How to Know You’re Dating a Racist

In response to this atrocious piece about How to Date an Indian (Make daal! Watch Bollywood movies! Learn a phrase in Hindi! Dance!), Samhita gives us a helpful guide to know if you’re dating a racist. Basically, if you just love Indian people so much that you think it’s cool to assume that the more than 1 billion people of Indian ancestry all act basically the same way and like basically the same things? And if you manage to take things that pretty much everyone in the world likes — Food! Dancing! Movies! Language! — and turn them into Very Exotic Activities when brown people do them? You might be a racist!

Look, it’s great to be interested in the things that are important to your partner, and the things that are part of their culture. But that’s a far cry from “Indians are great and love to dance and they’re so friendly! If you want to date one, pick a favorite Bollywood actor!”

What else do you do to avoid dating racists, sexists and other politically undesireable ladies and dudes?

Author: has written 5284 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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41 Responses

  1. Niki
    Niki June 4, 2010 at 1:00 pm |

    I’m a white woman who’s dated several black men, and I’ve actually noticed just mentioning that fact when I start dating someone can help weed out the racists. I mean, it’s not like I say “Hey, my name is Niki, I lost my virginity to a black dude,” but in the general discussion of exes, whenever that comes up naturally, I’ll just read their reaction.

    I had one guy admit to me when he was a little drunk that it really bothered him that I had had “a black dick inside me.” Needless to say, that relationship didn’t last!

  2. Niall
    Niall June 4, 2010 at 1:24 pm |

    I’ve done the online dating thing and when browsing through profiles, I always placed a lot of importance on how she had described herself in her profile and what she had listed as her interests. Although I’ve done this primarily as a means of assessing the depth of her personality and whether or not we were on the same wavelength intellectually, it’s probably also a good (although not perfect) way of avoiding racists as well as other stripes of bigots. If she lists, among her interests, one or more of the following…’activism’, ‘social justice’ ‘volunteering’ ‘psychology’, ‘environmentalism’ and yeah of course ‘feminism’ or any type of key word or phrase that indicates she has an interest in the world around her, humanity and what makes people tick, then the odds that she’s not going to be a bigot are pretty good. Now I realize people are only human and have their flaws. Even a fairly progressive minded person can make mistakes and unintentionally say things that are prejudiced, ignorant or coming from a place of privilege every now and then (god knows I have), but I would think a more socially conscious person would at least be willing to re-examine their belief or check their own privilege and admit they were wrong. It also shows they’re a person of integrity – another huge plus.

    Like I said, it’s not perfect…but it probably reduces the chances that I’ll find myself sitting across the table from a bigot on a first date.

  3. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe June 4, 2010 at 1:27 pm |

    Generally speaking, it’s annoying when anyone pays undue attention to your ethnicity, especially someone you’ve just met.

    I happen to have an extremely Greek name, despite the fact that I’ve never been there and don’t speak a word of the language. I occasionally get a business or personal contact trotting out a word or phrase in Greek, talking about this guy Stavros they once knew, etc. It’s no big deal, but it is irritating. Someone of a visibly different race, of course, probably gets that stuff 10 times worse every day.

  4. Ashley
    Ashley June 4, 2010 at 1:33 pm |

    It seems like everyone on earth is sexist or racist, if not both.

  5. Marilyn
    Marilyn June 4, 2010 at 1:34 pm |

    I don’t date since I’m married, but I still have to watch for people I can’t get along with. I went to a new hairdresser (my neverending search for someone who can cut my hair decently more than twice in a row) and mentioned I was attending Roger Ebert’s film festival that weekend. She said he has a very “interesting” wife, with a chuckle that meant she did not approve of his interracial marriage. My hairdresser search continues…

  6. Holy!
    Holy! June 4, 2010 at 1:37 pm |

    That dating an Indian article is quite strange. However, at least as far as Indian women in America go, not many will marry outside of the “race.”

    I’m not surprised about Niki’s experience. There’s allot of that-at least among white men,where a white woman who has dated black men, especially more than one- is “black listed.” I don’t if anything similar exists among white women, but then again, the number of white men and black woman relationships are far fewer in number.

  7. Sid
    Sid June 4, 2010 at 1:47 pm |

    One of my pet peeves in my profoundly limited personals ads experience is “only x race” despite “not being racist, it’s only a preference.”

