Polyamory and Ethnicity

Hades36

New member
One question for all of the White people on here who said that, yes, most of the people they have observed in poly are also White...

How often and deeply do you engage with Black people? Do you attend Black events? Have more than 1 Black friend? Go to Black clubs? Have intimate conversations with more than the 1 Black friend?

Just curious. I find that people often make judgments about other races without ever having actually engaged with that other race in a meaningful way over a longer period of time than, say, a vacation or happy hour. I learned that lesson last year when my stereotypes about Asian women were shattered after spending some considerable time with our Cambodian community here in Philly.

Do you folks actually engage with Black people in deep, meaningful ways that would allow you to see these patterns of intimacy and relationship? Or are you just going by what you observe from a distance?

:confused:
 

Alleycat

New member
Locally, most of the (organised) poly community seems to be white, (or mixed-race) by majority with a sprinkling of exceptions. They also seem to be mostly middle class working folks (mostly white collar, with a few blue collar or trades in the mix) and in the 25 - 35 age group.

As a side note nearly 90% of the local poly population seems to be obsessed with Dr. Who.

But that also reflects the general population of the city I live in, and more specifically the area of the city I live in, So I don't believe that those observations indicate that poly is a predominantly "white phenomenon" any more than it would indicate that poly is a "Dr. Who fan phenomenon".
 

nondy2

New member
I didn't read the entire thread, but most. There is a "trick" question on OK Cupid that says "would you date outside your race?" I STUPIDLY said No because I'm into skinny white young guys...but someone wrote me and was like this put up a red flag for me, my GF is black. OK, I'm not racist. Both my son and husband have black girlfriends -- but I'm attracted to white boys- so am I racist? I certainly don't mean to be!

What is interesting to me is that so many people would never THINK of dating someone with a physical disability which to me is akin to not wanting to date someone of a certain race. Being able to see past, say a limp or a wheelchair, is the same to me a seeing past color. There is another question on cupid that's totally ableist. It says, "should people with a low iQ be able to procreate?" Well, that's supposed to be funny, I guess, but it isn't when you think of the years until the 1980s of forced sterilization of mentally disabled women.

So, I guess I should be open to dating someone of a different race...because I would like people to be able to see past bodily differences (such as not walking or different speech).
 

Alleycat

New member
One question for all of the White people on here who said that, yes, most of the people they have observed in poly are also White...

How often and deeply do you engage with Black people? Do you attend Black events? Have more than 1 Black friend? Go to Black clubs? Have intimate conversations with more than the 1 Black friend?

-Occasionally.

-What is a "black" event?

-Yes I have a few friends that identify as African decent of some kind or another.

-No. I don't believe there are many race-segregated clubs in my area.

-Occasionally.

I don't go out of my way to mix soscially with people of other cultures, at the same time I don't go out of my way to avoid mixing soscially with folks who come from and identify as a dufferent cultural or racial background.

The singular exception being that I will tend to avoid people who use their anscestory or the wrongdoings of someone elses anscestors as a singular topic of conversation or identity.

Same with people who do the same with gender, sexual orientation, religion, politics, body type, taste in music, cuisine, operating system preference, shoe size or anything else that people will use to create a victim-hood persona (or worse, the reverse victim/worldly accepting/etc) as a center to their identity.
 

Helo

New member
One question for all of the White people on here who said that, yes, most of the people they have observed in poly are also White...

How often and deeply do you engage with Black people? Do you attend Black events? Have more than 1 Black friend? Go to Black clubs? Have intimate conversations with more than the 1 Black friend?

-Not often.

-I have to echo Alleycat and ask what exactly a "Black event" is.

-I have two or three, I wouldn't call them close friends though.

-Again, not entirely sure what constitutes a "Black club" but no. I actually dont go to ANY clubs.

-I have in the past.

Just curious. I find that people often make judgments about other races without ever having actually engaged with that other race in a meaningful way over a longer period of time than, say, a vacation or happy hour.
I don't think anyone here is making judgement about other racial groups. I've seen some people present theories as to why their experiences of the poly community are what they are but I dont think anyone is actually passing judgement.

