Is love colour-blind?

Written by Qamran Tabo in Opinions

It is 2013, the year the born-frees finally hit varsity after South Africa’s first democratic elections almost 20 years ago.  Many older people expect we 90s babies to be more open-minded about race, in particular interracial dating, than our parents are. But a recent small on-campus survey revealed students’ preferences for the peachier things in life.

I spoke to people who had spent the majority of their lives living in SA, most of them born in the early 1990s, and asked them about their thoughts on interracial dating. In total I surveyed sixty people, ten from each of the following racial groups: white, coloured (culturally), Indian, East Asian, biracial and African.

All respondents stated that they would date someone of a different race. However, the majority of students responded that they would be particular about which race they would date if they were to date someone of a different race, with less than a quarter stating that they would date someone from any race. Almost all of the respondents described themselves as not being racially bigoted at all or as being only slightly racially prejudiced.

Quite unsurprisingly, Caucasians were chosen as the most attractive by most non-whites.  White respondents also expressed the highest percentage of intra-racial attraction, meaning that they considered their own race as one of the most attractive.  African and Indian respondents are the only groups that found members of their own racial groups unattractive.  They, and East Asians, were also ranked the lowest by other races.

Apart from colonialism, media has had a major effect on who we consider beautiful and worthy of attention and who not. There is still an overwhelming amount of white faces on TV,  in movies and magazines.  As a quick experiment, ask some of your friends what their favourite TV show is; chances are its cast will be predominantly Caucasian.

Dating a white person is perceived as being the ultimate status symbol for many people of colour. I have heard many male students of colour stating that nothing says “I have arrived” quite like having an Aryan nymph on your arm.  

Stereotyped as having high standards, white partners are supposedly more difficult to attract. Hence, bagging one is an achievement. With white South Africans being statistically the most educated, literate and wealthy population group in the country, more “value” is added to having them as romantic partners.  You could think of it as romantic Darwinism.

Of course everyone has the right to choose who they want as a romantic partner, but it is interesting to observe how race, which is really just a collection of arbitrary physical features, acts as a barrier when it comes to who we choose to love.

Having been at UCT and in South Africa long enough, I have come to realise that we would have better luck creating a research wing at Med School dedicated to cloning white people to feed the demand than trying to understand the origins of some our supposed “preferences”. Hopefully one day, when the world’s entire population becomes creolised, characters will be the only deciding factor for who we want to date.


Intro image: 
Intro image caption: 
Jessica Breakey

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