Love's Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities

Love's Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities

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The issues that make monogamous dating daunting for people of color—shaming and exclusion by white partners, being fetishized, having realities of everyday racism ignored—occur in polyamorous relationships too, and trying “not to see race” only makes it worse. To make polyamorous communities inclusive, we must all acknowledge our part in perpetuating racism and listen to people of color. Love's Not Color Blind puts forward the framework—through research, anecdotal testimony, and analogy—for understanding, identifying, and confronting racism within polyamorous communities.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781944934460
Publisher: Thorntree Press
Publication date: 03/30/2018
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 184
Sales rank: 109,259
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Kevin A. Patterson, M.Ed., is the creator of the Poly Role Models project, an interview series that serves as a platform for the diversity of polyamorous relationship structures.

Read an Excerpt


Beginning Stuff ...


I use a lot of analogies.

But before I get into all that, I'd like to mention that I am a cisgender, heterosexual, well-educated, (maybe upper-) middle class, able-bodied, tall, attractive, black man. I am packed with privileges in American society, which is the society under which I've lived my entire life. In regards to those privileges, I understand that I'm never going to have to worry about a reference to my spouse or romantic partners leading to my firing.

I don't ever have to worry about which bathroom I plan to use, at the risk of my safety or freedom.

I never have to pay attention to the location of curb cuts as I approach a crosswalk.

I try to remain cognizant of these privileges, and I work to destabilize the systems that put them in place ... that keep them in place. If I make any mistakes along the way, I ask that you please make me aware. If you've got the time, the means, and the mental energy to spare, I welcome the upgrade.

Of all the self-identities I mentioned earlier, the one in which I am not privileged, is my race.

I do have to worry about whether my skin color will be a factor when I'm sitting across from an employer, or a loan officer, or a real estate agent. I'm a person of color. Race is the place through which I filter my understanding of all marginalized people.

And that's why I make analogies.

It's been my experience that the marginalization of people of color in American society often mirrors the marginalization of women ... and queer folks ... and trans people, etc. Educators have a concept called the "Zone Of Proximal Development" or ZPD. Introduced by Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, ZPD is the idea of recognizing the difference between what a learner can figure out on their own and what they might need help to accomplish. For me, that zone was in seeing the oppression of others through my own lens. I understood the struggles of people of color, but I needed some unexpected help when it came to understanding what women and others go through.

My personal acceptance of intersectional feminism came from listening to a woman describe her experiences with misogyny and rape culture, and observing a man entering the discussion and attempting to invalidate what she had gone through.

Everything that this man said sounded so similar to what I've heard white people say when I describe my own experiences with racism and police overreach. Not the exact words, but definitely identical context and tone. This man used the same circular logic, the same dismissive attitude, the same clueless rationalizations stemming from a lack of lived experience with the topic at hand ... And I was left with the same feeling that, after this discussion, that smug asshole would write-off everything this woman had told him — because he could — and because he'd never have to think about it in the context of his personal safety versus a societal construct that he couldn't change.

Up to that point, I could've been (and probably was) "that guy." After that point, I realized that I had been as dismissive to women, their autonomy, and their shared experience with oppression as others had been towards me.

I was a part of the problem.

So, from that point, I spent more time listening and less time debating when it came to experiences for which I had no personal reference. It's through my own life, dealing with racism, that I try to relate and empathize with the troubles that other identities are faced with. I try to reflect this when I speak, and I try to do the same when I write.

Obviously, analogies aren't perfect. If they were perfect, you wouldn't have an analogy. You'd just have the thing the analogy is referencing, and that would stand on its own. But as these topics often require deeper explanation, analogies are us.

What I ask is that you don't get too lost in the weeds.

If I reference "racism and transphobia," I hope you understand that I'm not saying that the lives and experiences of people of color are a one-to-one comparison with that of transgender people. They aren't, and I'd be silly to say so. What I'm (likely) saying is that these people suffer from similar concerns at the hands of similar oppressive factors.

If you decide to track each analogy all the way back to their respective breaking points **spoiler alert** you'll end up having to remove ALL shared culture and ALL social context. You'll be left with only individuals.

Every single individual on the planet has a unique personal experience. At that point, you might as well not have this book or any non-fiction book about any sociological topic because "your mileage may vary" equally applies to everyone.

That would be boring as fuck, wouldn't it?

Is that what you want? Probably not. For your benefit and mine, let the analogies be their own wonderfully imperfect selves.


An analogy (surprise!): Dana and Rose, in two separate bathroom shower occurrences, accidently kick the edge of their respective bathtubs. Dana stubs her toe and is left in a lot of pain. Rose breaks her foot.

Although she is in pain, Dana is able to walk, get dressed, and continue with life just fine ... with the exception of a slight limp that she'll have for another hour or so. She goes to work that day and complains about her foot to any coworker who will listen.

