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-   -   Polyamory and Ethnicity (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=31037)

Helo 10-27-2012 08:32 AM

Polyamory and Ethnicity
 
I've been very active in observing and learning about the poly community over the last three years or so and one thing that has continued to stick out is the ethnic makeup of the poly world.

My direct experience has been with the poly community in Los Angeles but I've interacted with poly people across the US and I usually slip in a question about it. Obviously this deals mainly with people who are comfortable enough to go out to groups, get photographed, and talk to people online about the way they live. I'm firmly convinced that there are probably double, tripple, or even quadruple the number of ACTUAL poly people out there than those who make themselves visible.

Thus far it seems the poly community is heavily slanted white, at least in the US. I've also noted an almost complete lack Asian as well as a very low occurrence of African-American community members. I've had people comment on this before as sort of a general knowledge factoid, somewhat similar to the higher instances of Aspergers individuals in the poly community; its acknowledged, just un-explained.

What have your observations been on the ethnic makeup of the poly community?

LovingRadiance 10-27-2012 10:06 PM

Similar observations.

One idea that has been thrown around in our poly group and in other minority groups I am involved in is that anyone who is already part of a marginalized minority is at higher risk by being "out" about belonging to another marginalized minority.
Therefore-with the higher risk-they may be unable to safely be out.

For example, someone who is LGBT is at risk of discrimination.
But, someone who is LGBT and black is at a higher risk of discrimination-because they risk being discriminated for both being a minority=black and a minority=LGBT.
Someone who is LGBT, black and a woman has even higher as woman=minority, black=minority and LGBT=minority.
An LGBT, black, female, poly.... at that point the risk of losing work, home, personal safety is so high that it is literally mind-boggling the life risk they would be taking.

I tend to think there is probably a lot of truth to that concept. It makes sense to me and I've seen how it works with people who are racially, gender, sexual preference minorities in our community. :(

opalescent 10-27-2012 10:45 PM

That has been my experience generally as well. My local self-identifying poly community is mostly lower middle class white people. There are some working class people and very few upper middle class people. One could assume that wealth gives one the ability to do what one wants and not worry about social impacts of being poly, for example. But it seems to have the opposite - those people with the most to lose, wealthier folks, and those with the least margin for error to survive adopt a similar strategy of not being marginalized. Of course, I have absolutely no proof of this - just my own observations.

There are many African-American, Asian and Latino people active in my local community. However, I do live in a majority black city and so, the relatively imbalance is certainly present.

I also agree that if one is already part of something not mainstream, poly (and kink for many people as well) becomes more possible, more 'thinkable'. I also believe this is partly why there is heavy overlap of poly with folks who are also pagan, or geeky, or both.

Eternaldarkness 10-29-2012 12:03 AM

I noticed that too, and being black it IS extra-difficult being part of yet another minority. Actually, myself and my girlfriend are black, so I guess we throw off the spread twice over.

LovingRadiance 10-29-2012 12:22 AM

Yay Eternal! :)

Keeke 10-29-2012 12:59 AM

A Quick Response...
 
As much as I would like delve deeply into this topic, I really don't care to write a sloppy essay, which it would be... I am a black female in a 3+ year relationship with a black male; we've lived together a year now, not married. Our relationship has always been "open," but over the course of the last few months I've tried to make the shift from "open" to poly since we've been straddling the fence anyway. For me the difference would be clarity and interaction between primaries and alternatives. He views his relationships as private and doesn't care to know about my "male friends." I am open about being polyamorous, while my primary does not consider himself poly at all. It is almost as though he prefers to be thought of as a cheating Don Juan.

Our situation is unique in that our housing, although in need of renovation, is secure. Our mandatory bills are few, we work on the house when possible, but otherwise our only worry is generating more income. We are somewhat on the fringe already, living in New Orleans and working in the hospitality industry. While I gave up on being normal years ago, my primary still cares to pretend. He is nine years younger than myself.

Although I was not in a rush to have children when we first got together, I now hear my biological clock ticking. He, on the other hand is content to remain child-free. We are now entering a new phase in our relationship where I'm actively seeking a man or couple to co-parent with me. So at this exciting juncture, we're preparing for the shift in our lives and trying to to understand how this will work- the housing plan.

In New Orleans it is common for black men to have relationships with multiple women at the same time. However, in the cases that the women know about each other (usually because of kids), the extracurricular relationship(s) is/are tolerated at best. No-one involved would consider it a polyamorous relationship, or making it one, which is crazy to me because in a lot of these cases the overall "family" could benefit from combining financial and social assets. The women involved were not informed, and never would have agreed to share a man if truth were told. Instead, casual sexual relationships evolve into sticky familial situations once someone(s) turns up pregnant. The smart ones make it work for the benefit of their children.

I believe that because of this, my situation is able to exist. When I share my experience with others, the response is shock and amazement. They can't get past the fact that I openly date and have relationships with multiple men at a time. Sex and jealousy clouds their minds. A lot of people in New Orleans have multiple relationships at a time, but they are not honest with those involved. I think this is the case with a lot of relationships in ethnic communities.

AnnabelMore 10-29-2012 02:36 AM

In my city, there is a large correlation between being a minority and being poor. I imagine that when you're struggling to find housing and food, even if you *are* poly, going to a poly meet up group event and being an active and visible member of the poly community is not going to be your top priority.

Then there's this random statistic from the Pew Research Center:
"Of all the major racial and ethnic groups in the United States, black Americans are the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation. Even among those blacks who are unaffiliated, three-in-four belong to the "religious unaffiliated" category (that is, they say that religion is either somewhat or very important in their lives), compared with slightly more than one-third of the unaffiliated population overall."

