perhaps it will lessen or disappear in others as well. Food for thought.
 

Anek

New member
I grew up and live in Europe, and while it's most definitely not a place free of prejudices, it also doesn't have the historical baggage that the US has when it comes to race.
So when it comes to my "programming", I am probably not that influenced by the social rules that apply to the US, and at the same time I never found myself attracted to someone belonging to a different race. Is this racism? Because if I ran into someone I liked, I'd have no problems making friends with them regardless of their skin colour, but it so happens that the physical caracteristics that are typical of non-white races are just not appealing to me and therefore I would most probably never want to date them.

And here I definitely make the connection with hair colour or height: some people are just not attractive to me and I would not date them. They can all be grouped under one defining caracteristic (i.e. red hair, or short, or dark skin tone). Is it a prejudice? Is it racism? I call it personal preference.
 

Prettylipsb

New member
This has been my concern as well. I am African-American and so is my partner. I am not opposed to meeting other couples of a different race or culture. I was in a interracial relationship for 13 years and produced 5 beautiful children from it. I do have my reservations about how other poly couples would see me. Every show or documentary I have watched on poly is all with "white couples". Am I just being paranoid?
 

AggieSez

New member
I think the issue of negative racial/ethnic stereotypes plays a big role in why many non-white people who have poly or open relationships choose to not be "out" about that, whether they privately label themselves that way or not.

Specifically, there's a stereotype that black and Hispanic people (male and female) are hypersexual. Therefore, if a black or Hispanic person has more than one intimate partner, that may be construed as being due to (or at least evidence for) that stereotype.

Similarly, there's a stereotype of Asian females being eager to please/serve sexually, which can lead ignorant people to assume they are "easy." Again, an Asian woman who has multiple partners might be constructed as evidence of that stereotype.

Stereotypes are the crutch of weak and lazy minds. I despise them. But I can understand why people who are subject to being prejudged on the basis of stereotypes might be hesitant to identify with or be public about choices that may seem to correlate with those stereotypes.
 
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derobi74

New member
Curious

I am a 38 yr old black female who has been curious about polyamorous relationships for a while. I finally decided to try and reach out to others living that lifestyle to see if I can get some feedback. I have to admit that I wasn't sure about the whole race thing but I finally realized that I cannot possibly be the only black woman curious about loving more than one man and all three having an honest relationship in that.:) Any advice or info sources you could recommend on this lifestyle would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
 

Sannafrid

New member
My observations are only anecdotal, but the overwhelming majority of people I know in the poly community are white. The only exception I can think of is my secondary, who is Native American. But yeah. My primary, tertiary, all of my metas, all of my poly friends and their partners, and I are white. Maybe it's because white people have more societal privilege, and it's easier for us to get away with defying mainstream dating and mating behaviors? Just a guess.
 

Emm

Stealth Mod
Most of my local openly poly community seem to be various shades of white, however one of my partners is of (Subcontinental) Indian decent and his wife (also poly) is half Chinese.
 
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