Do you folks actually engage with Black people in deep, meaningful ways that would allow you to see these patterns of intimacy and relationship? Or are you just going by what you observe from a distance? :confused:
I actually couldn't answer that one way or the other because I don't engage or ignore people based on race. I'll talk to anyone and if they're interesting/appealing/attractive then I'll keep talking to them, race rarely if ever enters into the equation.

For some perspective, I'm that white dude that people tend to look at like he's loco because he's happily strolling around a neighborhood that is 90-95% an ethnic group he isn't and smiling at people.
 
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Tonberry

New member
I don't hang out with black people that often. I have a few black close friends, and a few coworker-type people I see very often but don't interact in any deep or meaningful way.

But I think that's beside the point. I didn't take all the people I know and say "out of all the black people I know, not many are polyamorous". Because, how would I know that?

What I did was think of polyamorous events I've been to (events that were not race-specific) and what kind of people attended. And the huge majority of them were caucasian.

So from my small, not very representative perspective, most poly people I interacted with as poly people were white.

Doesn't mean other races aren't poly. Just that they don't go to the same meetings I went to.

I too have no clue what a black club or a black event are.
 

nycindie

Active member
One question for all of the White people on here who said that, yes, most of the people they have observed in poly are also White...

How often and deeply do you engage with Black people? Do you attend Black events? Have more than 1 Black friend? Go to Black clubs? Have intimate conversations with more than the 1 Black friend?

Just curious. I find that people often make judgments about other races without ever having actually engaged with that other race in a meaningful way over a longer period of time than, say, a vacation or happy hour.

I am a bit confused. Are you saying that simply because some of us have said that we've observed mostly white people at poly events or in our local poly communities, that we are making judgments about anyone who isn't white? Wasn't the OP just asking us what our experiences were? Are we somehow at fault for something we've experienced or observed? Was I supposed to go out and look for black poly people when I saw there were very few at the poly events I've attended?

I feel like your questions seem a little accusatory or are meant to be provocative, so I don't think I want to answer any of them. It seems you have drawn your own conclusion already... about something. Or am I misreading you?
 
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Hades36

New member
Several of you have suggested that Black people do not participate in polyamory the same way White people do, or that poly "seems" to be a primarily White phenomenon. My point is that, if you do not engage with Black people on a regular basis, how would you even know?

If I have to explain what a "Black event" or "Black club" is, then the conversation is already over. Sorry. I'm not trying to educate people about Black culture. Replace the words with "Lesbian club" or "Asian event" or "Poly event" or "Transgendered club" if you like...

@Helo: Sorry, but the fact that you are not even willing to discuss patterns of unconscious racism or bias also means that I'm not even sure how we can have a meaningful discussion about race or whether or not we engage or ignore people based on it. Deciding to ignore a huge component of the researched, verified, and scientifically proven phenomenon because it is uncomfortable to deal with completely removes the foundation, at least for me, to have any kind of productive discussion about race. It would be like me telling a woman that I do not believe there is a such thing as male privilege and unconscious sexism but then wanting to talk about gender issues. I'm not trying to be offensive, but I know I can't have that discussion with you in particular, Helo.

@nycindie: No, not being accusatory or provocative. I just want to know how much interaction any of you actually have with Black people so that I can understand where you are seeing/not seeing polyamory being explored by them.

I had not come to any conclusion which is why I was asking the question, but the answers I got definitely confirmed what I suspected anyways.
 
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RfromRMC

New member
One idea that has been thrown around in our poly group and in other minority groups I am involved in is that anyone who is already part of a marginalized minority is at higher risk by being "out" about belonging to another marginalized minority.
Therefore-with the higher risk-they may be unable to safely be out.

For example, someone who is LGBT is at risk of discrimination.
But, someone who is LGBT and black is at a higher risk of discrimination-because they risk being discriminated for both being a minority=black and a minority=LGBT.
Someone who is LGBT, black and a woman has even higher as woman=minority, black=minority and LGBT=minority.
An LGBT, black, female, poly.... at that point the risk of losing work, home, personal safety is so high that it is literally mind-boggling the life risk they would be taking.

