Have you ever heard someone say, "I don't or haven't dated outside my race." It makes some people's hairs rise on the back of their necks and others simply shrug in agreement. What does this mean however, when someone says I just don't or haven't dated outside my race. Does that make them racist? Does that make them old fashioned? Is it just their preference? Can this change or be changed? I'll use some examples to try an show you the differences.
1) Joe is white and has never dated anyone else who wasn't white.
In this hypothetical Joe grew up in a small town in Montana which was 98% white. His parents were both white, his friends were all white, his teachers, his boss, and his first girlfriends, all white. There were no issues with racism as Joe didn't actually have contact with any one that wasn't white and so Joe's only options in his town if he wanted to date and have a girlfriend, were to date white women. All of his attractions therefore were to white women. All the adults, friends, family he knew, were all dating or married to white women. This became his blueprint in his mind for what he knew and loved. Now as an adult, Joe, having only known life dating and being infatuated with white women, dates white women. So Joe goes off to College in California where he is exposed to other minorities for the first time, but in terms of dating he still goes back to what he knows and knows he loves which is white women.
In this example we could have made Joe black or any other race, but I do not believe Joe is a racist here for not dating outside his race. To me this would be no different than if Joe were Catholic and had only gone to Catholic church all his life and suddenly someone said to him, why aren't you Jewish or why don't you go to the Synagogue.
2) Jessica is black. She grew up in New York in a very diverse neighborhood. She has dated outside of her race.
Jessica's parents are both black. Her friends are a mix of all different races. The community she grew up in was one that didn't frown on dating outside your own race. Most people dated outside their race anyway. Her parents have no problem with it and neither do her friends. Jessica has dated in and outside of her race. Having grown up with all the exposure to different races and cultures, she doesn't even think twice or have a single blueprint for what she thinks is attractive.
In this example, I think largely because Jessica has been exposed to so many different races and cultures and they have been portrayed to her in a positive light, she is free to, and freely dates outside of her race. Couple that with approving parents, and she sees no problem with this. However, she may have a problem with what she percieves is Joe's attitude towards dating outside his race, but if she had been the "Joe" in the first example, she may have grown up feeling the same way he does, not out of racism, just out of being a product of your upbringing because Jessica to is a product of her upbringing.
3) Namrata is Indian. She grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Chicago. She dated one person outside of her race, but has only otherwise dated her own race.
Namrata's parents are both Indian. Growing up they impressed upon her the absolute importance of dating only Indian men. Everyone in her family is Indian and married to or dating another Indian. Seeing that her friends dated and mixed between the races and her friends are fine with it, she tries to date a guy outside of her race. Her parents find out and forbid it. They warn her of the dangers of dating people who are not Indian. Her mother explains a few incidents she had with the boy's race and how she thinks her new boyfriend will be exactly the same. They emphasize the purity in dating someone who is Indian. After a few weeks of pressure from her entire family, she relents and goes on to only date those inside her race.
In this example, its not that Namrata is racist but with disapproving parents putting the pressure on her, rather than deal with that, she has chosen to abide by their rules. Having grown up in this atmosphere for her parents and there parents, etc. this is the life they know where no one is allowed to date outside their race maybe partially due to racism but also because despite living in diverse places, the culture or their race still emphasizes the importance of continuing the heritage, language, culture and race. Despite her parents objections, Namrata felt comfortable in dating outside her race intially because she got her peer groups approval, and no one saw a problem with it until her parents found out. Parents hold a lot of sway sometimes over our lives and who we date. Namrata doesn't feel as though she is superior to any other race, but won't date outside her race because she doesn't want to deal with the constant either racism from her parents, going against their will, or having to deal with what she is made to feel will be constant battles over the differences of her non Indian race boyfriend.
4) Michael is Hispanic. He grew up in minority rich small town in Texas.
Michael's parents always wanted him to do better than they did in life. All around them there were gangs, and drugs, and people dropping out of school. They impressed upon him that he was better than those around him. His only exposure to other minorities left a bad taste in his mouth. His parents only allowed him to date certain other Hispanic girls who were linked to the church he and his family attended, but no one else. Everyone else was portrayed to him as being trash and unhealthy for him which many of them actually were. Michael grows up and will not date any other minorities. He thinks that they are all clearly like the scum he grew up around. When the topic comes up with friends, he makes comments to the fact that those other race girls are just all trouble makers, and drug dealers, who will ruin his life and who have no desire to do better in life like he has, and so he will only date Hispanic girls who are clearly what he feels are much better than everyone else even if he sees and knows of other race girls who are not like the scum he grew up with.
In this example when someone like Michael starts saying all of another race are (filler) and therefore he or she won't date anyone else, you do start to get into racism territory. It's one thing to have a preference, but when you start roping in an entire race as being one thing, and therefore you won't ever date them, then there is an issue there because people are individuals and should be treated as such. I would in no way imply that Michael or anyone else has to date someone outside their race, but when you make statements like this about someone's entire race as being viewed as inferior to you, then I think people are going to try and call you out on your racism and rightly so.
I think all in all you have to start actually listening to what people are saying. If someone prefers to date one race, that is their preference. If they have no problems with other races, don't make racist remarks, have minority friends, then its hard to stand up and say to them, you are racist for having never dated someone outside your race. Assume that either that person just has a preference or perhaps they've never met the right other raced person that they would want to date. Contrast to the Michael's of the world that for any host of reasons from growing up like he did, or friends and family being racist or saying racist things about other women/men a person like him might want to date and him starting to believe it as truth about everyone, is that form of racism. However, in the long run you nor I can convince anyone to date someone that they don't want to date. So even if you call Michael out on his racism, doesn't mean he's going to discover not being racist and start dating other minorities anymore than Joe, or Namrata, or Jessica might just date her own race. We like who we like in the end, and there's probably not much that is going to change that.