5 Signs You’re About to Be Racially Fetishized

Everyone has a type, but some people’s “types” have more to do with racial fantasies.

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So … what’s your type?

Admit it: You probably have one; most of us do. No harm there. We like what we like, right? 


Now that we’ve broken the ice, do you have a fetish?

Too personal? Well, how about this: Six months ago I decided to stop side-eyeing my singlehood (read: my painfully clichéd status as a smart, sexy and successful, yet single, black woman) and actively explore my options … online. Since I also happen to be a glutton for punishment, I dove straight into the deep end—otherwise known as (cue: Law & Order sound effect) Tinder.

If you’re unfamiliar (lucky you), Tinder is a handy little app that streamlines the search for true love. It’s now only a swipe away! (OK, it’s a little less romantic than that, but it sure is efficient!)

As a member of what is purportedly the least-pursued demographic online (smart, sexy and successful, yet single, black women), I was understandably leery about what—and whom—I’d encounter on an app best known for “hookups.” But in the interest of adventure, I braced myself for potential encounters with predators, grade-A creepers and flat-out racists.

I wasn’t prepared for the fetishists.

Online daters often wear their preferences on their sleeves. While this helped me easily weed out the riffraff, it quickly revealed that there’s a fine line between a “type” and a fetish. 

(Note: There are myriad fetishes. But for our purposes, let’s focus on racial fetishism—loosely defined as having an unnatural preoccupation or obsession with cultural and/or physical characteristics of a race other than one’s own.)

Full disclosure: I became an equal-opportunity dater in high school. Since black boys in suburban Minneapolis seemed primarily interested in blondes and Asians, I, too, became an early adopter of “the swirl.” But my experiences dating “across the aisle” were no preparation for the highly racialized world of online dating.

There were, of course, obvious offenders: the white guy whose profile pic was a “Black Girls Only” meme, the black guy whose profile declared, “NO Black girls,” and the ever-classy “I’ve always wanted to date a [insert race here] girl … ”

Thanks for sharing, guys. Good luck with that.

But in my experience, fetishists often use a more nuanced approach. If you miss the cues, you might get charmed into your own objectification. Here are a few I’ve encountered:

1. The Celebrity “Double”

“You’re really hot. You remind me of … [insert random celeb I bear little or no resemblance to—outside of race—here]” 

Clearly, this is meant to be complimentary, but it’s suspect. First, it implies a very limited scope of “acceptable” black beauty. Basically, it’s the romantic equivalent of the “paper bag” test.

Second, if the scope of beauty is that specific, it begs a question of exposure: Exactly how many black people has this person encountered—let alone found attractive? 

Third, it screams: Exoticism! Enough said.