The recent controversies and the success of the pages dedicated to the denunciation of racism on dating applications testify to the fetishization of which racialized people can be the object. Online or in real life, they are sometimes treated as experiences to be tested and often have to deal with unbridled stereotypes and exoticization. Even in the upper stages of a relationship, they are not always immune.
Concerned people tell of the obsession of some of their partners (or who were) for discriminating clichés and remember the dehumanizing comparisons they have heard even under the covers. Between exoticization and devaluation, racism interferes in the intimacy of certain mixed couples.
“If I were a racist, I would not be in a relationship with you”, once launched the ex of Inès to defend herself from the accusations of this production manager of Moroccan origin. It is on this allegedly unstoppable argument that most of the discussions that revolve around racism in the couple seem to stumble. This reasoning is just as flawed as that of the famous “black friend” brandished like a joker to show a white paw.
The intimate spheres, in love as in friendship, are far from being immune to the inequalities that run through society. “This logic is unfounded, slice Grace Ly , author and co-host of the podcast Kiffe your race that will deal with this matter on 1 st October. Does that mean that, as a racialized person, I would be immune to racism? That a woman couldn’t be sexist? Whoever we are, we remain the product of society. “
For Robin Zheng , philosophy professor at the origin of an article on fetishism which Asians f have been , think this is “ignore the differential treatment of historical facts based on racialized phenotypes.” In other words, it means believing that discrimination is the concern of only a few individuals and that it is not part of a larger reality; it is to think that racism is not systemic and that love, like a shield, would be able to put an end to the external influence exerted by an unequal society. Institutions, culture, pornography and advertising bombard us with racial stereotypeslikely to have repercussions in the intimate sphere – romantic relationships are not always spared.
One day, Sékou comes across a confusing text message sent by his ex-girlfriend to a friend. She explained how, during their sexual intercourse, she came to enjoy thanks to her “animal power” and described sensations of “rare savagery”. At first flattered, he quickly realizes that this type of shortcut is just as frequent as it is problematic. “She was very surprised that I could quote Balzac, Césaire or Proust during our discussions.” When he tries to make her aware of it, the clichés rain even more: “She retorted that I was special because I expressed myself well and that I should take it for a compliment, since it is a rare quality at “we”.”
If these couples have long been taboo, even prohibited, their increase shows that the lines are moving. For some people, their trivialization would even be a ready-made solution to counter racism. Grace Ly prefers to fight in the name of the whole than for individual cases.
A hell paved with good intentions
As Robin Zheng points out, most discussions of racism in the private sphere “revolve around whether it is caused by negative racial stereotypes or not.” As if good intentions had the power to cancel out any discriminatory dimension and the consequences it implies on the people targeted. The pictures should be taken as compliments. Fetishization would only be a rather flattering matter of preference. Grace Ly believes that this conception is intended to be more moral than political. However, “racism is not about being mean or nice. Its consequences are political, economic and social. They can be felt even in the intimacy ”.
Although pornographic fantasies must be distinguished from interpersonal relationships, “it happens that some of these relationships are motivated by clichés or by the desire to conquer racialized bodies that are exoticized”, explains the Afro- feminist social worker at the helm of the blog The Restless Kitambala . To justify themselves, people do not hesitate to reduce this fetishization to a simple matter of taste, as well as a preference for blond hair or green eyes. This is how we end up with a Yann Moix who boasts of only going out with Asians and a Vincent Cassel explaining to be suffering from “jungle fever”to justify its exclusive attraction to black and mixed-race women.