Race is a subject that has, in one way or another, been on everyone's minds due to recent events and it is important to discuss not only larger injustices but also the less obvious, seemingly smaller but also damaging, micro-aggressions that play into larger issues. You're probably wondering why race would be something I'd want to talk about on a blog centred around sex and relationships but the truth is it really comes to play in the dynamics and complexities of these areas more than some might imagine.
If you google "Racial Fetishisation" you will find a whole host of blogs, articles, and the sort on the subject from the perspective of POC and I really do recommend reading them to understand fully the impact that this can have on a person (I will link some below). As a white woman it is not my place to speak on the impact itself because I personally haven't experienced it in the same way (That's not to say that I've never had people make comments based on my race and stereotypical characteristics of my body, but I mean that I couldn't possibly experience it to the same degree).
What I will be speaking on though, is what constitutes fetishisation and the behaviours that we need to address in order to make sure that our "preference" isn't actually an extremely damaging set of criteria built on outdated stereotypes and racist ideals.
A primary example of where lines may be crossed is with the attraction to certain features which only occur stereotypically in a particular race or are more predominant stereotypically in a particular race. Without being graphic, there's a difference between finding dark hair attractive and saying you want to be with a black man because of the stereotype regarding penis size. It's okay to think that Kpop idols are attractive but it's not okay to project that fantasy onto Asian people you are pursuing. It's okay to find Jennifer Lopez attractive but it doesn't mean you can put "Latinas only" in your tinder bio.
There are a whole range of stereotypes surrounding the physical features of races and each of them can be damaging when held as a standard that someone needs to live up to. What you do when you date based on these perceptions is create an environment where you are projecting your fantasy onto a person and, as a result, dehumanising them. What you need to ask yourself is "Do I appreciate that feature or is it a standard I am setting for a whole race of people" and, unfortunately, if it is a standard based on a stereotype, then you need to unlearn that for yourself.
Another example is the stereotypes associated with culture and the fetishisation of the culture in question. It's amazing to be interested in other cultures, I personally aspire to learn as much as possible, we should all be developing out cultural understanding but, that being said, we also need to understand where cultural appropriation through relationships is an issue. It can be extremely attractive when you find a partner who has a rich culture that you can learn from but attempting to date a person on the assumption that it will bring you closer to a culture that you're interested in is, honestly, gross.
Culture, heritage, tradition, language, religion- all of these things are extremely personal and sometimes, especially in the case of POC living or raised in western countries, aren't always the straight forward, celebrated, conflict free areas of a person's identity that you'd expect. Trying to find a partner from a certain culture to learn the language, experience the traditions, immerse yourself in the religion, or anything else completely erases the reality that they might not personally relate to these things, be interested in sharing those areas of their life, or even be as knowledgable as you'd assume based on stereotypes. If your interest in a race is based on these things then, not only is that setting an unrealistic standard for the person you are with, but you're pretty much completely overlooking their individuality as a whole for personal gain.
Another issue that is extremely common is the sense of novelty and objectification that a lot of people experience. This is one even I have been on the receiving end of in some small way and it can be as simple as being compelled to say something like "I've never been with a black girl before" which, while seemingly innocent, commoditises the person. Another extremely common area of this that is very normalised in our society is the novelty of mixed race children, you see this coming from all angles and it is based on the objectification of particular features seen stereotypically which, in the case of children who don't match up to the stereotypes, can be damaging on a whole host of levels.
The novelty can also relate to perceived stereotypical behaviours within racial groups which may be considered entertaining, sexy, or just generally desirable. The novelty of stereotypes like Latina women being fiery, black women being loud or hyper-sexualised, or asian women being submissive may seem complimentary to those who find those things attractive in a partner but the reality is that it strips POC of their actual personality and traits and, once again commoditises them as something to be consumed. A lot of these stereotypes also play into far darker culturally significant perceptions but, for the sake of me not writing an entire essay on that, I urge you to read from the links below.
What really needs to be done in this case is self evaluation in regards to how you view the value of race. Would you feel you were gaining from becoming involved with a person of the race you're interested in? Be it experiencing something "new and exciting", the prospect of desirable features in your potential offspring, or just fulfilling a fantasy you have that is based in stereotypes or generalisation? If the answer is yes and not "I don't know, I just really like this particular person and find them attractive and it has nothing to do with any of that" then I hate to break it to you but you're part of a problem our society has.
Once again, I'm not saying that nobody can have a preference or find certain things attractive, it's the intention behind it that is the issue and it's not necessarily something you're doing purposefully, but it is something that we, as a society, need to address and become more self critical of. Also if you're reading this and someone ever tells you they've never been with someone of your race before as an opening line? I'm telling you now you don't have to thank them for their interest, "Fuck off" is a personally reasonable answer.
Further reading: https://www.gmfa.org.uk/mhu-racial-fetishisation-lets-talk-about-it