  8. Holy!
    Holy! June 4, 2010 at 1:51 pm |

    Jill,

    That’s not exactly a secret. It’s not that East Indian women are prejudiced, many just have family expectations to marry another Indian. I dated, and was interested in, several Indian women, but they made it clear that they were expected to marry another Indian. Many of my friends, including my roommate, were married through matriomonial sites like Desikiss and Shadi.com. That may change over time with later generations.

  9. Niall
    Niall June 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm |

    It seems like everyone on earth is sexist or racist, if not both.

    Well…yeah to a certain extent, you’re right. I mean if you grow up immersed in a culture where systematic and oppression and marginalization of non-privileged groups are kept alive in large part due to prejudices and attitudes about those groups, it’s inevitable these ideas will shape our own individual beliefs. A friend of mine likened it to living in a garbage heap. Even if one day you realize it’s not good for you and make the decision to climb out, you’re still going to *smell* of garbage to some degree. Getting rid of the smell is going to take work and effort. Some people will be willing to admit they stink and take a long hot shower and wash their clothes, others will stay in denial and walk around still smelling like rotting garbage…and then wonder why people avoid them. But even they too can change if they develop enough self-awareness and the willingness to work at at.

    And that’s about as far as I’ll push this analogy.

  10. Ama
    Ama June 4, 2010 at 2:36 pm |

    It seems like everyone on earth is sexist or racist, if not both.

    If only someone wrote a song about that topic, maybe if it was somebody’s purpose to take everything s/he’s learning and put it…put it into a show!

    Seriously, however, I do agree with you. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t have some sort of prejudice inside; for me, the key is recognizing when one says or does something racist and resolving not to do it again in the future. For example, the writer of the initial article pulled a version of the old “Well, I can say this because I have XYZdisenfranchised friends!” when she said, “I lived in India for about three years and my husband (currently known as my husPad, thanks to his appropriating the iPad he ‘gave me,’ — but that is another column) is from New Delhi …”

    So, it’s cool, guys. She can tell us all how to keep our Indian significant others happy without fear of reprisal.

  11. Laura
    Laura June 4, 2010 at 2:53 pm |

    “Make daal! Watch Bollywood movies! Learn a phrase in Hindi! Dance!”

    This reminds me of a parody of “Common People” performed by the cast of Goodness Gracious Me. The video of it at YouTube has subtitles, but it’s also embedded here, where someone’s typed out the lyrics, beneath the video.

  12. Melissa
    Melissa June 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm |

    @ AMA

    “Everyone’s a little bit racist sometiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimes…”

  13. Niall
    Niall June 4, 2010 at 3:18 pm |

    I just knew I couldn’t be the only one who read Ama’s comment and immediately thought of Avenue Q !

  14. David
    David June 4, 2010 at 4:24 pm |

    The author of “How to Date an Indian” and other people who seem to have an unnecessary and well-intentioned preoccupation with a person’s race should not be called racist. The word racist implies that someone is establishing a racial hierarchy with their race at the top, and perhaps taking action to impose that hierarchy in others lives. The author of “How to Date an Indian” is clearly ignorant, and her post is obviously patronizing whether she intended it to be that way or not, but she can only rightfully be called misguided. Racist is the wrong word.

  15. akeeyu
    akeeyu June 4, 2010 at 4:50 pm |

    “Most Indians are innately gracious, social creatures…”

    I’m sorry, she didn’t really…Oh. Yes, she did. Wow. What a tool.

    “It seems like everyone on earth is sexist or racist, if not both.”
    Ashley, you kind of have to follow that up with something. ANYTHING. Otherwise it comes off as kind of trite, like “Meh, what are you going to do? Coffee?”

  16. Holy!
    Holy! June 4, 2010 at 5:04 pm |

    So, apparently there are multiple books on how to date “instert race.” There’s “How to Date A White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men;” Additionally, you have “How to Attract Asian Women, which appears to be popular;” and you also have ” A White Man’s Guide to Dating Black Women,” by Adam White nonetheless. You could even add “Why Black Men Love White Women” to the list.

    Wow. Who knew this stuff existed?

  17. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl June 4, 2010 at 5:07 pm |

    The hierarchy is implicit in the title. The author wouldn’t have had to use “Indian” as a descriptor if they themselves were Indian. It’s the whole treating another human as a categorical thing – sort of like a “how to make candles at home” mentality. Afterall, the author is not penning a piece on how to negotiate cultural differences, but rather placing whiteness as the de facto state and Indian as a novelty.

