Dating Outside My Race

*This is a submission piece. Names were withheld to protect identities.

I’ve fulfilled dating all the categories of Singapore’s CMIO racial categorisation model—except for one. I’ve never dated a Malay guy.

It seemed odd that I’ve never been interested in dating one. My first guess was some sort of racial preference, but after some soul-searching I realised it went a lot deeper than that.

Being not Malay enough

Growing up raised by interracial parents, there was an absence of culture in our household. I never spoke either of my Mother Tongues because English was the only language both parents spoke.

And because I didn’t know the Malay lingo or understand the humour, I never fit in with people my own race in school. In time, the kids realised I wasn’t like them, and I often ended up as the token minority in Chinese friend groups instead.

I had this mentality I was too un-Malay to click with other Malay people. I didn’t know how to date them or relate to them emotionally. Whereas with guys outside my race, there were no cultural expectations—I didn’t feel like I wasn’t Malay enough.

So I continued being in interracial relationships for years. And when my mum asked why I never brought home a nice halal boy, I just told her “Malay boys aren’t my type.”

I can’t help it if I have a type—can I?

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Internalised racism

I realised my feelings towards Malay guys weren’t just about having a type, but a result of racial bias. My racial preference was hardly harmless, because it generalised a whole race of people based on assumptions.

As someone out of touch with my culture and people, I judged them based on common negative stereotypes and assumed I was better than them. I was convinced dates would be less interesting and they’d generally be worse boyfriends.

I suspected my flawed mentality was a result of my elite school upbringing, where minorities were uncommon.

In my school, I often heard jokes about Malay people being lazy or bad partners. And because there were so few Malay students, the Malay kids often laughed along and poked fun at themselves to fit in, instead of refuting the jokes.

And some Malay students like me, who felt distant from the Malay community, bought into the stereotypes because we didn’t know any better.

Somewhere along the line, I started being racist towards my own community. I believed I was better than Malay people because of my distinct un-Malayness. I avoided dating within my race to separate myself from unwanted stereotypes.

Like how some might exclusively date rich guys, dating outside my race was an unconscious attempt at moving up the social ladder.

Race And Dating

After this revelation, it was clear my dating habits weren’t about attraction because I do find Malay guys cute. I just never gave them a chance because I was so busy trying to disclaim my Malayness.

Moving forward, we minorities can all help undo the internalised racism if we stop perpetuating stereotypes about ourselves. Be it making self-deprecating jokes or choosing not to identify with our communities, we too have a hand in how society treats us.

As for me, claiming all Malay guys weren’t my type was to assume they were all the same, not the complex individuals they are. So I’ll learn to relax, hopefully get rid of my internalised racism, and take a chance on that mamat hansem.

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Cover image: Source