In the second part of this series, the author explores the flip side of Rules of Attraction. Read the first part here.
Exotification is the rough opposite of sexual racism, but still has its roots in the totem pole. It is generally exhibited by, for the lack of a better term, 'superior' races, in whichever pairing it is. Caucasians with an Asian or Black fetish, or in a local context, maybe Chinese who have a thing for Malay/Indian/mixed people, tend to those who exotify others. Exotification, which often goes hand-in-hand with the colonial mentality1, such an extent that it becomes a sub-culture, as with the potato-queen-rice-queen phenomenon in Asian countries. Or with the SPG culture.
Exotification can be flattering, but at the same time, a little discomfiting, speaking from personal experience. Yes, it is nice knowing sexual racism has been turned on its heels, and the person is attracted to you, not despite, but because of your race. However, it does raise questions about whether the person likes you for who you are, or because he/she projects this exotic image of who you are supposed to be. The entire SPG culture thrives on exoticism. Exoticism can also derive from a sense of superiority and domination, of a certain kind of racial power-play they are unable to enact with those of their own race, but can with those lower on the “totem pole”.
While exoticism is not bad in itself, the attitude behind it can be. It would be up to the person to maintain respect for the person, and see beyond his/her racial identity.
So much about inter-racial dating, sexual racism and all. It would seem that the races at the top of the 'totem pole' are the bigoted ones, and the ones below the 'victims'. But things aren't that simple. There is another, hidden layer to inter-racial dating, which is internal racism. Certain people can actually be prejudiced against their own race so much that they will refuse to date them. This may seem incredible, but this phenomenon is well and alive.2
There are two types of internal racists.3 The first type are those who think of themselves as inferior due to their race, or see some defect in their race. They are unable to respect and be attracted to someone of their own race enough to be in a relationship with them. This attitude is endemic in most potato queens, naturally. And this is an attitude I've encountered many times in local Malay and Indian queer folks. This is also directly related to the point about media and beauty. It saddens me to see people fall into this trap, time and again. I will freely confess I was in this trap until a few years ago. I did not find south Indian women attractive, as in my mind, the ideal of beauty was something else. Only by changing my perceptions about beauty and all was I able to gain self-confidence and lose this internal prejudice.
The second type are those who do not have inferiority complexes, but see something fundamentally wrong with people of their race, and consider themselves to be different from them, hence worthy. Ever heard of the phrase 'familiarity breeds contempt'? They do tend to look down on their own kind, and may have a white inside, brown outside mentality. They may date people of almost any other race except their own, but since the prejudice is against their own, they may not even consider it racism.
The above-mentioned internal racists can also fall into a group of people who consider their other-racial partners as “trophies”. This is an almost subconscious attitude, one which is hardly ever articulated. If you will remember in the first part, I spoke about the totem pole, and how if the “superior” race on the totem pole is to pay attention to the “inferior” race, it is considered a “gift” and a privilege?
This attitude can be internalised so deeply that a person can consider the fact that he managed to “ensnare” someone who is “superior” a compliment to himself and his attractiveness. Having this attitude, it might be almost unbearable of them to “downgrade” themselves by dating people of their own race or those lower on the totem pole.
In a nutshell
Clearly not all the phenomenon I have described exists in all interracial relationships. There are people who are in happy, healthy relationships with none of this racial baggage. Nor are people who have only dated their own, racists.
One is free to date whoever he or she wants. And one is free to have preferences of whatever nature. However, do keep in mind especially us queer people cannot quite afford to discriminate against people based on colour, being a small community. Not to mention it would be the most stupid thing to do: how do you know Mr or Ms Right isn't that person whose profile you just closed once you caught sight of his/her race?
- Colonial mentality not just refers to the dictate of the Caucasian 'supremacy', but also how it has been transposed in certain countries to make the 'whiter' race 'superior', as with the Chinese [back]
- Clearly, not all people who have only dated those of other races, are internal racists. Some people just happen to fall that way, due to circumstances or due to their own attraction-preferences. In this context, however, I refer to those who do not consider their own ethnic members potential partners at ALL. [back]
- In this discussion, I am limiting internal racism to those who are lower on the “totem pole”. I cannot speak for people on the “top” of the “totem pole” who are internal racists. But this attitude, I’ve noticed from entirely personal observation, come from those who exotify others [back]