  18. Nyxelestia
    Nyxelestia June 4, 2010 at 6:21 pm |

    Okay, I am Indian, and I was cringing throughout this article – it’s all total BS. How this woman was even allowed to post this, gaining her information from HBollywood movies and Wikipedia, is beyond me. If someone were to treat me like that, I’d end that relationship almost on the spot.

    As for how to avoid racism – one thing I take advantage of is how my race isn’t easy to tell from looking at me. If someone asks me where I’m from, I say, “Mars.” Almost everyone will ask a few more times, but I refuse adamantly each time. If they shrug it off and roll their eyes and otherwise take it in good humor, that’s usually a good sign. If they get really bothered by it, though…

  19. Bushfire
    Bushfire June 4, 2010 at 6:52 pm |

    I am so excited about the Avenue Q reference!

    One time I dated an Asian guy. A hispanic friend told me I must be a lesbian if I was dating an Asian guy. My (white) family members asked him where his family is from. They’re Canadian, for gosh sakes! I didn’t feel like race was ever an issue in our relationship, but it seemed to be for others.

  20. Aaron Cruikshank
    Aaron Cruikshank June 4, 2010 at 7:01 pm |

    How to date a Huffington Post author (for non-white people):

    1. Play up your ethnic stereotypes! They really get off on that kind of thing!

    (It’s a short list and I don’t mean to imply that HuffPo authors are “easy”.)

  21. Arsh
    Arsh June 4, 2010 at 7:10 pm |

    “many just have family expectations to marry another Indian. ”

    Holy! – I’ve dated a girl with a Chinese lineage while in college who mentioned that her parents would like her to get married to a Chinese guy. I’ve dated a girl with a Turkish lineage whose parents say things on similar lines. I’ve dated a girl from Britain who says that her parents would prefer her to marry a Christian and who is white. I’ve dated a girl who is jewish whose parents say that they would prefer her to marry a jew.

  22. April
    April June 4, 2010 at 8:52 pm |

    Someone put up a reply how-to about How to Date A White Bitch.

    I read the response, laughed out loud a few times, and cringed my way through the rest. I can’t decide if the misogyny was a good example of how ridiculous Andrea Miller’s post was, or just really tasteless and sort of painful.

    And as for Miller’s post… OMFG.

    The post was unbelievably and horrifically… gross. You can’t get any more racist than that. And she doesn’t realize she’s racist, because the things she says are complimentary. Ugh.

  23. Linda Binda
    Linda Binda June 4, 2010 at 9:31 pm |

    This is what I posted on Sepia Mutiny about the “White Bitch” article that I don’t think went through on their filtering/system/whatevers… :/ (Probably an error or something, but yeah):

    As silly as that article may have been, this “response”…

    http://www.theawl.com/2010/06/how-to-date-a-white-bitch-advice-for-the-non-white-dude

    …comes off as much worse. Maybe it’s because I’m aware of how quite a few mainland Indians think that white women are easy, but I don’t trust that the writer is coming at this from a really good place, but from a mental mythos which says, “white women will bang you if you ask them, like they always do in the movies!” I don’t find it funny. Find someone who can make fun of the Huffington Post article without relying on “white women are culturally ignorant sluts” clichés.”

  24. Holy!
    Holy! June 4, 2010 at 10:07 pm |

    Arsh,

    This wasn’t “we prefer you to”…It was “you are going to…”

  25. S.L
    S.L June 4, 2010 at 11:03 pm |

    As for how to avoid racism – one thing I take advantage of is how my race isn’t easy to tell from looking at me. If someone asks me where I’m from, I say, “Mars.”

    Are you sure that is referring to your race/ethnicity? When meeting people, I often ask where they are from as in “Baltimore” “Jersey” etc. Maybe this isn’t done as much outside of college. Normally when people are trying to figure out my race, they ask “what are you mixed with?” or (bluntly) “what are you?” But “where are you from” usually means what county or whatever. (And people swear I have an accent, including New England, West Coast, and oddly Jewish so maybe that’s why I normally get the two questions seperately)

    But again, maybe this isn’t done so much outside of college.

  26. prairielily
    prairielily June 5, 2010 at 8:46 am |

    S.L, in Canada, no one asks where you’re from unless they want to know what your background is. And EVERYONE asks if you’re a person of colour. It’s funny, actually. Canadians often look down on Americans for being racially unenlightened, but when I lived in the US if someone asked where I was from, they wanted to know if I was from Baltimore or New Jersey.

  27. M
    M June 5, 2010 at 11:19 am |

    “S.L, in Canada, no one asks where you’re from unless they want to know what your background is.”

