How to Know You are Dating a Racist (HTKUADAR)

In lieu of this profoundly short-sighted and blatantly racist piece published at the Huffington Post titled “How to Date an Indian,” I thought it was time for me to write my own dating guide to help us stay away from people that might potentially follow this kind of advice.
How to know you are dating a racist.
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.”
2. They love the Rolling Stones but think that Jay-Z is sexist. I mean, I know it is hard to overlook Mick Jagger’s profoundly progressive views on women, but let’s just try for the sake of argument. *eyeroll*
3. They ask you on the first date if (insert with ethnicity) girls are as (insert with ethnicity related explicit sexual act) as people say they are. It’s like sexist racist mad libs, really.
4. They ask you offensive questions about what they perceive your culture to be, defending their profoundly ignorant question by saying, “I just want to learn more about your people baby!” (via @popscribblings)
5. They ask you if they can touch your hair or skin or eyelash or eyelid before you have even kissed.
6. They want to know why your family acts like “that.”
7. They say something about how it might be easier to date someone from their own race.
8. When you are in a foreign country (or a taxi cab), they look to you to translate even though you don’t speak the language, either.
9. They say something to you like, “You are so different from the rest of your race, I really like you.” OR, they put down other races in front of you, as though it is OK as long as they are not putting down your race. (via Latoya Peterson)
10. They say they noticed you because you look “exotic.” Do I look like a bird of paradise to you? #iamnotyourfetish
All of these may sound like sure signs you are DAR (dating a racist), but it took dating a long line of people who asked if I was a “Kama Sutra Indian,” or told me, “I love Indian food,” (like, dude are you saying you are going to eat me??) or that I have “almond eyes,” or claimed to know more about India than I do, to learn how to detect that I was asked out by or was dating…a racist.
Please, feel free to add more in comments. This information could save us from so many horrible dates!

Join the Conversation

  • DeafBrownTrash

    #3, #9, and #10 have happened to me. Being Indian, I’ve had white guys asking me if we Indian women read the KAMA SUTRA and if it’s true we know how to have “tantric sex” or something. Oh yeah I feel gross and sick when white guys say they love Indian women in sarees, because it’s so “sexy, elegant and feminine.” YUCK !!!

  • NishaC

    also, my favorite is when they ask “so what caste is your family?” or “have you ever worn a sari?” OR my favorite – making presumptive comments about hinduism and/or buddhism even though they have never actually asked you what your personal religious beliefs actually are. you know, because all brown people must believe the same thing.

  • Poorva

    My favourites? “I love women in saris, why don’t you wear them?” (Um, because a) they’re damned uncomfortable and b) my body, my choice?), “So, do, like, people in India still travel on elephants?” (No, we upgraded to flying carpets a while ago…), and, of course, “Your English is really good!” (Well, considering I’ve been speaking it since I was three…)
    And let’s not even get into the faux-New-Age-yoga-cultural-appropriation BS…

  • genericjanedoe

    Hmm…I’m curious about the “I love Indian food” comment (genuinely). When I talk to people about cultures/races I often mention food or food customs, as it’s really interesting to me and I like to learn more and share…not to mention the fact that I point blank love food. When is this racist? When is it not? (Again…I’m honestly curious about this.)

  • MishaKitty

    I think you forgot the #1 signifier that all racists love to use. After they say some horrible stereotyped bullshit racist comment they then say something like “but it’s okay because my best friend is *insert ethnicity I just made horrible comment about here* so I can say that.” That actually happened to my friend this last Friday night at a bar and we’re like, people actually still say that?

  • dogsmycopilot

    Woa, woa. How is number one racist? If I shield my guy from my racist parents how does that make me a racist? Come down here to Mississippi and see how that works. It won’t. If you are under 30 and white and dating outside your race it is polite to shield your new love from the racist idiots who raised you. It’s not about embarrassment. It’s about it being none of your family’s business who you are dating because they live in the dark ages and you don’t. Get real!

