“You’re beautiful for a Spanish woman. I love it when Spanish girls speak Spanish.”
“Are you full Asian? You don’t look full Asian.”
“You’re the first black person I’ve ever dated.”
The intention is to flatter by highlighting difference. To compliment a person of color by making them feel “exotic”. These are just some of the examples we got by going out on the streets of New York City and asking people of color if they’d ever experienced what author Rula Al-Nasrawi calls #FlirtyRacism.
In her article for VICE, “Calling Me A Terrorist Is Not Flirting,” Al-Nasrawi talks about the many times she’s been exoticized as a Middle-Eastern woman and the not so few times people have hit on her by jokingly calling her “a terrorist.”
At first, people on the streets were a little bit confused with the term. But when Al-Nasrawi told them one of the many outrageous pick-up lines she gets, people suddenly got it. Almost immediately, the men and women of color we talked to remembered a pick-up line that turned out to be incredibly insulting or awkward, because it focused on their ethnicity.
We found the many subtypes of flirty racism out there. From the very common “you’re cute for your ethnic group”, to the exotic generalization (“you look like that only other actress I’m aware of from your ethnic background”), to the incredibly insulting “you can’t be … you’re too tall.”
We also asked people on the streets of New York City what the new flirting etiquette should be and we even got some sailors to react to Al-Nasrawi being cat-called a terrorist.
Rula Al-Nasrawi is a freelance journalist living in New York City. A California native, her work has been featured on the San Francisco Bay Guardian, VICE, The Atlantic and Galore magazines. Rula is a hardcore pug lover, and always finds time to giggle at a good pun. Tweet her @rulaoftheworld.
Photo by Tiziana Fabi AFP/Getty Images
Camilo Vargas went from his native Colombia to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He joined Latino USA after a fellowship with Univision Noticias and Univision’s Investigative Unit. Before coming to the US, Camilo was a researcher for the Universidad de los Andes and the Colombian government, specializing in armed conflict and US-Latin America relations. He holds a BA and an MA in international relations from Universidad de los Andes in Bogota and an MS from Columbia’s Journalism School. He’s reported on the drug war, national politics, and same-sex salsa.