Fetishes, on their own, aren’t harmful, wrong, or shameful things. Whatever floats your boat is fine—as long as it harms no one. The important element to fetishes that don’t harm people, though, is that they all involve a degree of performance and the ability to move in and out of fetish space. If you have a thing for people wearing ostrich-feather tails, your partner is free to prance around the house in hot pants and a tail as often as she likes; and when she’s not into it, she can put the tail away.
Racial fetishes, however, are based on objectifying someone because of her race, which isn’t something she can control. An Asian woman can’t choose to take her Asianness off for the day, a Black woman can’t decide to not be Black while she walks down the street. These are lived, inhabited identities that cannot be turned on and off; there is no safeword for race. You live these identities throughout your life, experiencing the good and bad things associated with them, interacting with your community through and around this identity.
Someone who says he (and it is usually a he) ‘prefers’ women of a specific race isn’t exercising a preference based on orientation or experience. He’s viewing certain kinds of women as dateable material on the basis of racial discrimination; and it’s telling that most men with racial ‘preferences’—which are really racial fetishes—use very racist, stereotypical descriptions when talking about why they ‘prefer’ women of specific races. Asian women are meek, say, or Latinas are fiery, or Black women are exotic and know how to deliver in bed.