The problem with race-based sexual preference

“Black women matter; they’re just not hot.” It would seem obvious that this is a rude thing to say, but apparently not everyone agrees. While this seems evident to me, not everyone sees the problem with this statement. Because this is a disgusting reality on our campus, allow me to educate you from the pulpit of the school newspaper. The most common defense of the comment is that it was just the expression of a preference, and as such shouldn’t be owned or apologized for. As much as I wish I had time to write about many things regarding the current Yik Yak debacle, I will limit myself to why the whole “preference” discussion is quite frankly complete bull.

First, we should acknowledge that there is such a thing as “implicit bias,” which is defined as “the bias in judgment and/or behavior that results from subtle cognitive processes.” In case you didn’t fully understand that definition, allow me to unpack it. I am not saying that you are intentionally being racist, sexist, etc. What I’m saying is that intentional or not, you do in fact have some bias, a fact that the real world vividly displays. For example, despite having the same experience, someone with a “black-sounding” name is 50 percent less likely to receive a callback on a job. In this case we can say half of the employers are outright racist, or we can acknowledge that they are acting on some implicit bias. Another example is when a Hispanic man applying for jobs sent out his resume with no success. His original resume read “Jose Zamora,” and after changing nothing on his resume but the letter ‘s’ (making his name Joe), he received considerably more interviews. In other words, he was treated better because his name sounded white, the default skin color of the world. Still not convinced that implicit bias is a thing? Let’s not let facts get in the way of a good outrage point shall we.

Honestly though, where does implicit bias even come from? The answer is simple, all you have to do to acquire a bias in our world is exist. Just by existing you’ll soak up all the hidden messages a society can send. Through lack of positive representation and exposure, people are conditioned to see race differently. If a white child grows up only seeing African Americans depicted in two minute blurbs of “Sharkeisha” on TV, while at the same time never interacting with actual black people, then no wonder they don’t have a positive view of black culture. No wonder they don’t have a “preference” to find black women attractive. Imagine what it would feel like to see everyone that’s like you at the bottom of the totem pole, almost as if that’s where you are supposed to be. That implicit message tells everyone, whites and blacks alike, that to be black is not as valuable, or maybe just as valuable, but “just not hot.”

Isn’t it possible people are just born with a specific preference? Wrong again, my Darwinist friend, because at least in my interpretation of the evolutionary process, sexual selection happens to “select” for a beneficial trait that makes the population stronger. This is where things get interesting. Are we saying people prefer a skin color because of genetics (i.e. we have no control over preference)? Because if it’s all evolutionarily driven, it seems we are saying evolution is selecting for the most beneficial trait, which is somehow white skin. I realize that’s a pretty heavy conclusion, but honestly that’s what “it’s just a preference,” sounds like to me, because the fact of the matter is, there is hardly anything different about humans from race to race other than melanin counts. If melanin is the only difference between races (it is), then what makes one skin tone more valuable than another? There isn’t an answer to that, because also following evolutionary theory, varying melanin counts don’t have value by themselves, they only have value in the context of how successful they make the individual. Here I think we could potentially find something to agree upon; as far as survival goes, it’s better to be white. Maybe our subconscious minds understand this, and that’s why your “preference” is to mate with white people, although if this is the case, we might want to look at why having a different skin tone is worse for survival.

I know I asked a lot of questions, most of them were snarky, and even more of them were rhetorical, but I asked these questions for a reason. I want you to hear yourself asking these questions and maybe come to realize how ridiculous you sound. I’ve also tried to be educational, and lacking a degree in science, racial studies, or teaching probably means my information isn’t all perfect, but I’ve tried my best to be logical. Biologically speaking, there is no real reason that one skin color should be preferential to any other. Evolution doesn’t anthropomorphically “guide” us in our decision-making process when choosing a mate, and sexual selection is only applicable when the trait being selected for is beneficial. Thinking white skin tone is beneficial to any other skin tone is in today’s world tragically correct, but in an idealistic sense, more than a little screwed up. If we were to skip the rough interpretations of science, a more logical option presents itself. We all have implicit bias that we acquire in daily life and should confront. Confronting it however, does not look like pawning off a comment because of an unfounded sexual “preference.” We get our preferences from the world around us, because society assigns values to skin colors, personalities, and every other physical trait. As for black skin, most of us have been taught, at least implicitly, that it has less value, and that’s where “preference” comes from. Even though I’m sure “that’s just my preference” was a hell of a lot more convenient.

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