I tend to think there is probably a lot of truth to that concept. It makes sense to me and I've seen how it works with people who are racially, gender, sexual preference minorities in our community. :(

This is the most spot-on answer, IMO. Well-done. This is definitely what I've noticed in my local poly community regarding who feels comfortable embracing poly as an identity.
As a gay poly guy, I agree the idea of being a "Minority inside a minority" is definitely a real challenge to consider.
 

Helo

New member
Several of you have suggested that Black people do not participate in polyamory the same way White people do, or that poly "seems" to be a primarily White phenomenon. My point is that, if you do not engage with Black people on a regular basis, how would you even know?
People are speaking from their personal experiences with what they see. I dont think anyone here is extending what they see across the entire community and saying that because THEY only see white people, then only white people must be poly.

If I have to explain what a "Black event" or "Black club" is, then the conversation is already over. Sorry. I'm not trying to educate people about Black culture. Replace the words with "Lesbian club" or "Asian event" or "Poly event" or "Transgendered club" if you like...
Again I dont understand what an XYZ event is. Are you talking about an event that is largely attended by XYZ group, one that is meant specifically for XYZ group?

@Helo: Sorry, but the fact that you are not even willing to discuss patterns of unconscious racism or bias also means that I'm not even sure how we can have a meaningful discussion about race or whether or not we engage or ignore people based on it. Deciding to ignore a huge component of the researched, verified, and scientifically proven phenomenon because it is uncomfortable to deal with completely removes the foundation, at least for me, to have any kind of productive discussion about race. It would be like me telling a woman that I do not believe there is a such thing as male privilege and unconscious sexism but then wanting to talk about gender issues. I'm not trying to be offensive, but I know I can't have that discussion with you in particular, Helo.
No offense taken, I just find the idea of something so mysterious that it cant readily be tested for except by others to be suspect. I'm aware of the research, both from my own reading and what you posted, and I don't see any conclusion other than a bias based on lack of experience that I wouldn't even begin to call racism.

I think focusing on it and trying to legitimize it harms attempts to communicate across racial barriers and reinforces people's reluctance to cross them because they dont want to pick up this invisible disease of "unconscious racism." Its not about what makes me comfortable or uncomfortable, I think the people who advance this as a real phenomenon are taking something that really doesn't qualify as racism and putting it in that category.

Its toeing the borders of the idea that "only white people can be racist because racism implies an imbalance of power and since white people have more power than non-whites, only whites can be racist."

I had not come to any conclusion which is why I was asking the question, but the answers I got definitely confirmed what I suspected anyways.
Well...you obviously had come to SOME conclusion because you suspected a specific outcome and it was confirmed.

I think you're missing the fact that most of us don't focus on race and, frankly, I think its really unhealthy to have such a forefront focus on race when you're dealing with people because you create a situation where people are so nervous about accidentally doing something to get them called a racist that they don't want to interact with people outside their racial group. It makes problems of racism and bias worse.

As I said, most of us here (I cant speak for everyone) don't focus on race here at all when it comes to partners or people to interact with. You're right, I don't interact with black people a lot. I live in a very heavily Latino neighborhood, there are not a lot of black people around and I'm not going to go looking for them to fulfill some imaginary quota so I get to feel like I'm fighting my unconscious racist tendencies.
 

Tonberry

New member
My main concern with your question of whether we attend Black events or Black clubs is... I'm white. If an event or club says "we're for black people", I'm going to respect that. I mean, they don't need me crashing their party. Once again, I've never encountered one (and I asked around my black friends and they're not aware of them either. Could it be a US thing?), but I've seen that with, say, male-only events or single events or family events.

If an event is organised for a group I'm not a part of, I'll stay out of it out of respect, not because I'm close-minded.
 

Hades36

New member
@Helo

I understand and respect what you are saying about how unconscious racism could possibly make discussing race even more difficult and tense. But, in my own experience, being aware of my unconscious racism (and sexism, and homophobia) have helped me dig deep, grab some of the uglier parts of myself, drag them out into the light, and work together with others to build community and healing. So, in my case, it was not something that made talking about my own biases more difficult; it actually helped me unpack and decode some of the messages that were a fundamental part of my upbringing. Being raised in a Black, Christian family by a Southern father and bi-racial mother definitely affected me in a number of ways, some of which I did not even realize until I married a White woman. There were definitely some unconscious beliefs I had about race and gender that didn't come to the forefront until we were in counseling, and even then I resisted dealing with them until I hit a crisis point.

