Racist is a modern pejorative. Who would ever want to claim a descriptor like that? Certainly not that progressive-values LA twink who’s just looking for some (white) dick on a Thursday night.
It’s pretty amazing that in 2019 there are still folks running around with “no azn, no black, just a preference lol!” as their whole bio on the apps. People who – one imagines – must be so inundated with messages demanding their attention at all hours of the night and day from black and asian men that they’ve found it necessary to build a tiny wall of words (build-that-wall!) around themselves, decrying preemptively their dislike for several billion humans.
I mean, what other possible reason could there be for making the very first (and last, in most cases) sentence some people will ever read about you center around such a petty and small idea? It must be a preventative measure. Or perhaps a preemptive alert, about the sort of person you’re about to message: I might look cute, but inside I’m filled with dead batteries, used diapers, and horse hair. Caveat emptor!
A message in a bottle to anyone seeking some sort of comfort that they’re not alone in this difficult and wounding human experience: no solace to be found here. I only like folks who have my same face. Scroll on.
One of the more curious things one encounters when trying to gently unpack this shockingly common phenomenon with folks who do this sort of thing (I messaged with two, and found I was so put off I couldn’t proceed), is the insistence that stating it as merely a “preference” magically removes the label of “racist” from their demand; a label they agree is abhorrent and not something they openly subscribe to. Nobody wants to be called a racist after all – particularly when all they are doing is stating a preference that exists beyond their control!
Which brings us quickly to the (very white) notion that one can have racist ideas, and live unconfronted with their wrongness, without ever seeing themselves as being racist. Those two things are distinct and very significant in the white experience. You can have deeply held beliefs involving stereotypes and myths about non-white people without seeing that as problematic, because you do not live AS a racist. And, without much effort, one can live a whole life without ever having those beliefs called into question in any meaningful way.
One of the most insidious elements of white supremacy is how natural and normalized it is in every single facet of waking life; in every interaction you have with strangers, in books, movies, music, advertising, laws – everything. A major supporting tentpole for that insidiousness is that it lives unexamined by white people at every stage of power and influence. We legitimately do not see it, and so it becomes easy to argue vehemently that it does not exist. It is an ideology that moves and grows and thrives like a mold in the walls; the house looks tidy enough, but is poison if you stay too long. We’ve all been breathing this mold our entire lives, without being forced to ever see it there behind the wallpaper.
Combine that with the mythology presented about who racists are and what they look like, and it is all but effortless to assume “well that isn’t me. How dare you!” If one doesn’t attend meetings and wear robes and pointy hats, the title of being a racist seems entirely unsuitable and downright offensive to many (most?) white people.
“I’m not like those people,” is the unconscious way people absolve their culpability in any number of situations. And society grants us endless arrays of statuses and symbols to make it demonstrable. From our credit scores, to our clothing and haircuts, to the churches we attend, cars we drive, and the care we are able to attain for ourselves and our loved ones, there are markers ad infinitum of all the ways in which one is better than another (just look at the Trump administration’s (and Mr. Trump’s personal) language choices around migrants seeking asylum at the border. Very often they are dismissed, not as being lower class, but as being “not even people”).
We become the ugliest of Sneetches in our efforts to show how exceptional we are by comparison. And this doesn’t differ with the maligning title of “racist.”
Racist is a modern pejorative. Who would ever want to claim a descriptor like that? Certainly not that progressive-values LA twink who’s just looking for some (white) dick on a Thursday night. He’s not a racist; he doesn’t exist in a state of being a racist. He merely has a preference for particular groups of people that is easily classifiable by their skin tone and ethnic origins. He hasn’t done any hate-based intellectual or emotional work on where this preference came from – it just comes form inside! He just KNOWS in his heart that all black people and all asian people are less desirable to him and he doesn’t have the time to let them down gently as individuals.
But he’s not attending meetings and wearing pointy hats. In the absence of a coherent ideology supporting white superiority to fuel his preferences, they must just be organic tastes that have bubbled up from within him, just like his taste for men vs. women. Right?
The thing is – it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter that the origins of these preferences are most likely learned from a couple decades of ceaseless inundation from subtle white supremacy in fashion ads and boy bands and mainstream gay pornography.
It doesn’t matter why this twink wants what he wants. Whatever way he boxes up the source of that want, the want itself IS racist. Stating that one has a preference for or against a particular race of human IS racist. There is no complex math or philosophical examination necessary to establish that. It simply is. Like the clouds in the sky or the sun coming up, a race-based preference IS racist.
I throughly enjoyed Pete Davidson’s Weekend Update suggestion from a few months ago about what to do with the art of terrible men that we’ve all spent lifetimes loving. You can still love the art, but you have to say it out loud, every time you play their songs or use their products, what hideous monsters they were inside.
Perhaps that’s the solution to this situation as well. One can have any preference one likes. But if you’re going to announce that you don’t like black men publicly on Grindr, you have to say it like “no black, no azn, just a RACIST preference, lol.”
And the word itself could just be algorithmically force-capitalized so that it could never be less emphatic as a descriptor. And maybe one day being confronted with an all-caps reminder of the truth about what they “prefer” would be enough for these guys to knock it off.
Or at the very least allow everyone else to know they ought to scroll right on.
Tyler Dårlig Ulv is an Ontario-based blogger and professional companion. He has worked for Rentboy.com, Manhunt, and contributed to publications like Queerty and Thought Catalog. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram, or find out more about his work at his website and blog. Tyler lives full time in Toronto.