  • JGirl

    I try to be really careful about food related comments. It’s true that I LOVE certain ethnic foods, but I don’t want to give the impression that I think everybody who can trace their ancestry to that country/area is just good for feeding me.

  • VickyinSeattle

    I’m of Chinese descent, and the first mistake I made with this one guy was to go on a date even though he made a joking reference–with smiley face via e-mail–about having a “complex fetish” because his last two girlfriends were Asian AND baristas. (I know, what was I thinking, but I figured I should give everyone a 2nd chance.)
    After the date, I got more eyebrow-raising e-mails–asking me if I was into Chinese astrology (he was dead serious about this), and commenting about my eyes. There was no 2nd date.
    It took me the experience to think more about this F-word. Our culture does not have the concept of a “white fetish” because fetishes are always about the “exotic other.” Since white is supposed to be normative, fetishes are directed outward toward the “different” and “exciting”: blacks, Asians, Latinos/as, Middle Easterners.

  • Av0gadro

    Ooh, a corollary to “Your English is really good!” is, “Why don’t you have an accent?” I dated a guy in high school who asked this, genuinely confused as to why I didn’t have a Japanese accent. I had gone to school with this guy since we were six. It honestly didn’t occur to him that, no matter how Japanese a girl’s father is, if she grows up in Indiana, her only accent is going to involve pronouncing pin and pen the same way.

  • Sunset

    To be fair, I’ve had to deal with #1 on other areas (not race specifically, but on various political/religious stuff)…sometimes it just means “My parents are bigots and I don’t want to deal with more shit from them but I haven’t removed them from my life yet.”

  • Cyndel

    Well, apart from the first three and the 9th, the rest is plain ignorance (which is somewhat understandable, how many of us know foreign cultures beyond a few stereotypes? Italy = pizza, spaghetti, macaroni, Greece = feta, gyros, souvlaki, metaxa…) Also, exotic may or may not be a compliment, but if you were the only redhead among blondes, were you expecting others to notice your intellect first? It’s usually the looks that attract us to another person but it’s their personality that makes us want to date them and stay with them.
    When I meet people from other nations (even within my own “race”), they usually mention the few things they know about my country (usually includes some food stuff and a famous person or two). They just try to be polite, and even if I hear the same from every foreigner ad nauseam, it’s still better than a blank stare and “really? is that a country/where is that?” etc.

  • cato

    Ouch, the Huffington Post article really is painful to read.
    “I highly recommend you familiarize yourself with some Bollywood actors and choose a favorite. Some safe, attractive possibilities: Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Amitabh Bachchan.”
    No need to actually watch their movies. Just pick one and drop the name on occasion. All Indians love that!

  • Surfin3rdWave

    The “How to Date an Indian” article is really appalling.
    “Most Indians are innately gracious, social creatures.” Creatures? CREATURES?
    On the topic of cultural appropriation… I like Indian-style clothing because it flatters my build and the dye colors complement my skin-tone. I also like Indian food because it provides the most diverse array of healthy vegetarian dishes I can find.
    At what point is this racist or exploitative? I have talked about Indian food with one of my Indian friends because it’s a common point of interest. Would some people find this unacceptable?

  • JGirl

    Oh, and one I heard not all that long ago on Facebook during an immigration discussion was, “My friend of that ethnicity feels the same way!”
    I’m pretty sure the person making that statement has no clue as to his “friend’s” actual feelings on the matter, if the friend even exists.

  • Comrade Kevin

    I sometimes wonder how not to be unintentionally offensive when I’m looking to relate to someone not of my race. At times I want to say, “One of my favorite writers is ___________ or my favorite professor in college was _____________.”
    I don’t want to be in “love me, love me, I’m a liberal” land but I do want to validate that I appreciate them as a human and value the diversity they bring with them.

  • Surfin3rdWave

    I actually heard a guy use the N-word a few weeks ago and claim that it was okay because he has black friends… Then he clarified that “not all black people are n—-s, just the ones who do n—- things.”
    I can’t believe that anyone still thinks you can justify racism by hiding behind “I have(insert race) friends” or “not all (insert race) are like that.”