But, I digress, I understand you don't believe in unconscious stuff so (shrug) its cool.

About the Black events and Black clubs or whatever...

Yes, there are bars/clubs in Philly where 99% of the customers are consistently Black (or Latino, or gay, or Cambodian, etc). These places, as I imagine most businesses across the nation, realize that their customer base fits a certain demographic and so they make sure that the decor, music, food, etc. is stuff that will appeal to that demographic. At the few Latino bars I have been in, the music is always Latin, the food is Latin, most of the people are speaking Spanish, etc. The gay bar I have gone to is geared towards gay men, so the music, art, and live entertainment are all for that demographic. And so on.

Black events, like any other event for any demographic, are focused primarily on celebrating the cultural uniqueness of that particular group. The Odunde festival in Philly is a celebration of African culture that draws thousands of predominantly African/African-American people from all over the region. The entertainment, food, products being sold, speeches, and workshops are all targeted at that demographic...so you get things like African drumming and African jewelry making workshops, speeches about the need for a Pan African Council, foods that are indigenous to regions all over Africa, etc.

The same happens at the Irish Day Festival in South Philly, and the Dragon Club in Little China is the main hangout spot for the hipster Chinese community here in Philly.

So when I ask about spending time in those places, that's what I'm talking about...
 

Hades36

New member
@Tonberry: Not sure where you are from, but anyone with some street sense recognizes where they are and are not welcome in the urban sprawl without needing a sign that says, "For White Only" or "For Lesbians Only".

There are some Irish pubs in South Philly where everyone knows you do not go unless you're Irish OR with someone who is; the same is true about some of the Italian bars in the city, or the Black bars, or the upscale bars, or the ghetto bars.

No, chances are you will not be overtly harassed if you do go into them, but the sense of being the "other", the stares, the rudeness, the intentionally shitty customer service...all are clear enough for most people.

But, again, I realize that not everyone experiences the same thing.
 

Tonberry

New member
I didn't realise you meant club as in bars, I thought you meant like a book club, but called a "black club". I don't go to bars and clubs (in that sense) so obviously not to any that has a mostly black audience. But it makes more sense to me than the way I first understood it.
 

BrigidsDaughter

New member
As I said before, I have a boyfriend who is black. My sisters have both dated black men and my niece is bi-racial. My youngest sister is engaged to a black man, so yes, I have experience talking with other races about their relationships.

My middle sister dated a black man (who identified as Cuban because he was born there), had a child with him. Their relationship was plagued with trouble from the start as the black females in their high school claimed him as theirs and were offended that he was dating a white woman. In the end, he vasilated between my sister and a black woman from their school days and ultimately stated that since the second woman was able to catch his attention at all, he must not have loved my sister after all.

As for clubs, I have not gone clubbing in years. Occasionally, I will revisit the local straight friendly gay bar that my friends and I visited in high school for Raves - their drag night is awesome. Last night, I visited a local karaoke bar with some of my LARP friends. My Korean American friend sat between a black man, and a white woman while awaiting her turn to sing. I tend to not focus on the race of my friends or my clients as I understand and appreciate that our cultural differences make us part of who we are, but are not the end all be all of our essence. In high school my husband had a friend who was a white male born in Africa. From what I remember, he made the African American students uncomfortable by wanting to participate in their African pride clubs,etc. What people refer to as "reverse racism" is still racism.
 
