In "Love your race", Rokhaya Diallo and Grace Ly show how racism affects intimate relationships

RACISM – “You are beautiful for a black woman”, “I like exotic women”. Do these remarks mean anything to you? They are examples of what is called “sexual fetishization”, which represents a set of received ideas about non-white people. And it’s a theme that we find in the book Love your race, by Rokhaya Diallo and Grace Ly, published on Thursday January 13 by First and Binge Audio editions.

On TV sets, on the radio, or even on social networks, the two activists make the fight against racism their hobbyhorse. It’s their reference podcast which has just become a book of the same name. Through the many sociological information and analyzes offered in this book, we find the very intimate theme of “sexual fetishization”.

“When we talk about racism, we often have the impression that it is something necessarily violent, that it is a physical attack”, declares the writer Grace Ly, co-host of the podcast, contacted by Then24. “But we forget the symbolic dimension of racism and the forms it can take in couple relationships,” she continues.

In fact, these intimate relationships can be altered by racism, whether it is simple flirting or the sexual act. Starting with the sexual stereotypes associated with certain women, who still have a hard time.

Sexual stereotypes

Thus, “soft, docile, supple” are sexual characteristics commonly attributed to Asian women, according to Grace Ly. “They are found in pornographic categories, ‘asian‘ Where ‘things‘, according to the sites. It is very degrading”, she judges. “Potentially, when men hit on us, that’s what they perceive.”

In the testimony she delivers in the book, Grace Ly explains what racism means to her, through the remarks that white men have made to her. “I’ve heard a lot in my personal life: ‘I’ve never been with an Asian before’. It is often said as if it were nothing. However, when I hear a phrase like that, I feel like I belong to a group that would be: ‘Asian women. And which means that you are put in a box and told: ‘I have never tested it’, as if we were talking about an experience. And that is racism.”

However, non-white men are not spared these stereotypes and clichés either. “Black men would be endowed with an oversized sexual attribute. Conversely, the East Asian man would be unmanly”, analyzes the writer. We have, even today, a legacy of this racist biology which remains anchored in our mentalities”.

In the book, Rokhaya Diallo and Grace Ly define this “sexual fetishization” as the fact of being attracted, not by a person, but by all the clichés and stereotypes “that summons his real or supposed racial belonging”.

“Ordinary racism”

This sexual fetishization is built around “fantasized particularities” such as “a character trait, a body shape or a culturalist know-how or relating to pseudo-genetic predispositions”, detail the two podcasters. They believe that this fetishization is present today in “collective representations”, advertisements, films, music and books. It would be trivialized in everyone’s daily life, through a form of “ordinary” racism, “that of everyday life”, specifies Grace Ly.

In their book, the two writers also develop the idea of ​​a collective imagination built on received ideas that come to us from colonization. Among these, some are sexual and make the person concerned an object. “I grew up with these images of Grace Jones, whose very muscular, beautiful and sculptural body was staged by the one who was her companion, Jean-Paul Goude. There was a photo where she was in a cage where it was written ‘Do not feed the animal’, testifies Rokhaya Diallo in an episode of the podcast. There is this idea of ​​the powerful black woman, the idea also of an unbridled, powerful and affirmative sexuality”. An imagery – a set of images on the same theme – which, for Grace Ly, traps women in these racial stereotypes and denies their condition as human beings and as women.

“It is extremely humiliating”

Like guests on her podcast, Grace Ly too has experienced sexual fetishization. “This imagery is not personal. It’s not me at all. We can see that this ordinary racism is due to a lack of education on the notion,” she says. Exhausting and minimized by part of the population, ordinary racism can be experienced as a burden by non-white women.

However, some say that the company of the dredge cannot be racist because the interlocutor wants to be benevolent. To this observation, Grace Ly replies that “the intention is not constitutive of racism”. Indeed, she explains that “it is extremely humiliating to see yourself being put in a ‘woman to be tested’ box. We are not objects and even less exotic objects”, she highlights. She therefore invites everyone to get rid of the images that inspire fetishist stereotypes so that “relationships are based on personal freedom rather than being controlled by received ideas that come from a past that imposes itself on us”.

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