  • VickyinSeattle

    I hear you. I love Ethiopian food, and when I meet Ethiopians, I often end up talking about their amazing food.
    I think it’s a matter of *when* you bring it up. Declaring that you love so-and-so food immediately upon finding out someone belongs to that ethnicity or region is a little tacky. “You’re from the South? I LOVE fried green tomatoes!”
    Also, it helps to be aware that a lot of the ethnic food we eat in the states has been been diluted or completely mutilated into something that wouldn’t be recognizable in the home country. Talking to someone who’s from that country will probably lead you to where you can get “the real stuff.” And that’s awesome!

  • Nicole

    Speaking as a white girl, perhaps it is inappropriate for me to answer, but I think I understand what Samhita meant.
    If I were to be having a conversation with someone and we were talking about our favourite foods or types of cuisine, and I were to say I have a particular penchant for Indian food (which is true — mmmm), or that there’s a really great Indian place near my house, that isn’t necessarily racist, because we’re talking about food and maybe we’re even talking about international cuisine and it’s relevant.
    However, if I were to meet an Indian person and I were to say, “Oh, you’re Indian? I love Indian food!” That would be racist, because it is reducing their culture to a white person’s experience of their culture, and it’s “complimenting” them when really you’re not actually saying anything complimentary at all; you’re just commenting on one aspect of their culture that they may or may not even participate in. It would be like saying “Oh, you’re black? I love hip-hop!” It’s offensive and awkward, and incredibly othering since you’re making an attempt to draw a connection between you and this person, even though no one asked you to do that.

  • pedestrian

    As a gay white guy who grew up poor on a very isolated evangelical compound in the rural south, I have a lot of trouble relating culturally to “normal” white people. I am hyper-aware of my own difference, so I try to watch my assumptions, whether I’m with a white or nonwhite guy.
    If I’m with a white guy, I try to bring these issues up, because a lot of racists assume that a blond, blue eyed white guy agrees with them and I want to cut that short. Some nonwhite guys I’ve dated have also been attracted to me because I’m white – and that’s a very difficult thing to work on in the context of a romantic relationship. But in my experience, it is better to be with someone who is engaged in the process of learning and is aware of his ignorance, than someone who thinks he knows a lot of facts and rules and tries to apply them to others.

  • Nicole

    I think this is a great list, but I am going to comment on #2. I don’t think this is necessarily a cue for racism so much as musical tastes. Maybe a person doesn’t like rap music and loves rock & roll, which makes them overlook sexist themes in r&r more than they will in hip-hop. That doesn’t make them a racist, just a person with particular tastes.
    I think a more apt comparison would be, say, Eminem and Jay-Z. If you can handle Eminem’s sexism but not Jay-Z’s, then we have a problem. Or, whenever I hear white people say “I’m not really into rap but I love Eminem,” I’m always a little wary of why they say that, because Eminem’s music is the absolute epitome of the usual reasons people give for disliking hip-hop: angry lyrics, violence, misogyny, glorified crime.

  • Spiffy McBang

    The first one means you’re dating someone with racist parents, certainly. But are they, themselves, consistently racist in those situations? My only experience with something like that is a friend who dated a black girl and whose dad is racist as fuck; he brought her over after not too long, thinking his dad wasn’t going to change, so might as well get it over with. I’ll bow to greater experience, but it seems awfully possible for someone else in the same situation to wimp out for a while instead. (That’s still bad, I know, just a different type of bad.)

  • quack1015

    I love this, though I’m not completely sure about #1. This could be a warning sign, but it could also mean that the person is ashamed of their parents, not the person they’re dating. Would someone who’s not out to their parents who doesn’t bring their sig. other home to meet said parents be considered homophobic or ashamed of being gay? (I know these are different sorts of things, but I think the general point of parental disapproval not representing the person’s own feelings stands.) I’m one-half of an interracial relationship, and it took some time before my now-husband met my parents, mostly because of the prepwork involved in making sure my family understood what was and wasn’t acceptable behavior. Given how we can’t choose our parents, I sort of feel that situations like this should be given the benefit of the doubt (though as the relationship progresses into more serious territory, it’s definitely something that needs to be confronted).