    A-whut? I’m Canadian, just started a new job, in Canada, working with other Canadians (of various races), and everyone asked me where I was from. The answer was “”, since I’ve lived in roughly the same area my whole life. I asked some of my new coworkers where *they* were from, and most of the responses were “”, “”, etc. The only person who gave an outside-the-country answer was someone who was born and raised in the UK. None of us were being snarky or passive-aggressive, just answering the question in the way all of us understood it. When people want to know my background, they’ll ask about my background or (if they’re trying to tiptoe) about my grandparents. I’m not doubting your experiences, but I know they’re not generalizable to all of Canada. I’ve never met anyone who thought “where are you from?” meant anything different.

  28. M
    M June 5, 2010 at 11:21 am |

    Er, I used angle brackets to anonymize the town names, but basically all those little empty quotes are referring to nearby towns and cities. Sorry about that.

  29. L
    L June 5, 2010 at 12:58 pm |

    The garbage pile analogy in Niall’s comment bothers me. I just think it’s important not to pretend, or unconsciously imply, that racism is in anyway akin to dirt or something “washed” off one’s person. It’s not a layer of filth, but an integral part of a person’s perspective. I see the good intent in the comparison — if you work to remove racism from your life and your perspective, after having grown up in an institutionally and de facto racist culture, you are doing something good. But it is not nearly as easy, or in any was as superficial, as giving yourself a good scrubbing. It takes a long time and lots, LOTS, of dialogue, often very uncomfortable dialogue. Maybe I’m being too particular here but the comparison to a garbage pile and soap, well-intentioned though it is, just seems to fall really short of the mark.

  30. Jay@racialicious
    Jay@racialicious June 5, 2010 at 2:10 pm |

    To the commenter (#6) who asked about interracial statistics broken down by gender, here’s the stats from C.N.Le, an Asian American sociologist (these are the 2006 stats):

    http://www.asian-nation.org/interracial.shtml

    As you can see, the numbers are about equal. Most Indians who immigrated to the US while an adult are probably less likely to marry interracially, but that makes sense given the cultural barriers. If you look at people who have acculturated to US culture, and interracial rates spike significantly, but are still around equal for men and women (in fact, women are slightly more likely to marry out).

    This not the same situation as East Asians who have a significant disparity in the percentage of people in each gender who marry interracially.

    The only reason then I think you would think that way, is because of stereotyping.

  31. Niall
    Niall June 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm |

    L,

    Of course I didn’t mean to offend, but it looks as though I did and an apology from me is in order. Re-reading it again, I can see what you mean; the ‘garbage heap’ analogy really does, in a way, underestimate how deeply racism (as well as other isms and phobias) runs and how much work and effort is needed to eradicate them. I’d like to see them all go the way of smallpox, but it’s probably going to take at a few more generations – if not longer – for that to actually happen. I could have just as easily got my point across without it. Again I apologize to you…and anyone else I may have offended.

  32. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz June 5, 2010 at 6:23 pm |

    The author of “How to Date an Indian” is clearly ignorant, and her post is obviously patronizing whether she intended it to be that way or not, but she can only rightfully be called misguided. Racist is the wrong word.

    I’m really tired of resistance to the word racist. Most white people seem to have internalized that racist is pejorative and care about it being applied to them or their actions, but actual racism? That seems to bother them much less.

    Also, it’s perfectly possible to write something racist without being a member of a white power group. The author of this post pulls that off spectacularly.

  33. shah8
    shah8 June 5, 2010 at 10:29 pm |

    People,

    It really helps if you consider racism a psychotropic meme, part of its repertoire of effects include addiction.

    Calling out someone one their racism, to me, is akin to calling someone out on having too many beers/shots, or finding someone high on meth or cocaine and being openly pissed about it. They’re gonna get defensive, push the definitions of their behaviors away from their actions, and exhibit a great deal of displacement of their emotions, sometimes including anger.

  34. Ens
    Ens June 6, 2010 at 3:59 am |

    “S.L, in Canada, no one asks where you’re from unless they want to know what your background is.”

    I have to say that phrasing struck me. I mean, how is “what’s your background” any more inherently obvious than “where are you from”?

    The way I have come to understand it in Toronto, “where are you from” means your town or county or whatever. “What’s your background” specifically refers to the modern country corresponding to where your grandparents (or great-grandparents or whatever) come from.