Through all of this, Rose's life has been severely impacted. Rose can't drive her car with a broken foot. She will need help, either by ambulance or friendly neighbor, to reach the hospital. Once there, she will need to have surgery on that broken foot. After the surgery heals, Rose will have to undergo weeks of physical therapy to be able to walk properly again. All of this means days off of work, leading to late payments on her bills, a series of missed social events, a logistically altered sex life, etc. As a result of one event, kicking the bathtub, Rose's life experienced a major turn.

Now imagine if Dana and Rose were in the same social circle discussing their respective injuries. Imagine if, whenever Rose talked about her broken foot, Dana talked over her: "Really? I hurt my foot, too, and I was back to work the same day. I kicked the edge of the bathtub, just like you did. I don't know why you needed surgery or physical therapy. I didn't. In fact, we should both have equal access to those resources due to our similar foot injuries."

Their situations aren't the same, but Dana demanded that they be — for the sake of debate — in this conversation. When the conversation is over, Dana won't think about her stubbed toe until the topic comes up in conversation again. Her foot was back to normal before noon on the day that she hurt it.

Rose, on the other hand, had to beg her landlord not to evict her and her employer not to let her go. She's on thin ice with both of them now. She has been working overtime to pay off the medical bills for months. She never stops thinking about the ongoing impact her injury has had on her life.

I present all of that because this book will, at points, wade into the waters of discussing racism. In discussing racism, I do NOT mean individual experiences of race-based prejudice and discrimination. I will solely be referring to, and making analogies about, systemic oppression. While everyone faces some form of discrimination in their lives, oppression is a matter of subjugation and/or persecution by a privileged class.

Both in this book, and in my life, I will neither make nor accept the false equivalency of race-based prejudice and racism. Please understand, I don't condone either one, but they are not the same.

Both hurt ... but one has a casual and longstanding ability to impact your employment, your housing, your livelihood, your health, and your safety.

Both feel unwelcoming ... but one is created and enforced by politicians, law enforcement officers, real estate agents, employers, bankers, lawyers, and doctors. People of privilege and authority have created a culture that enforces permanent racebased, second-class citizenry. These are not just individual people being jerks to one another for arbitrary reasons.


This book is about the intersection of race and polyamory.

Just so you understand: This isn't a beginner's guide to polyamory. It's more of a beginner's guide to what polyamory looks like for underrepresented polyamorists.

It's a book about changing the contrast of your social circle and your local polyamory community, and why this is an important thing to do. It's basically a sociology book that uses polyamory as its focus.

I enjoy lots of things about polyamory, but some of my favorite things include the lessons I learn in navigating multiple relationships and transfer to every other aspect of my life. These aspects include all of the communication skills, the emotional literacy, the creation of boundaries, the scheduling, and the confronting of harsh realities. All of these aspects are practiced on a regular basis among people I love. All of these aspects are tested in the world outside of my relationships.

The same can be true of this book.

While this book is about how race plays out in polyamorous communities, much of it will translate to situations and groupings and lifestyles far outside of ethical non-monogamy. That's a good thing. One more tool in the toolbelt ... regardless of the project at hand.

Now, when I speak about the topic of racial diversity at conferences, it's less of a lecture and more of a led discussion. There's a reason for this. I've been dealing with the societal construct of race my whole life. It's defined how I see the world and informed how the world sees me. It can't be ignored. It's always a factor for me. As such, I have a ton of stories, from my childhood to today, that play out how my race has factored in on some daily operation. But since I'm not the only one with these experiences, my speaking engagements are also about inviting others to tell their stories as well.

Just as I do in these workshops, I will cover a lot of topics in this book.

I will address specific barriers for entry — unarticulated disadvantages and unintentional difficulties — that people of color face in polyamory communities and alternative-lifestyle communities, in general.

I will discuss the source of people's discomfort in talking about race.

I will lay out ideas for how we can foster and appreciate diversity in our communities.

The magic of these conversations, when had in person, is that as I explain a specific point, I can usually add a personal story of how I was affected by that point in real life ... and then someone else does, too. The topic becomes "real" as real people speak their truths. The topic also becomes "real" as real people see themselves on the wrong side of the story.

For instance, if I discuss how I was fetishized at an event, not only will more people chime in about how they were also fetishized at separate events, other attendees will realize that fetishization was something they've unknowingly contributed to. It can be a bit of a rude awakening to hear your own behavior used as a model for bad behavior.

One of the main problems, at the intersection of race and polyamory (and really at the intersection of privilege and oppression), is that we don't always know what we're doing, we don't always stop talking long enough to listen, and we're often far too scared or too defensive to learn uncomfortable truths about ourselves or our behaviors. This is the reason why a few of my workshops have led to tears and uneasy feelings. That's not a bad thing though. We all have room to grow, and you don't get to enact social change while sitting in a comfortable spot.

To mimic the discussion-based tone of my in-person workshops, this book will include accounts of people's personal experiences with the topics I cover in each chapter. Some of these stories will be my own. Some of these stories will be written anonymously.

