Online Dating: The Last Bastion of Racism in America

online dating racism
Written by Ted Rall

Online dating racism is the dirty little secret of digital hookups, says Ted Rall. Here’s why.

aNewDomain — Online dating is a lonely, disgusting holdout. It is the last bastion of brazen, unfiltered racism in America.

From OKCupid to Yahoo! Personals to Match, digital romance sites and apps do something that’s become socially unacceptable everywhere else, except for maybe a Klavern meeting: Discriminate against other people because of their race. It’s as easy as point-and-click. You don’t like African-Americans? Filter them out of your searches. Poof! No more blacks!

This, in the world of Internet dating, is considered perfectly adorable behavior. Online dating racism runs rampant.

online dating racismThe dating section of Craigslist doesn’t allow filtering. Nevertheless, the racists run wild there, too. “No African-Americans,” people write in their posts, as though MLK and Rosa Parks and Malcolm X had never lived, and civil rights never moved.

Craigslisters can flag posts to be removed but, judging from the fact that many of these posts are weeks old, few do. It is just one of those “no offense, just my preference” — they say that! — kinda things.

Oh, I can hear you coming. Dating sites are just serving their customers! Giving the people what they want!

To which I would ask you: Where else are racists allowed to freely express their rancid 19th-century excuses for opinions?

Not at work, that’s for sure. Public opinion, not to mention a raft of Very Serious Federal Laws, require the boss who just doesn’t like blacks, no offense, just his preference, to not only shut the fuck up, but not give the slightest hint of prejudice.

If you don’t want blacks to move into your neighborhood or apartment building, again, you are more than welcome to keep those thoughts to yourself because (a) it’s illegal to discriminate in housing and (b) everyone would hate you.

Nor in what the law defines as “public accommodation.” Run a bar or restaurant? Welcome all comers or get sued out of business. Work at a fancy boutique on Madison Avenue? Better buzz in that black guy in the hoodie just as fast as you do the white dude in the suit, or you’ll have the city’s newspapers, Al Sharpton and a couple of government agencies way up your ass.

This is all as it should be. You are entitled to be racist. You are not entitled to express your racism in a way that hurts its victims.

What’s that you say — that just because you’re not attracted to members of a race, doesn’t make you racist? Actually, it does. By definition. If you don’t see people of different races as sexual equals, if you think they’re ugly — no offense, just my preference — if the thought of rolling around naked licking the skin of a generic member of Race A is more distasteful than doing the same exact thing with a generic member of Race B, then yeah, you’re racist like Bull Connor and Donald Sterling and David Duke.

online dating racismThere’s no controversy about this in the scientific community. One way sociologists measure racism is to examine the prevalence of interracial dating and marriage in a society. For example, Japan is famously homogenous, has a low rate of what they used to call “miscegenation,” and has a big problem with racial discrimination.

Though there have been increases in interracial marriage rates in the United States in recent years, there is a higher rate of marriages between whites and Asians than between whites and blacks, which reflects the fact that Asians have been more successfully integrated into “mainstream” white-dominant culture than blacks.

The result? Asian-Americans are less likely than blacks to get shot by cops, to be turned down for a job because of their race, to get a long prison sentence for a crime, or to be poor. In fact, Asian-white couples earn more than Asian-Asian or white-white couples.

Dating racism reflects societal racism. On OKCupid, for example, African-American women — a low-status, low-income demographic that disproportionately suffers discrimination — receive by far the lowest number of responses when they contact men of other races, even though they send the highest number of messages.

I assume that companies are catering to racist online daters because no one has ever brought this up before and that, once they realize that they’re enabling some of the most-hurtful and disgusting discrimination around, a variety of bigotry that literally says “you are so gross, I could never love you” to millions of people, they’ll take the 10 or 15 minutes necessary to delete those racial filters — and flag those offensive posts.

Well, there. I’ve brought it up.

For aNewDomain, I’m Ted Rall.

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  • So if you are white and are more attracted to women of color does that make you racist as well?
    I like women of all varieties, but am more attracted to black women (I don’t say African American because most of the women I know don’t, plus I have dated a woman of color from Africa. She had the most British accent.