  • ShareseL

    I am loving this post. I have actually had #’s 3,5,6,7, 8, and 9 all done to me- and I’m a white woman. It seems that ignorance (gasp! we are all simply human with our own thoughts, likes, dislikes, etc. no matter what we look like or where people *think* we come from) goes all ways.

  • davenj

    Love the first item on the list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to show people how the Beatles are loaded with misogyny and have song lyrics about violence against women, too. The whole idea that rap music is the only type of music with misogyny is so loaded with racism.

  • Sex Toy James

    I’m now fascinated with this Andrea Miller person and her amazing ability to sum up over a billion people consisting of hundreds or thousands of ethnicities into such a tidy little stereotype. She does so with such good will and enthusiasm.

  • vtfem

    When my best friend married a man who is Indian, one of our other friends actually said something along the lines of, “I think it’s so great that you guys are getting married. It’s really progressive and you’ll be teaching tolerance and acceptance to others about interracial marriages and families.” My friend was like, “Uh thanks, but that’s not really the reason we’re getting married.”

  • SarahSimone

    It’s not that liking lots of different types of food is inherently racist. I feel like the racist elements come from people saying “I love (insert ethnic type) food” as a way to show how progressive they are. The food version of saying “but I have (insert ethnic type) friends!” It’s part of the “positive” stereotyping that goes hand in hand with dating outside your race because it seems cool and exotic.
    A really awesome essay about the co-option of other cultures through food (among other things) is bell hooks “Eating the Other.”

  • cattrack2

    This is interesting. Being black ppl think I’m “exotic” or “different” too. I know some ppl have fetishes about us, while others just are genuinely attracted to a certain type & a certain ethnicity often feels that type. What’s the difference???
    For me its all in the approach. Some people may indeed be attracted to my dark skin but if I see that they can get beyond that & see me as an individual than I give them the benefit of the doubt. I personally find it better than the alternative: white ppl who can only be attracted to other whites because that’s all they consider attractive.

  • genericjanedoe

    Of course, as a native Hoosier myself, I read this comment thinking “wait, there’s a pronunciation different between pen and pin?” :)

  • genericjanedoe

    I definitely don’t want to give this impression either, but I like to discuss cuisine generally, and often it will move toward discussing various regional cuisines too.

  • genericjanedoe

    “not all black people are n—-s, just the ones who do n—- things.”
    I HATE THAT LINE…and I hear it disturbingly often. It’s usually followed by “there are white people who are n-words too. It’s not about race anymore.”
    REALLY?! Ugh.

  • Milena

    I’ve had a guy treat me extremely disrespectfully on a date and then make comments about /my/ culture being backwards and sexist. And I’m Eastern-European, so I wasn’t even of a different race from him.

  • tatertot

    Haha! Agreed!
    My roommate of over a year asked me recently, “How did you learn to sound like one of us [an American]?” Like I’m some assimilated spy!

  • Nikaara

    Personally, the Indian food thing for me isn’t racist, it’s just not necessarily relevant. Where I’m from in India is not represented in any Indian restaurant I’ve been to outside of India. So if someone says they love chicken tikka masala, that’s not really a segue into my culture.

  • amber-indikaze

    As much as I’m not a fan of the article’s attempt to paint everyone with the same brush, I think the common sense interpretation of “familiarize yourself with an actor” is more likely to involve watching a movie or two, rather than name dropping every once in a while.
    But what do I know? I’m just a writer…

  • Icy Bear

    I think the whole food thing (and similar comments about culture/customs) is really based on context.
    I’ve been in a few university environments that are highly international. In these environments, talking about cultural differences is the norm. Conversations with friends will usually be an exchange of comments like, ‘In my country we eat/wear/watch/do/think x. What do they eat/wear/watch/do/think in your country?’ Classroom discussions will also often centre around these kind of national stereotypes. (I should note, I find this sort of conversation really annoying in a lot of ways, but that’s off-topic.)
    Anyway, my point is, that is a situation in which it would be completely appropriate to start talking about food customs when you first meet someone. But if I were to, say, meet new neighbours who were originally from a different country, the polite thing would be to avoid immediately seeing their defining characteristic as ‘someone from a different country’ unless they seemed particularly interested in talking about their culture with me. And that would involve avoiding any assumptions about what food/entertainment/religious beliefs/etc. they might enjoy.

