Over at The Root, Helena Andrews (who is black) writes about why she doesn’t date white guys. The piece is entertaining, but good luck trying to find an actual argument in it. It did make me wonder, though, if it should even be necessary to make an argument about something as personal as that sort of preference. Personally, it doesn’t bother me if Helena Andrews only wants to date black guys … or if she only wants to date Hispanic men. Why should she, or anybody, have to justify that sort of thing? Do people really employ rational faculties when deciding on romantic partners? Should they have to?
In general, no — but there are exceptions. Before I met my wife, I used to hang out with a Jewish friend, and I was quite attracted to her. I think she felt the same way about me. But we never explored that, and that was because of me. I was a religiously observant Catholic; she was a non-religious Jew. My faith was too important to me to make for a happy marriage — and I strongly believe you shouldn’t date someone you couldn’t see marrying in time.
Similarly, I completely understand the view among some Jews that Jews should only marry other Jews, not only for religious reasons, but because the intermarriage rate is so high that a distinctive Jewish culture (and religion) is in danger of being assimilated. There’s a lot of wisdom in prohibitions among religious communities — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc. — against marrying outside the faith.
Ethnically speaking, I always dated Caucasian girls, not because I ruled out dating outside my race, but that’s just how things went. For me, as an adult, religious compatibility was the most important factor in dating, at least as important as personal chemistry. But culture is also enormously important. I would have chosen to date a middle-class educated black girl who liked the same kinds of things as I did over a working-class white girl who hadn’t gone to college, and who had different interests. It’s not that one is morally better than the other, but only that chances are the black woman and I are going to have more in common than the white girl and I will. On the other hand, a couple of the unrequited crushes I had back in college and right out of college were on northern European women. Had we married, I wonder how our different cultural backgrounds would have affected our relationship? My wife and I come from neighboring states, but she had a different childhood growing up in the Dallas suburbs than I had growing up in rural south Louisiana. It’s hard enough explaining my homeland and its native culture to a woman from suburban Dallas, much less from, say, downtown Stockholm. (And, for my putative Euro-bride, vice versa).
All of which is to say that if Helena Andrews only wants to date black guys, that’s fine with me. I don’t think it’s right to expect her to justify her choice, at least not on ethnic terms. Nor do I think it’s right to ask a white woman who doesn’t want to date black guys to justify her choice. The heart wants what it wants. But if one doesn’t want to date partners of another race on grounds of principle as opposed to instinctive preference (e.g., “I don’t date white guys because I think it’s wrong” versus “I don’t know why, but I just don’t find white guys attractive”), I think one ought to at least question oneself and one’s motives.
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About Rod Dreher
Rod Dreher is director of publications at the John Templeton Foundation, a philanthropy that focuses on science, religion, economics and morality. A journalist with over 20 years of experience, Dreher has written for The Dallas Morning News, the New York Post, and other newspapers and journals. He is author of the book "Crunchy Cons." Archives of his previous Beliefnet blog, "Crunchy Con," can be found here. He and his family live in Philadelphia.