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Helo

New member
@Helo

I understand and respect what you are saying about how unconscious racism could possibly make discussing race even more difficult and tense. But, in my own experience, being aware of my unconscious racism (and sexism, and homophobia) have helped me dig deep, grab some of the uglier parts of myself, drag them out into the light, and work together with others to build community and healing. So, in my case, it was not something that made talking about my own biases more difficult; it actually helped me unpack and decode some of the messages that were a fundamental part of my upbringing. Being raised in a Black, Christian family by a Southern father and bi-racial mother definitely affected me in a number of ways, some of which I did not even realize until I married a White woman. There were definitely some unconscious beliefs I had about race and gender that didn't come to the forefront until we were in counseling, and even then I resisted dealing with them until I hit a crisis point.
And I'm glad that works well for you and makes you happy. In my experience, this kind of "unconscious racism" is the social and emotional equivalent of self-flagellation; you're trying to force something out of you that you cant see, that you give no voice to, that really doesnt effect what you do that much on a daily basis, and realistically you are never going to be rid of.

I prefer to use the AIBA test; "Am I Being an Asshole?" If I'm not being an asshole to people, if I'm treating them like family, if I'm doing what I can to help them out and support them as other people, the rest takes care of itself and trying to scrub your soul of these biases that we all have is really pointless. It misses some fundamentals of human psychology, namely that we ALL have prejudices and the sooner we accept that and move on, the sooner we'll get past real discrimination.

But, I digress, I understand you don't believe in unconscious stuff so (shrug) its cool.
Dont put words in my mouth. I fully accept that people have biases they are not consciously aware of but I do not accept people re-writing the definition of racism.

About the Black events and Black clubs or whatever...

Yes, there are bars/clubs in Philly where 99% of the customers are consistently Black (or Latino, or gay, or Cambodian, etc). These places, as I imagine most businesses across the nation, realize that their customer base fits a certain demographic and so they make sure that the decor, music, food, etc. is stuff that will appeal to that demographic. At the few Latino bars I have been in, the music is always Latin, the food is Latin, most of the people are speaking Spanish, etc. The gay bar I have gone to is geared towards gay men, so the music, art, and live entertainment are all for that demographic. And so on.
I generally ignore that and just sort of go wherever I feel like going. That's why I generally get the strange looks when I go places.

Black events, like any other event for any demographic, are focused primarily on celebrating the cultural uniqueness of that particular group. The Odunde festival in Philly is a celebration of African culture that draws thousands of predominantly African/African-American people from all over the region. The entertainment, food, products being sold, speeches, and workshops are all targeted at that demographic...so you get things like African drumming and African jewelry making workshops, speeches about the need for a Pan African Council, foods that are indigenous to regions all over Africa, etc.
There tend not to be big events like that in places like LA. We're used to a hugely diverse population so if you want to go somewhere where you can really experience a particular ethnic or cultural group, there are hundreds of different places to go in every level of intensity you can think of. People get all freaked out because they think it's a "blacks only" or a "Mexicans only" place but in reality, I've never found a place that actually gives that much of a shit if you're not in a gang.

Small organizations will put on events but they tend to be for locals and are more like a block party than a cultural event for the public. Every once and a while there are big events put on by multicultural organizations but they tend to be very sterile and boring, usually funded (and attended) by wealthy yuppies who'd freak if they actually got any un-diluted culture.

@Tonberry: Not sure where you are from, but anyone with some street sense recognizes where they are and are not welcome in the urban sprawl without needing a sign that says, "For White Only" or "For Lesbians Only".

There are some Irish pubs in South Philly where everyone knows you do not go unless you're Irish OR with someone who is; the same is true about some of the Italian bars in the city, or the Black bars, or the upscale bars, or the ghetto bars.

No, chances are you will not be overtly harassed if you do go into them, but the sense of being the "other", the stares, the rudeness, the intentionally shitty customer service...all are clear enough for most people.
That's pretty wild, I dont know of any places like that in LA.

Unless you're in a gang or you act like a jerk, almost anyone can go almost anywhere and not have a problem with one exception; stay the fuck away from certain places on the West Side if you look poor.
 
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nycindie

Active member
Several of you have suggested that Black people do not participate in polyamory the same way White people do, or that poly "seems" to be a primarily White phenomenon.

I don't recall that anyone here made any assumptions whatsoever about how black people practice polyamory. We were simply asked by the OP what our experiences or observations were within our own respective poly communities or interactions:
What have your observations been on the ethnic makeup of the poly community?