  • Kathleen6674

    Thank you. I’m not ashamed of dating a person of color, but I am ashamed of my racist parents. And really, I should be. Who wants to admit their parents are racist, let alone subject friends or significant others to their anger and bullshit? Hell, I don’t bring white friends around my parents because my dad spouts racist (and sexist and homophobic) shit every 5 seconds, and assumes all white people agree with him. I call him on it all the time, of course, but it never stops. I imagine if he said something horrible in front of anyone I knew and I called him on it, they might assume that I was calling him on it just because they happened to be there, and not because I genuinely thought what he said was wrong.

  • amber-indikaze

    Borrowing bits from other cultures to use in your life is fine… thinking you’re some sort of expert for doing so is decidedly less so. (unless, of course, you are… in which case, just be sure to cite your sources)
    Also not okay is relying on stereotypes rather than research, then acting defensively when confronted. It shows not only shallowness of knowledge, but general apathy regarding that shallowness.
    And that’s before we get into people who culturally appropriate because it’s some sort of magic “tolerance badge” that makes them look worldly and educated. These people are looking for shortcuts (as are, quite often, the people who complement them)

  • genericjanedoe

    That’s actually what I’m usually discussing…the authenticity of certain things, their favorite dishes from their culture…etc. And this is usually when I already know that they have such favorite dishes.

  • genericjanedoe

    Ok, I fall much more into the actual discussion side of this than the immediate “I LOVE THAT FOOD” side, and that distinction makes sense to me. But I was just asking since this came out of the dating context, which is usually beyond a first meeting situation.

  • genericjanedoe

    Makes sense, I’ll check out the book.

  • Jennifer

    Somehow I knew this was written by Samhita. She takes “It’s okay for me to be racist because I’m not white” to a whole new level. I know this won’t get past the moderators, just wanted to tell you I think you give feminism a bad name, bitch! :)

  • Anonymous

    My background is French, and I’ve been called “Fifi”, asked if I was a stripper, and told that “French women love giving blow jobs” (uhh, so that’s why you insisted on driving me home? Get lost).
    Other side of coin: my (now deceased) mother hated Muslims and referred to anyone from the Middle East as an Arab. When I went to Montreal, I dated a Kurdish refugee. My parents declared I was “dating an Arab”. My mother was upset because she was sure he would repress me, my dad was upset because he didn’t speak French. Thought I could change their minds by showing them how charming the boyfriend was. They declared him cute and sweet, but it didn’t quite change their attitudes… Mercifully, they didn’t make him feel bad.

  • nyxelestia

    I am Indian, and that article made me want to either laugh or cry, I’m not sure which.
    Might want to add, “If they assume you know how to cook “insert ethnicity here” food, or know all the best restaurants around serving that food, you’re DAR.” Also, if they try to cook you your-ethnic food only because you are that ethnicity, rather than expressing any fondness for it. It’s annoying: “How can your favorite food be Italian/Thai/Mexican? You’re Indian!”, or even worse: “What do you mean, you don’t like Indian food? You’re Indian, you love Indian food!” (I’ve actually had that said to me. Thanks, asshole, for telling me what food I like! I never knew that my cultural upbringing, palette, diet, fridge contents, and taste buds have all been lying to me all my life!)
    Also, see how they react to (other) interracial couples. If they don’t care, good. If they don’t even notice, brilliant. If they start making offhand comments about it, be wary – even if you are in one. I’ve never actually dated in my own race, and I’ve had white guys who didn’t care I was Indian, only to flip out at seeing a black/white or Asian/Mexican couple. It was…awkward. Especially once they DID remember what race I was.

