After reading Chapter 18 of Americanah, I couldn’t help but cringe over Curt’s overeagerness to dating Ifemelu. The fact that he mentioned he’d never been with a black girl before shows his superficiality in only looking at physical appearances–especially the color of a woman’s skin. Curt’s comment may seem as an innocent act of small talk to some, but with his self-assured attitude at assuming Ifemelu would be willing to be his girlfriend after one date, it’s a mild case of racial fetishism that leads to bigger problems for women of color.
Racial fetishism, according to revolvy.com, “involves fetishizing a person or culture belonging to a race or ethnic group that is not one’s own—therefore it involves racial/ethnic stereotyping and objectifying those bodies who are stereotyped and at times their cultural practices.”
Racial fetishism is prevalent, especially by men, in today’s society and has been since the early days of European colonization. Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon displays fetishism and primitivism of five nude female prostitutes–two of who are wearing African tribal masks. Today’s examples of racial fetishism include Asian Women Date, a website where non-Asian men can meet Asian women, and the scene from Austin Powers: Goldmember where the titular character crosses “Threesome with Japanese Twins” off of his bucket list.
Men like to joke around and call this “jungle fever” (preferring to date black women) or “yellow fever” (preferring to date Asian women) when their pals discuss desiring to date one specific race/ethnicity of women. There’s a difference between having a type and blatantly saying “I’ve always been attracted to [insert specific race/ethnicity and gender here].” Those who are only attracted to a certain group of people usually carry internalized racism and stereotypes.
Men that “have a thing for Asian girls” associate women of Asian descent with being subservient, childlike in appearance and behavior, and probably kinky; Latina women as having curvaceous bodies, light enough skin, and a sassy attitude but “not too sassy as to be like compared to a black girl;” and black girls with asses big enough for twerking, nurturing, and promiscuous.
News flash, men: your attempts at being charming and acting like you’re paying minority women a needed compliment is not sexy nor impressive. The lectures on slavery in America and China going through a cycle of dynasties given to you during your high school history classes were not taught simply for you to use them at attempts of appearing well informed to non-white girls.
Another thing: never describe a girl as exotic. They are not pets, coffee, nor plants so don’t degrade them to the status of one. There are other ways do describe a girl (i.e. her personality) that do not relate to her “foreign looks.” You sound lacking in intelligence and vocabulary if you have to place a girl in the same category as a Capuchin monkey.
In short, yes, you CAN have a type without racially fetishizing, IF you can cut the knowledge crap and flirt without relying on stereotypes to continue the conversation. Happy dating!