Racial fetishization isn’t a compliment, it’s weird

What may seem harmless may actually be harmful when it means people become victims.

Mina Graham

What may seem harmless may actually be harmful when it means people become victims.

In a world full of different people, it is not uncommon to find interest or curiosity in other races, cultures and ethnicities. Yet, when the interest becomes damaging and objectifying, it can turn into fetishization. 

Fetishization can be defined as making something the object of a sexual fetish, and/or having an excessive and irrational commitment to something.  When one’s sexual fetish or irrational commitment is about another race, it turns into racial fetishization. For example, when white people or other people of color say, “I like Black girls, because they have wide hips.”

Normally, being fascinated with another person might make them feel loved, empowered, or respected. But when that fascination becomes strong and is specifically about one aspect of that race or identity, and not the person, it can become dangerous and racist. Treating someone in a fetishized way can actually cause harm to their identity.

Being so engrossed in another’s identity can make someone stereotype, or have preconceived notions for their race. So when that someone  interacts with a person of the race they’re engrossed in and the person of that race doesn’t behave in the way they thought, the fetishizer is disappointed and deflect that disappointment on the entire race and sees that race in a negative way. 

For many people, their character reflects on their race, ethnicity, and/or culture. When someone outside their demographic imposes negative views or ideas on that person, it can damage their identity. By denying their character or imposing negative stereotypes, it creates a sense of isolation and loneliness, oftentimes making the person question why they don’t behave in that stereotypical way. 

There are many examples of how these racial stereotypes date back far in history. Throughout time, Asian people, specifically East and Southeast Asian women, were seen as submissive and docile. US military involvement, Japanese picture brides, war brides, and mail-order-brides all played a part in that. Even now, through Asian media such as Kpop, Korean dramas, and anime, people often perceive Asian people as innocent and submissive, which can lead to infantilization and fetishization. 

As slaves, Black people, but specifically women, were wildly sexualized. Now, Black women are seen as a “legitimate victim.” They have higher rates of sexual assault even though they are the least desired demographic and are treated unfairly in sexual assault cases. In American media, Black people are often made to seem bossy, dangerous, and promiscuous. While media companies profit economically off those notions, Black people suffer from them. 

There are various other examples of fetishization and how it impacts people of color, but the important part is to not see race in a harmful manner or impose damaging ideas. It is not a crime to date someone of a different race, or have a preference, but ask yourself why that preference exists. If your answer excludes a group of people for whatever reason, that’s immoral. If someone is specifically looking to befriend or date someone of another ethnicity with their own preconceived notions of that ethnicity, it can be harmful.

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