  • ruthieoo

    I love this list, but I also agree with what you’re saying! It’s always fun when your step-mom says “I just really respect how hard Mexicans can do manual labor. They’re really built for it!” when you’re introducing your Peruvian boyfriend. So embarrassing for me, and painfully awkward for him. I don’t mind the teachable moments my parents present to me, but I don’t really want to go there at the expense of my partner all the time.

  • pedestrian

    I think it can be a sensitive issue though, because it’s exhausting to always play tour guide to your own culture. Lot’s of people are happy to talk about the things they enjoy, but POC also don’t exist to give bored white people free tips on the best music and restaurants. (I’m not saying that is your approach, it is just something anyone who is perceived as ‘different’ has to deal with. A lot.”

  • Kyra Cat Soul

    It’s appropriate once you’ve established that they, as an individual, have some kind of interest in/liking for/experience with (some of) the foods associated with their culture, rather than communicating the assumption that they must like Indian cuisine because they’re Indian.
    If you were talking to another white person, just them existing there is not an indication of their interest in Indian cuisine, so you would probably wait for the conversation to get to a point where the information that you like it is relevant.
    It’s a social norm that we don’t greet people with “hey, do you like [obscure interest]?” and we in fact obey that social norm with everyone. The racism comes in under the assumption that their racial connection to the culture that produced it means it’s NOT an obscure interest. The assumption that among Indian people, Indian food is a common (or universal) experience or interest is the insult, because it defines them by their racial/ethnic identity over their individual personhood. It says “I don’t need to know you, I already know you.”
    It’s kinda like mansplaining, to be honest. “You don’t need to tell me about yourself. I’m the expert. I’ll tell you who you are, and you can go ahead and be that.”
    I’m off on a bit of a tangent here, but the basic thing is, don’t assume there’s a connection between the person and their ethnicity’s cultural wealth. Build a road to it in your conversation, the way you would with someone for whom you had no idea of what their tastes and interests are—which is, in fact, exactly what you’re dealing with.

  • Kyra Cat Soul

    “not all black people are n—-s, just the ones who do n—- things.”
    The word MEANS “bad/degenerate/subhuman due to blackness.” That is how slurs work. “F*g” means “bad due to homosexual orientation.” “Pussy” means “bad because of feminine-associated characteristics (most often weakness).”
    The above attempt to justify its use invokes the racism of double standards, of low assigned baseline worth: that humanity, if you’re black, isn’t a status granted to you by being, y’know, human, like it is for white people, but is something you have to earn with good behavior.
    “Some of my best friends are X,” is not a statement of acceptance of X, but rather a celebration of the speaker’s privilege, a boast of having raised a few members of group X out of the gutters of hir contempt and into hir circle of friends—it is a reaffirmation of hir own perogative and ability to judge people of X group. The act of someone who considers hirself above people of group X, that it is hir place to decide their worth. Exempting some people from one’s disdain for individual merit is not evidence against bigotry; it is an exercise of their racially-motivated assumed right to judge

  • April

    “Most Indians are innately gracious, social creatures.” Creatures? CREATURES?

    Her article was embarrassingly horrid, I completely agree, but using “creatures” in that context is actually really common (at least here in my part of the US), and used frequently to describe people of any ethnic background. It’s not meant to be offensive, just a different way of saying “humans” or “people,” while trying to sound cute or something.

  • Kyra Cat Soul

    Assume they have no more likelihood of liking/reading/having experience with these people than a person not of that race/culture would have. Don’t assume they’re familiar with it because of their ethnicity.
    This means you need to bring the conversation to a place where it’s relevant to start talking about these people. I.e. if the author you want to tell them you admire is a philosopher, start a discussion about philosophy, and then—this is important—ASK “have you read [author]‘s work?” Don’t assume that they know that author.
    It helps a lot to be familiar with the subject in general and also be bringing up other authors of other ethnicities—this makes clear that you are not just dropping the name to say “see, I love Indians! Aren’t I a treasure?” but are interested in the topic at hand.