So, religiosity could have a large impact too, I imagine.

Keeke 11-01-2012 12:48 AM

Didn't Consider Religion...
 
I can see where religion could play a part. I often find myself in the company of people that consider themselves practicing Christians who have wild sexual escapades on a regular basis, including members only activities. These same people turn their noses up at polyamory. For them swinging and children outside of their marriages are okay, but polyamory? Never! They don't care to share on a long-term basis.


Quote:

Originally Posted by AnnabelMore (Post 162426)
Then there's this random statistic from the Pew Research Center:
"Of all the major racial and ethnic groups in the United States, black Americans are the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation. Even among those blacks who are unaffiliated, three-in-four belong to the "religious unaffiliated" category (that is, they say that religion is either somewhat or very important in their lives), compared with slightly more than one-third of the unaffiliated population overall."

So, religiosity could have a large impact too, I imagine.


Hades36 11-01-2012 02:19 PM

This is a great topic! Thank you for starting the thread, Helo! :D

I've seen a few things that I would like to offer to the discussion. I preface this by saying my comments are about Black and White people specifically although I realize, as we all do, race and ethnicity encompass a much broader range of cultures than those two. But. I'm Black and PLove (wife) is White so that is my point of reference; I would feel disingenuous writing about other cultural experiences without firsthand knowledge.

Ok...so about Blacks and poly...

1. In my experience, Black people have poly arrangements as well BUT keep them in the closet because they fear judgment and ridicule, or just discuss them in different terms. Instead of calling it poly, a Black woman may just admit to having a number of "friends" that she keeps company with and who all know about each other. This same woman may also have a female lover, or a guy who is her "primary" but lives in another city and is cool with her dating other people because he does the same.

2. Minority groups are always striving to be a part of the mainstream in ways that the dominant group has already been able to enjoy for generations. So while White people have had the opportunity to take for granted strong, stable families, healthy communities, and generational wealth, Blacks have, largely, NOT been able to take part in these trends. So, many Blacks are still focused on the idea of having the "American Dream", which is getting married, having a family, and settling down into their own version of The Cosby Show. Its another reason why there were so few Black hippies: at a time when Blacks were trying to break IN to mainstream culture, these affluent, white teenagers were rebelling against it. So, short answer: White people, being the dominant culture, can afford to explore poly because they have the security to do so while Blacks are still fighting to get their families and communities in order.

3. There is a lot of racism in the poly community! PLove and I have met a number of White people who made it clear by their actions and conversation that, while they were poly, dating outside of their race was still something that was taboo. We've run into the same shit with swingers; usually its a White couple that makes it very clear that they are absolutely not open to any other race but White. Hey, everyone has their preferences, so I can dig it. But if you're White and poly, I would ask how many times you've put yourself into spaces in such a way that you could actually make a real connection with Black people beyond the superficial one that most of us experience? In my experience, poly is extremely segregated. I know a number of Black couples/singles who are poly (or at least non-monogamous) but who only connect with other Black people; when PLove and I attended our local Poly Meet-up, I was the only Black person there.

4. IMHO, there is probably MORE polyamory practiced in the Black community than in the White community. Why? Because historically the Black community has suffered from greater levels of poverty and lack of resources, which would lead to, I would suspect, a natural inclination towards polyamorous arrangements. One guy taking care of multiple women, a woman with multiple partners, all to improve access to resources, safety, security, and the strength of the community. I may be completely wrong, especially since there are some studies that suggest minority groups actually tend to embrace more rigid, conservative values even MORE than their dominant counterparts.

In my personal experience, I was raised in a poor Black neighborhood in Pittsburgh. My parents were happily married BUT my father had a number of girlfriends in the community and my mother had one guy who she spent time with off and on. It wasn't that big of a secret but I didn't realize just how unusual it was until I got old enough to start dating and having sex myself. So, I imagine that, if my parents, who were older and Southern, were doing it back then...its not a new fangled thing in the Black community.

Helo 11-01-2012 04:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hades36 (Post 163289)
3. There is a lot of racism in the poly community! PLove and I have met a number of White people who made it clear by their actions and conversation that, while they were poly, dating outside of their race was still something that was taboo. We've run into the same shit with swingers; usually its a White couple that makes it very clear that they are absolutely not open to any other race but White. Hey, everyone has their preferences, so I can dig it. But if you're White and poly, I would ask how many times you've put yourself into spaces in such a way that you could actually make a real connection with Black people beyond the superficial one that most of us experience? In my experience, poly is extremely segregated. I know a number of Black couples/singles who are poly (or at least non-monogamous) but who only connect with other Black people; when PLove and I attended our local Poly Meet-up, I was the only Black person there.

I would disagree with the bolded.

Having a preference for a certain aspect of people I dont think implies that you somehow are against or dislike the other possibilities, and that goes for racial characteristics as well as things like hair color, height, weight, etc. I have a serious thing for red-heads but I wont turn down someone who is blonde specifically because they're blonde.

From what I've seen, non-whites are a very small part of the poly community but when they are part they tend to be accepted wholesale. In the local group I've been to, there are maybe ten (out of ~50-60) people who are non-white and of those five or so are black. I've never seen anyone treat them with anything less than respect, I've seen them get physically involved with other people (and couples) with no discomfort on either part.

Maybe its because I'm in LA, but I've never seen non-white ethnic people be treated with anything less than full respect. If anything, they tend to be a bit of a special interest and a novelty because they're so uncommon in the poly community.


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