People of Color (POC) and Polygamy Dating | Looking at Race

Jun 16 '2021, 12:18 PM | By Chris

When you hear “polygamy” or “sister wives,” you might think of the original Mormons, Kody Brown and his multiple sister wives, or Jacob from the Christian Bible. One thing these characters have in common? Being white. You might be surprised to hear, then, that there is a significant part of the Asian, Latinx, Black, and Indigenous population that practices polygamy or another form of poly lifestyle in America.

Why do we hear so little about it? The answer is a little complex. It’s a mixture of sociocultural attitudes, a lack of representation in the poly world, and privilege. To clarify, this privilege is granted to white or white-passing poly community members, which often makes polygamy dating a tricky and disappointing journey for many people of color (POC).

As allies, we have the honor and responsibility of making the poly community more inclusive, more welcoming, and more secure for everyone regardless of race. Like in many spaces within society, the polygamy dating sphere is tinged with prejudice. Let’s take a look at why this is so, and what we can do together to change it.

Do POC practice polygamy or polyamory?

Judging by the historically white face of the poly community (think shows like “Sister Wives” and Escaping Polygamy), most people assume that only white people partake in polygamy dating or plural relationships. In actuality, some studies have shown that people of color are just as likely to engage in consensual non-monogamy
Additionally, there has been an uptick of poly dating in the black community. Whether it’s due to wanting sister wives, needing economic security, or having more control over children’s education is still up for debate, but it’s rising nonetheless.
However, since POC are not represented well in the poly world, they might feel hesitant to share and be public about their lifestyles with friends and family. In particular, poly Asian and Latinx are less likely to divulge their full identities to family members, which may contribute to our lack of knowledge about the precise number of POC in the poly dating world.
People of color also often feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe in poly networks, especially at in-person meetings or in online forums. This discomfort is perhaps rooted in the fetishization of and discrimination against POC, which is then ignored or even inflamed by white leaders in our community.
Kevin A. Patterson, a Black poly community member and author of Love's Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities, noted that he often disagrees with how white organizers treat POC attendees at poly events. 
Holding his ground, he points out where leaders need improvement, and this has sometimes led to real change taking place. The other times it doesn’t, he is alienated altogether by the people in charge. It’s Patterson and other peers like him that we need to listen to.

Common challenges POC face

When I read about poly lifestyles and race, I come across recurring obstacles POC face. These issues keep them not just from attending poly events, but typically prohibits them from trying out the lifestyle in the first place.

● POC are afraid of being reduced to and treated like a fetish. This is especially true for women of color.● POC do not share the white privilege of living a nontraditional lifestyle with little consequence. POC fear that others will resort to stereotypical insults about POC being vulgar, indecent, and/or backwards when admitting that they’re polyamorous. In contrast, white people receive relatively less backlash for this choice.● Many POC simply cannot afford the resources needed in polygamy dating. This includes time and money.● POC families are less likely to be familiar with poly terms. This results in a big misunderstanding of or lack of knowledge about consensual non-monogamy, polygamy, polyamory, polygyny, and other poly subcategories. In the end, many poly POC avoid sharing their lifestyles with family in fear of rejection.

So what can white allies/partners do to protect POC in the poly community?

Just as we must make sure POC are safe in other shared spaces like schools, offices, and public commercial establishments, we must create room for everyone in the poly realm. This process of unlearning biases, calling out racism, and discussing difficult issues is continuous.

Check your own problematic attitude(s), if any.

Like I mentioned above, a big barrier to more POC joining the poly world is feeling like a fetish or object to others, especially to white partners. Having a kink or personal preference about someone (e.g. funny, muscular, smart) is dramatically different than seeking out sister wives who meet a race criteria. This brings us to our next point.

Don’t be afraid to call out others’ racist attitudes.

If you know someone (or a couple) who actively seek out sister wives by virtue of race and color, it’s your responsibility to remind them of the racist agenda behind their actions. This might create tension in your personal relationship, but on the flip side, it might awaken them to a process of unlearning and letting go of their questionable mindsets.

Even if it’s uncomfortable, keep talking about racism and discrimination.

Some conversations will be more difficult than others, but when the going gets tough, you just keep going. To become real allies to POC, we must be open to discussion. To do so, we must educate ourselves and educate others on what it means to have privilege and how to wield it in a way that lifts others up.

Learn about racial and social issues from POC.

What better way to learn how to be a better ally than learning from actual people of color? Nowadays, knowledge is always available at our fingertips in the form of videos, articles, research reports, podcasts, and books. 
There’s no excuse to be uneducated on racial matters. This knowledge and self-awareness help deepen the trust between you and poly POC in your life that experience discrimination every day. 

Published By: Christopher Alesich 

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