    I grew up in a different, much more rural part of Southern Ontario, and when I moved to Toronto for school the first few times I was asked “what’s your background” question I had no idea what they were getting at. When I eventually figured it out and explained what I knew, I was branded a German? Even though I have no ancestry there at all, but I guess it’s kind of a geographical average location of the place names I actually mentioned. I have no doubt people who aren’t white get the question to a greater degree.

  35. prairielily
    prairielily June 6, 2010 at 9:37 am |

    M,

    I live in Ontario now, but I’ve lived in other provinces as well. Whenever I’ve been asked where I’m from, I respond with the city that I was born in. The question then becomes, “Oh, where are your parents from?” followed by “Where are your grandparents from?” My answer remains the same, because various members of my family have lived in the city for between 20-45 years. Eventually, the question evolves to, “What is your background?” Some people give up along the way, of course, but you can tell by the look on their face that they didn’t get the answer that they wanted.

    I am not white. It pains me that even though I was born in this country, speak with no accent, and haved lived here for the majority of my life, I am questioned about where I’m ACTUALLY from so regularly. I have white friends who were not born in Canada who are not questioned nearly so frequently.

    This is not a freak occurrence that only applies to me, as it’s so common that it’s become a joke among people of colour in Canada. So I will go ahead and generalize to the whole country, thank you. Canadians are entirely too willing to pretend that there’s no racism in this country already. They can deal with one negative stereotype if I have to deal with constantly trying to prove that I’m Canadian too.

  36. Flowers
    Flowers June 6, 2010 at 2:59 pm |

    I’ve seen a lot of inter-racial relationships between Indians and non-Indians dissolve because the Indian parents wanted their son/daughter to date and marry another Indian. Does this hold true for every Indian? No. Is it part of the culture? Yes. The same is true with almost every minority group that feels that their culture is in danger of death by assimilation. And I don’t think the parents are unjustified in wanting their children to marry within their culture. I get mad when Jewish men marry non-Jewish women and tell everyone that it’s ok because the non-Jewish woman will “raise the kids Jewish.” If she’s not a Jew, how will she do that? I understand the desire to want your kids to give their culture to their children. (Wasn’t there a post recently about how SATC ignored the importance of culture in inter-racial relationships when Samantha dated “that black guy?”)

    But that being said, the HuffPo post was terrible. I got one sentence into it and stopped reading. Ugh. Utterly insulting.

  37. Emeryn
    Emeryn June 7, 2010 at 4:25 pm |

    …..wow.

    Though as some of the comments have already mentioned,

    1. You realize you have never met their parents and they live down the street. Nothing says, “I love you,” like, “I am embarrassed for my parents to find out you are not the race they want you to be.”

    doesn’t necessarily mean the person you are dating is a racist. My husband originally avoided introducing me to parts of his family because he didn’t want me, his bisexual Japanese girlfriend, to listen to their gay bashing or racist rantings. He’s incredibly open-minded. His family? Some of them are kind of scary.

  38. Lindsey
    Lindsey June 7, 2010 at 5:37 pm |

    “S.L, in Canada, no one asks where you’re from unless they want to know what your background is.”

    I found this offensive for some reason. Why are you responding to a post about offensive generalizations, with more generalizations? At the University I go to, everyone always asks other people where they’re from, because hardly anyone who goes there is actually from the city we live in. I don’t doubt that people ask “where are you from?”, as a way to dig for someone’s background, but I don’t see how that would happen more in Canada then anywhere else? And it’s kind of ridiculous to say that NO ONE HAS EVER asked that question unless they want to know someone’s background.

    Anyway..

    I can attest to what Niki is saying…I’ve heard some awful comments from white dudes when they hear that I’m dating an African guy. Not to mention the sneers, double and triple takes, etc. People really do tend to treat it like it’s some kind of fetish.

  39. cathy
    cathy June 8, 2010 at 10:17 am |

    Homophobia needs to be on the list with racist and sexist. As a bi woman who stronly identifies with being queer and who tends to surround herself with other queer people, I run into a lot of problems with straight men who express interest but are massively homophobic. Some of them assume that because I’m bi that my sexuality is just made up and I’m straight if I date a guy (this ticks me off so much) or the say that they only hate trans folks and gay dudes, like that makes your nastiness acceptable to me. I’m so annoyed that I’m considering dating only women and queer men.

  40. teachermrw
    teachermrw June 9, 2010 at 8:02 am |

    I have learned that because a white man dates black doesn’t mean he doesn’t harbor racist views re: black people. I think that there is an assumption because a man dates black, he’s ok. Not. true.

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