Race and skin color

April 25, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Letters to the Editor | Jenny Prater for The Clarion

Race and skin color

As always, the opinions and statements expressed on our Views pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Student Life, The Clarion or its sponsors. This submission is not meant to be the authoritative voice on the subject. Instead, it is intended to stimulate conversation in the Bethel community. We welcome any tasteful responses for publication. | The Clarion staff

I recently took a survey on interracial relationships, and one question in particular stood out to me: Are you satisfied dating within your own race?

The answer, required to prove my lack of racism, was quite obviously “No.” But as it happens, I am content dating within my own race, and I fail to see the problem with that. What I do have a problem with is questions like this. While attempting to resolve racial differences, the questions emphasize the divide between races.

I believe that there is only one race — human. I understand what the writer of the survey meant, and I was willing to play along for the purposes of the study. But discussing race in this manner is one of the main reasons that race continues to be an issue.

I am satisfied dating within my race. This has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of inferiority, or even difference, in some other race. Satisfaction with my race does not require dissatisfaction with another. I fall in love with who I fall in love with, and race is completely irrelevant to that. I don’t consider the color of a man’s skin before I let him buy me coffee. If I weren’t satisfied with my own race, I think that would imply a whole new racial issue, no less damaging than the one this survey writer was interested in.

Should I refuse to date men who share my skin color? What does that say about my perception of my own race — that I’m bigoted against myself? That I’m overcompensating for the failings of my brothers and sisters? If your romantic satisfaction is based on any skin color then you’re doing something wrong.

I would be completely satisfied dating only white men for the rest of my life. But that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be just as satisfied dating Afican American men or Asian men. Interracial relationships lose their importance as soon as we start to seek them out, because it means that we perceive a significant difference in the races. Racism is an important issue to address, but we’re asking the wrong questions. Maybe, if we really want to get past it, we should stop asking questions at all.

Or maybe we shouldn’t. The problem with writing about your opinion is that you’re supposed to have the details worked out, and sometimes I don’t know exactly what I think. But I do know this: interracial relationships are great, but they aren’t inherently greater than any other kind. Getting involved with someone of a different race to prove you aren’t racist is like refusing to wear dresses as proof of feminism — not because you happen to prefer pants, but because, to be a woman of equality, you have to look and act like a man. It’s like a straight man marrying another man to prove his support for gay marriage. It doesn’t work. It completely undermines the idea that these things don’t matter.

The survey wasn’t meant to imply all this; it simply included a strangely worded question. But it’s an issue that comes up a lot, and the people who say things like this very seldom mean to offend — they just aren’t thinking. But they should, and this is very important. You should be satisfied dating within your race — and out of it. If race is playing any part in your relationship, that’s racist. It doesn’t matter which race you’re talking about, and it doesn’t matter what reasons you have. Racism is racism.

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