I’ve always been fascinated by race.
I think we all are to an extent but we’ve been shamed into thinking that commenting on race makes us racists. It’s kind of pathetic.
It’s just a part of who we are. It’s part of our identity. It just matters on some level. It’s cool to connect with someone who looks like you and shares similar values.
I’ve been Ubering in and out of DC a lot recently to meet up with friends and almost every time I get into one, the driver always asks me where I’m from.
Is that racist?
I don’t really see it as racist. I don’t really even see that as xenophobic either since most of the people who ask me these questions are immigrants and people of color.
Even if they are white, I just assume they’re simply curious not because they think I’m not from here simply based on skin tone all the while knowing that I live in a white-majority country.
Anyway, they had no reason to question my citizenship or status in America since I was born and raised here in NYC, dressed like a Westerner, and sometimes, even sound like a Valley girl.
I mean, when you have long jet-black hair and tan skin you can be mistaken for being Indian, Pakistani, Afghani, Middle Eastern, Latina, and sometimes even Mediterranean so I don’t really blame any of these people regardless of their race.
When you look like me, you probably will not guess that I’m Persian with some Turkish and British blood who has parents from India.
Sometimes, they get it right though.
Most of the time, they don’t but I like to give people some slack. Anyway, if you asked me to differentiate between a German, Irish person, and a Brit or a Chinese and a Korean, from a Japanese person, I would probably guess wrong too.
Is that racist? Nah. A bit ignorant, maybe. At least, I’m honest. Most people would not want to admit to that even though it’s true.
To be fair, I don’t really notice race is most situations. I don’t go out and my mind doesn’t think “This white person walked past me” and “I’m living with an Asian roommate”. It’s usually more like “This guy walked past me” and “I’m living with a roommate”. Their race is tucked away in the back of my mind. I don’t think about it much.
Even when it comes to going out on dates, I never used to care much about race.
My first and only ever boyfriend I had was a blue-eyed German-Irish boy with long blonde hair who was really good at playing multiple instruments. I thought he was a hot version of Kurt Cobain who I desperately wanted to be alive when I was 17 years old.
I know, I know. I was an idiot.
Our relationship did not pan out well not but I would never solely blame it on race because that was only one of the many differences we had.
Ever after him, I continued to date white men usually of German/Irish ancestry because I tend to be surrounded by them. I think I have been attracted to men with blue eyes since I was little and thought they were exotic to me just like how they probably thought I was exotic to them.
Looking back, I don’t really think I was trying to specifically go out of my way to date a specific race or group of men though. It kind of just happens when you’re surrounded by them. I just liked the idea of being with white men even though we didn’t seem to have much in common usually when it came to our mindset as I later found out.
The men I dated liked to eat bacon and drink beer, were way more adventurous than me and my father, and kept dogs which I never had in my home (but I like the idea of having a white lab!).
They usually didn’t seem to know much about their heritage and had a rough idea when I asked them about it, liked sports like swimming, polo, or tennis, and were not really materialistic.
Many worked in the government/military/business, came from a divorced home usually but their parents had remarried at some point or had a boyfriend/girlfriend now, and largely believed in egalitarianism.
On the other hand there was me.
I never ate bacon growing up in a Muslim home nor did I drink, was not really adventurous aside from seeing my father hunt elk, and never had a dog but I thought they were cute.
I loved my Persian heritage and liked to talk about it, grew up with a penchant for wrestling, had family working in medicine or business, and liked soccer and fencing.
I am somewhat materialistic and own some luxury goods, am grateful for having parents married for over 30 years, and grew up around people who could be viewed as largely sexist or classist.
Those weren’t huge deal breakers or anything but when stacked up together, they really made me feel disconnected. After two years of dating, I realized even though many times I was attracted to them physically, there really wasn’t anything else there. It didn’t matter if I went on three dates or thirteen; I just got sick of not being able to bond. I got sick of looking at someone who didn’t look anything like me.
Then again, some of those differences existed because we came from different backgrounds and have a different race but many of those differences stemmed from the fact that we had different mindsets and ways of approaching life.
I’ve gone out on dates with all kinds of white men. Upper class. Lower class. Middle class. Some of them really loved their heritage, knew where they were from, and loved their background. For others, it didn’t matter so much.
I really liked the guys who knew where they came from and loved their heritage and I tended to bond with the ones who are upper middle class just like me. They believed in the same things I did and had the same mindset. That was key.
Like I said, you can’t generalize.
But, when I dated them, for whatever reason, it just did not feel right. When I walked around and saw couples that looked like each other, I remember going out on a date and thinking “What the heck am I doing with this guy?”. I questioned the legitimacy of being with someone of another race when surrounded by people who had partners of their own race who looked like they were practically siblings at cocktail parties.
