A few years ago, when I was young, naïve, and new to the dating scene, I met a man at a friend’s birthday party. He was attentive, refilling my drinks in flash, smiling, flirting. As many people have done before, he asked me what my ethnicity is. I don’t always have issues with this question (that is, unless it’s worded as “What are you?” but that’s another monster entirely), simply because I know it’s hard to tell.
I’m a mutt, a combined heritage of Thai, Chinese, English, Italian, French, German, and Scots-Irish. That being said, I’ve heard it all; people asking if I’m Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, South American, Native Alaskan, Spanish, Mongolian, Hawaiian. I’ve once heard Mexican, which I found odd. So, when someone asks flat out what my heritage is, I answer usually with, “I’m half Thai, half white.” When I answered this man’s question, I was not prepared for his answer and the way it made me feel.
“I’m half Thai, half white,” I said.
“God, yes, I love Asian girls. I only date girls of color.”
The way he looked at me made me uncomfortable. Suddenly, instead of seeing this good-looking, blonde American boy, I saw an old balding man at a brothel in China on a business trip, calling home to me, his wife, saying everything is fine while he was surrounded by naked Asian women.
I thought, that’s a bit dramatic.
But then, over the years, it continued to happen to me. A boy I was in a relationship with for a year confessed that he “only dates women of color.” And a year later when I saw that his new girlfriend looked frighteningly similar to me did I realize it was weird. I must be clear; this does not exclusively come from white males.
A man who told me he was half Indian, half Dominican said to me, “I love exotic colored women with curves, so you’re perfect.” And in a gay bar, a woman told me she only spoke to girls with color. The more I heard it, the more I realized how wrong it made me feel.
Let’s also discuss the implications of the word “colored.” In instances concerning myself, I assumed it meant “I only date girls that are not white.” In this, I felt alienated, am I not as much white as I am Asian? But in the eyes of these certain people, it seemed they only saw half of me.
On top of that, it made me feel not unique to this person showing an interest in me as though the next non-white girl walking through the door would divert their attention immediately (this has actually happened to me). It seems shallow, but so is their comment that my appearance is the top thing that made them turn their attention my way.
However, this issue goes beyond my own uncomfortable feelings. Historically, the term “colored” is regarded highly offensive, a racial slur recalled from a time when casual racism was a part of everyday life. The term was and still is used predominantly towards describing a black person.
Today in a wider focus, it’s used to describe anyone who is not white, which implies that white is the default, the normal skin tone. Recently, Benedict Cumberbatch used the term to refer to black actors. Not realizing the offense at the time, Cumberbatch had to come out and apologize for using the term.
During the era of the Jim Crow laws in America from the 1870s to 1960s, signs labeled “colored only” directed where a non-white person could or could not go. It drove segregation back then, and it continues to do the same today in 2017, even if people are unaware of its effect.
Essentially, saying a person is colored implies they are not normal. Likewise, saying someone is “mixed race” implies there exists pure race. And let’s be real, a pure race is as rare as finding gold in the mouth of a deep sea fish. Every skin color is a color; people believing that they are clarifying their physical preference of a partner are in reality sounding racially ignorant and slightly creepy.
Saying “I only date colored people” should really mean that you don’t date ghosts, and good for you. Though I think that’s implied in everyday life, unless you’re Lizzie from Gray’s Anatomy and you date your dead imaginary fiancé, in which case thank you for clearing that up.
Plus, saying “I only date colored girls” sounds like a fetish. When someone says they’re attracted to your smile or the shape of your eyes, it sounds more personalized. But then when someone says for example, they like feet, immediately you wonder what creepy, serial killer-esque plans they have for your toes.
Break down the wall of generalizations. Every human is different and beautiful in their own unique way. Using the general “colored girls only” line sounds like the person is a collector. Look at my repertoire, look at my mantle of “colored girls,” see, I only date these specific items. A closet full of marionette puppets. It’s gross, it’s offensive, and red flags should be sprouting from the ground.
Everybody has a “type;” a preference for a certain appearance that attracts them. This is not unknown. However, these “types” go beyond appearance and tap into personality, morals, religious ideas—the combination. There’s a better way to tell a woman or a man that they’re the perfect fit for you. It is not by further segregating them or making them feel like their appearance is their only drawing attribute.
Not only does the general comment “I only date colored girls” strike an offensive tone, but also implies disloyalty in a further relationship. If a person approaches you and says you’re just their type in those exact words, what’s to stop them from seeing the next girl or boy that is “just their type” even when they’re with you? Here’s the solution, when dating someone, avoid the whole “I like colored girls” comment all together. There is nothing good about it, and personally, I don’t want to know that I am amongst the many girls who look just like me in your long line of dating history.