In college, I found the idea of being in a romantic relationship intriguing — if not entirely compelling — but couldn’t find myself actually wanting to invest the time and energy into anyone. Separate from this, however, I found there was another struggle altogether in the lacking diversity at NC State, the inherent racial bias people hold and the complex dynamic in interracial relationships.
On Fox’s “New Girl,” the characters Cece and Schmidt depict a relationship between a white man and an Indian woman. Despite their many differences, they find themselves drawn to one another, eventually getting married, much to many fans’ delight. As an Indian woman myself, I cannot help but find their relationship to be so otherworldly, mostly because it seems so impossible in my life. Here is a white man who is so completely infatuated and in love with a woman that he takes great lengths to understand her cultural background and learn Bollywood dances to be performed at their engagement party. Even more importantly, he does not consider dating a woman of color to be a quirk, but an ordinary aspect of life that he is better because of and wholeheartedly embraces.
Racial bias is a complex issue when it comes to dating. In conversations with some of my white counterparts, it is seen as just another preference, but in truth, I don’t think it is. If you prefer to date someone who has a similar sense of humor or likes the same shows as you, then your terms and conditions are valid. If you’re more inclined to spend time with someone who lives 15 minutes away rather than three hours, then once again, you are allowed this inclination.
Where it gets complicated is when we delve into attraction based on appearance, specifically skin color.
I can’t necessarily change anyone’s preferences in what they look for in a partner; however, in the South, and here at NC State, I see racial bias in dating preferences everyday. It should be said that racial bias is a form of racism and discrimination. If you prefer someone because of the color of their skin, or refuse to date someone of a certain race because of theirs, then this is a form of racism. It is uncomfortable to hear because it is such a passive issue where internalized racism and implicit bias are normalized.
At NC State, and in college dating culture in general, this is a conversation I’ve had many times with other people of color. Because the number of white people is much greater than the number of people of color here at NC State, we joke that we’ll have to move away if we ever want to get married or find ourselves in long-term relationships. Not just from Raleigh, but from the South altogether, where this kind of unconscious bias seems present at every party, in every bar and even in the person who sits next to you in your sociology class.
I suppose I wonder if Cece and Schmidt simply represent some of the outliers in contemporary society and dating culture. Is it too much to ask for people not to be racist on one end of the spectrum and not fetishize people of color on the other? To instead treat people of color like ordinary, dateable people who have lived interesting lives because of their cultural, ethnic and racial background?
It wasn’t something I came across often at our university, but I hope that in our ever-evolving society, it becomes something that doesn’t seem like an oddity or a diversity check. That Meghan and Harry are not seen as nonconformist because they did something as ordinary as fall in love with another, but that their union is one of the many and that this world is better for it.
At a university that is diverse in some ways, but is still a predominantly white school, I, as a woman of color, knew to stick to those who would accept me. It’s my hope it won’t always be this way. That somewhere down the line, people won’t feel the need to move away to a place more forgiving, accepting and willing to love people of color, but that they will find love, in an interracial relationship or not, as their most authentic self in a place that they have always known.
And who knows? Maybe that person will even learn a Bollywood dance for you.