Racial preferences in dating are based on stereotypes, idolization

Credit: Holly Liu / Credit: Holly Liu /
Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Everyone has a “type.” Whether funny or serious, suave or dorky, broad or slender, artistic or athletic — or all of the above — everyone has their own preferences in dating. These are usually based on personal background, past experiences, sense of humor… the list is endless. And, in general, harmless, too.

Except when it’s not.

Except when someone’s “type” is based on stereotype, a preconceived image, a media-induced trope. When one such type is embraced by many and accelerated into a social phenomenon, until it earns its own name — “yellow fever.”

Defenders of this tendency, in which men choose to date exclusively Asian women, claim that it’s harmless — that these men only pursue Asian women because they prefer physically Asian features, or because they admire that culture and heritage.

This, in and of itself, is not harmful. Preference for certain physical characteristics is natural, and, of course, not racist. However, “yellow fever” is, unfortunately, not solely due to physical preferences.

In a couple of articles published over the last few weeks, staffwriter Brandon Schmuck defended the trend by arguing that this preference for Asian women stems from many different reasons, varying from person to person, and therefore is not inherently racist.

Unfortunately, this trend is not a result of a multitude of reasons; despite the complexity of human attraction, it is simple enough to generalize the central, most damaging reason. While there are, of course, some men who prefer Asian women for solely physical or cultural reasons, the defining characteristic of this movement, and the reason it has garnered such fervid criticism, is racial stereotyping.

Schmuck stated in his last article that “People are attracted to various traits … and this attraction is rooted on a subconscious level.” Very true. So is racism.

This historically intricate prejudice has transformed and developed over its many years of existence in this country. Over the past few years, conscious racism has faded away, at least in communities of education and intellect. What is left is subconscious racism — a lingering but very potent remnant of the prejudice that has afflicted this society for so long.

No upstanding citizen would consider themselves to be racist. Yet it persists, subtle perceptions and images that affect our thought patterns, little actions, and, yes, attractions.
These men who suffer from “yellow fever” are, most likely, not intentionally idealizing Asian women, nor would they consider themselves to be racist. They admire physical features, yes, but they also subconsciously project preconceived images onto any Asian woman that they see, so that she automatically becomes more attractive because of those perspectives.

It is these images that are so harmful in this society, these stereotypes that have caused such a vitriolic reaction to “yellow fever.” These various images of submission and docility or exoticism and intrigue still reside in our culture regarding Asian women, and have taken shape in this bizarre social phenomenon.

One may argue further that racial preferences are unrelated to stereotypes. But speaking as an Asian woman who’s been pursued specifically because of her ethnicity, it doesn’t feel innocent, or complimentary, or appreciative of culture. It feels degrading. It feels stained, foul. It feels like every stereotype of submission or exoticism forced on me at once.

It is true that we live within a political bubble, and it is an admirable pursuit to expand on-campus discussion to include complex and lesser-heard opinions. I agree that every opinion is worthy of being heard — and disputed. So don’t be astonished, then, when an opinion that affronts and, for some, personally insults, receives a lavish and ardent response.