Perhaps the problem is that this question is flawed since there is no single unified poly community. Nevertheless, anyone who answered could only respond with observations about our local, regional poly communities. And by simply giving feedback about each of our own limited experiences at a limited number of poly activities within each of our own limited poly communities is simply providing information -- a snapshot, if you will, of what the landscape was like at the moment of time we were there to observe or interact with it.

For example, I said:
Even more surprising is the dominance of white people at the few organized poly gatherings I have attended. There are always a few people who are Asian or of Asian descent, but I can only recall one or two black people.
To further clarify, I have only been to about four organized poly events at which there were probably about 50 or 60 people present throughout the evening. That's it. As to where else I would find a poly community in NYC, whether black or white, I have no idea. But my response was just a report of what I've seen at the very few events I attended. Was I drawing a conclusion that poly is a "white thing" or saying anything about how black people practice poly? No.

So, I am very curious as to how any of the following statements could be interpreted as "suggesting" that black people "do not participate in polyamory the same way white people do" (never mind the fact that there is no one set way that white people -- or any people -- "participate" in poly, anyway) :

My local self-identifying poly community is mostly lower middle class white people. . . . There are many African-American, Asian and Latino people active in my local community. However, I do live in a majority black city and so, the relatively imbalance is certainly present.

I noticed that too, and being black it IS extra-difficult being part of yet another minority.

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.

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.

Locally, most of the (organised) poly community seems to be white, (or mixed-race) by majority with a sprinkling of exceptions.

And Hades, even you said:
. . . when PLove and I attended our local Poly Meet-up, I was the only Black person there.

Furthermore, we are really only talking about actively open communities where people visibly participate in socializing or going to events. We cannot observe what goes on behind the closed doors of everyone in our neighborhoods. Naturally there are many more people who practice polyamory without ever setting foot at one of these organized things, or even use the word "polyamory," so none of this is really going to reflect true numbers of poly people no matter what color their skin is.
 

nondy2

New member
I was thinking this over this morning. Someone asked if people had black friends or how much they associated with black people... I began thinking about what racism really means to me (and what ableism means to me). I believe that it's not necessarily about who you hang out with.

I can liken it mostly to ableism. Most people do not have disabled lovers, friends, or colleagues. Does that make them ableist? Many people do not have black friends - are they racist? I do not have black friends, I grew up in a culture that was 60% hispanic, 10% Indian and rest mostly white. I still live in a 'white' neighborhood, I have not had many blacl friends because that hasn't been my opportunity. I think racism and ableism are more about attitude- whether someone thinks that non-white (or non-disabled) people are superior to white/abled people. Whether on thinks one is perferable or deserves more rights, or should be hired for a job, or is an equal human being and whether one uses language that is respectful - in the disability world, for example using terms like wheelchair bound, ill, sick, retarded, spastic, lame...crippled and so on (invalid) are words that show disrespect and disempowerment.

I think ultimately each person has to be looked at as a whole, not are they the same color or gender or ability, but what CAN they do. Are they funny? Do I like them? It doesn't necessarily have to do with who you hand out with - it has to do with approaching someone different than you without assumptions.
 

nondy2

New member
I also think it would be great to add disability to this mix. Because people don't view disability in the same light as race- although it is VERY similar. There is nothing wrong with having a different way of moving or thinking. Just as there is nothing wrong with being from a different ethnic background.
 

Tonberry

New member
I think the question about personal experience with black people was due to the fact that there are things you just don't realise if you don't have first or second-hand experience of them.

For instance, you might not think that people in a wheelchair are inferior, but you might also not realise how impractical some things are for them. You could, say, build a restaurant and fail to make it easily accessible, which while not ableist (no hatred against the non-able bodied, no negative intent), is still de facto discriminatory, in that they just can't eat there even if they want to.

If you're not part of any minority and have also never spent time around them, it's possible to be completely unaware of many little everyday things you take for granted that are different for them.

Now, with all this being said, I'm not quite sure how that's relevant to how many non-caucasian people we know who practice poly, but I don't think it was suggested that everyone who isn't surrounded by people from every possible minority is a racist. Simply that they might not be aware of some things and should keep it in mind.
 
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