It didn’t help when people would randomly come up to us on the street and tell us that we looked good together. It didn’t help when the waitress on dates would tell us we looked beautiful. Those compliments sounded forced and automated. I couldn’t help but think they’re crazy.
Or maybe I was a crazy racist.
I did not want to be exotic. I didn’t care about having the hypothetical “beautiful interracial babies” we are supposed to have. I thought that just sounded weird and fetishy. I just wanted to be normal.
I thought 2016 would be different. And so, I tried to date my own kind.
White men weren’t the problem though. It was partially me. I am a bit tribal. I am mostly Persian. I like the idea of dating other Persians all the while living in a white-majority country.
I liked being around them mainly because I’m almost never around them and when I am, it just felt nice. I wanted someone who looked and sounded like me. I wanted someone who just “gets it”.
I wanted someone who could relate with having immigrant parents. I wanted someone to come home to and make chai for. I wanted someone to say “Salam” too. Persians excite me.
I wanted someone who could articulate their views on Islam good and bad and not just say “Oh, they need to be deported. They’re all ISIS. Fuck Islam.” because well, it’s more complicated than that. I didn’t feel like I need to explain these things to someone I’m with.
But, that does not negate the fact that white guys can be pretty good-looking or take good care of their women. I mean, I do not hate white guys nor will I ever.
My father’s great-grandparents are British and most people in my family are well integrated into the US because they went on and married outside their race. They did not just want to form a little enclave and network within.
I think white guys are fun to hang around, have a good sense of humor, and tend to be more open about dating and stuff than some of the Persian men I know.
I just figured most white men probably would date their own so I never used to even bother dating them. The idea of it sounded cool. The reality, not so much. I mean why wouldn’t someone want to date their own kind? Why wouldn’t someone want to be with someone like them? This isn’t even about race. It’s simple: like attracts like.
According to a Pew Research Center survey from 2008, I wasn’t wrong to think how I do. I mean, whites are the least likely to marry outside their race. But they don’t seem to be too tribal when it comes to dating in liberal cities DC or in NYC as I have seen. Marriage is different though and a much bigger commitment.
And so I did go on to date someone who was more like me. Unsurprisingly, our chemistry was unbelievable. I didn’t feel weird about spending time with him and he didn’t feel weird wanting to introduce me to his family. I was pretty surprised when he used to talk about his family because I had never really reached that point with other guys I’ve dated in the past.
When we’d walk around together, it did feel normal although we had other issues and haven’t stayed together, I definitely did feel somewhat better about dating my own.
I felt at ease and didn’t feel like every time I would go one step forward, I would go one step back. There was always this reluctance I had with dating outside my own race. It just felt odd and fleeting.
Would I date one for marriage? I don’t know.
Race for me is not a deciding factor at this point. It isn’t something I think about much when their mindset matters to me way more.
I’ve gone out with several people outside my race and within my race to come to the realization that their mindset is way more important than their race. I’ve dated people within my race that I had 0 connection with because of the way they carried themselves. And I’ve also dated people outside my race for the same exact reason.
But, I will say this:
I think it’s important to integrate into America which is mostly white and marrying one can be an essential part of the melting process in this giant melting pot.
I don’t really want to balkanize America and form my own ethnic enclave so my kids end up hating white people or majority of America because we choose to put our racial identity first. My nation is more important than my race and I refused to put my race first.
I also think that melting into the melting pot is part of a sacrifice that immigrants should make to pay homage to the people who came before us.
My father didn’t come here to make up his own laws. He knew he had to learn English and that he would be mostly surrounded by mostly white people. After all, America was 90% white in 1970.
I think most immigrants who came here know this but don’t want to admit it. Lots of cognitive dissonance at work.
At the same time, I don’t want to forget my roots or where I came from. I think Indian clothes is beautiful. I think naming your child Xerxes is awesome. Zoroastrianism is pretty interesting to learn about as well. To this day, I still prefer eating Persian food on the reg.
But I also do not want to be shamed for dating a white guy by people of my own kind because “I gave up on them” and be called a white supremacist or whatever nasty word they hurl at me.
Let’s be real. Not all white people are Nazis and not all Muslims are ISIS. Generalizations are pointless when describing large groups of people.
I don’t think people should be indoctrinated to engage in interracial dating because dating outside your race is more “exotic” or “cool” for doing so. At the same time, I don’t think marrying outside your race is inherently a bad thing and people don’t need to be shamed for doing so.
If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it is that mindset is key. I care more about a person’s outlook on life than their skin color but I wouldn’t shame someone for thinking otherwise to take the higher moral ground.