All of these stories will be true.

I'm hoping that you'll do the next bit on your own. If you see yourself in any of these stories or find that you've got experience with any of these topics ... please talk about it. Don't let discomfort silence you when your voice can lead to a better situation for all of us. Trouble breeds under cover of darkness and, to paraphrase Louis Brandeis, sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Polyamory offers a wealth of unique perspectives. My partners have changed my life in more ways than I can count, but so have the communities that I've included myself in. The meetup groups I've attended, the polyamory-based happy hours, the online forums, the comments section to that one article that got shared on Facebook that time.

Use all of these resources to further the discussion ... even if it makes you uneasy to do so.

Especially if it makes you uneasy to do so.

Talk to your partners. Talk to your community leaders and event coordinators. Tell your story on social media and invite others to make it a dialogue. Use every bit of access you have to speak your truth, hear the truth of others, and grow as a person, as a community, and as a culture.

Enjoy the book.


Alternative Lifestyles Be Like ...


"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I used to work at a 24-hour copy shop. I was the overnight guy working a 10-hour shift from 9:00 at night to 7:00 in the morning. Working that late, most of my responsibilities were about completing copy jobs that the morning and evening crews brought in. There's not a lot of foot-traffic in a store at 3:00 a.m., so, I worked by myself most nights.

The few customers that you do get, at that time of night, are usually people with special requirements: A need to create something in relative peace and quiet. A surprise project or a time-crunch that has to be managed in the immediate. Or, in the case of this telling, a desire for a personal touch or some conversation while working.

In this case, a schoolteacher decided to chat me up while she prepared the handouts for her next art class. No big deal, I like being friendly with the customers, and she wasn't really asking me for any help with anything. So, I continued to work on other people's projects as she worked on her own, all while keeping up a pretty steady dialogue. As she finished up and came to the counter to pay, she decided to turn friendly into familiar ... and ultimately uncomfortable. 'Hey ... ummm ... do you have any pot you could sell me?' My face dropped. To be clear, I don't have any problem with the sale or consumption of cannabis. I have a problem with the assumption that I might be a criminal, dealing drugs ... at my legal job.

I've got a policy in regards to racist microaggressions: When encountered, I try to calmly make the aggressor as uncomfortable as they've made me. So, I looked her directly in the eye and clearly stated, 'No ma'am. I am NOT a drug dealer. I don't have any drugs for you to purchase.' Then her face dropped. She had the nerve to be offended. 'Don't get that attitude with me. It's not like I'm a racist or anything. When I lived in New York, the late-night, copy shop, black guy was just who you bought weed from.'

We completed her transaction without another word and she left the store.

Compare this to a situation where a much older gentleman engaged me in conversation while he made his copies. 'Y'know, when I served during the war, we had a black fella in our company. Johnson! Now, I don't care what anybody says about the blacks, but Johnson was as hard-working and loyal of a soldier as anybody in that company.' While perfectly pleasant, I had to wonder how this interaction would've went had Johnson been a terrible person or a lazy soldier.

What should've been a random retail-and-service job in my 20s, ended up being an enforcement of how the world views race and my place as a "forced ambassador."

All that these two customers knew about me was my identity as a black guy. Had I been a man of Asian descent, that schoolteacher wouldn't have considered me as a reasonable option for illegal activity. Had I been East Indian, Johnson's old squad mate wouldn't have given me the benefit of the doubt so easily ... or maybe he'd have just used a different racial proxy by which to prejudge our interaction. Had I been white, in either case, I believe both customers would've offered me the advantage of individuality. Instead of referencing me in comparison to their friends or family or the countless other white people they've met, I'd have just been me ... judged solely by my own strengths and weaknesses.


Excerpted from "Love's Not Color Blind"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Kevin A. Patterson.
Excerpted by permission of Thorntree Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Beginning Stuff … 1

Disclaimer One: The "Bookening …" 3

Disclaimer 2: Electric Boogaloo … 5

The Format of This Book … 7

Alternative Lifestyles Be Like … 11

Forced Ambassadorship 13

Presentation and the Angry Black 19

Intentional Communities 25

Why Does It Matter? 29

Barriers For Entry 37

White Feminism and Polyamory 39

Othering 48

Dating Preferences 56

Breakdowns In Representation aka White People Shit 65

Tokenism 79

Fetishization 87

Class … 95

Fostering Inclusivity … For White Folks 105

Owning Your Shit… 107

Don't Pander … Engage 117

Intentional Planning 120

Joint Events 124

Fostering Inclusivity … For People Of Color 127

Show Up … Or Don't … 129

Your Events Are Yours 132

Make Your Own Group 134

Start Creating 136

How I Started Creating … 140

Creating Around Class … 142

Creating Around Tokenism … 144

Creating Around Othering … 148

Creating Around Fetishization … 149

Too Long / Didn't Read 151

Endnotes 153

Index 159

Customer Reviews