  • So having a preference makes you racist? That does not seem quite right to me. The reasoning behind said preference might be racist and perhaps often is. But to me, being attracted to women of color (a phrase that seems somewhat silly as everyone has color) is no different from somebody being more attracted to blondes or redheads. I do occasionally check out the dating websites but really haven’t talked to anybody, mostly because to do so requires payment, but also due to the fact that I have a black woman with whom I have been talking a very long time, though our relationship is somewhat static due to our inability to get closer geographically. I agree with your general points as I do with most of your writings and drawings. I like women of all races. I find no woman unattractive or disgusting because of her race, I just find myself more drawn to black women. Does that mean I will marry a black woman. Who knows, though, the way I am going I probably will never marry. At any rate, I will continue to read your works and am in particular interested in the Snowden book. Anyway, have a good weekend.

    • The important thing here is that major corporations are reinforcing societal racism by making it easy to exclude everyone who is a member of a certain race. It would be much better if we were all forced to see members of all races when we look at online dating site. Even Strom Thurmond found a black woman that he liked.

      • Just to reiterate, I am much less interested in individual racism than in the systemic racism that creates individual racism.

        • I see your point and agree. I have also noticed a trend of “whitewashing” in film, in particular science fiction, fantasy and the like. The process of casting white actors in the roles of characters that were POC in the original source material, or even in the case of the Harry Potter movies replacing a black actress who had played a role in the first few films with a white one when her character became more important. It occasionally happens in reverse. Johny Storm and Nick Fury being two cases of black actors cast in the roles of characters previously white, though why in the case of Storm they didn’t have his sister also be black (she is adopted apparently). Perhaps because she and Reed Richards become an item later on? There has been some interesting material on this on some of the pages on Facebook that I follow. BLACKGIRLNERDS, Pretty, Brown and Nerdy, Liberal Angry Black Woman and Afropunk among them.

  • I am sorry, but why do you perceive this as racist. It’s a matter of taste and what you are physically attracted to.

    Some men prefer blondes, I see 5’2″ women saying they don’t want a guy under 5’10”

    Some people are not physically attracted to certain types and that includes features associated with certain ethnicities and heritages,

    • Anthropologists and sociologists could probably answer this question in more detail, but yes, no one just happens to have an attraction for, say, blondes. These standards of beautyoften result from racism.

      • No. They can be in part fetishes

        They can be in part an internalization of societal norms, and/or media filters that are in fact racist, but that does not mean the person is racist. To be clear, many people that do not want to date members of a particular race are racist, but many are not. But why does that matter? Do you want to force people to date, have sex with , and marry people they do not want to?

        • If you absorb racist societal norms, you are by definition racist. I suspect that’s true of the vast majority of people, but we should all be fighting to eliminate racism in ourselves and in others.
          To repeat, date whoever you want. Who could stop you? The point here is that the corporations that run dating apps should not reinforce societal racism by making sorting by race an option.
          It is interesting that you cannot sort out trans people on dating sites. When you search for females, you get cisfemales and transwomen, both. This might lead to some surprises when you meet in person, but hey, that’s up to you to work out in the real world. Which is how it should be.
          So why shouldn’t it be the same with race? Let people of all races come up in searches. If you’re not attracted to, say, all Latinos, oh well. But you should have to see Latino faces, not just automatically exclude them with the tick of a box,

          • Just to be clear, there are many sorting methods that online dating services allow. Some we consider normative, but really should be eliminated: like, on some sites, you can choose to omit all people outside a certain income range (classist, not to mention stupid, who can verify?) or sort be age (ageist). These, like race, should be abolished.
            On the other hand, you can’t sort by weight, even though we live in a sizeist society. Why not? Personally, I think that’s great. But why race, and not weight?
            The message is: it’s cool to be racist, not to be sizeist.

    • I think that’s a cop-out.
      Let’s say you’re right. If that’s so, based on data from OKCupid and other sites, African-American women are objectively, en masse, uglier than white women. Do you really think that’s possible, or true? I don’t. The only other explanation, therefore, is racism so pernicious that even those who are racism don’t know they are.
      We are taught that blondes are hot, that thin is hot, that tall is hot. Which just happens to reinforce the dominant power structure. This is not a coincidence.

      • Black women and asian men are generally fucked under these systems. However, a large portion of black wpomen do not comport with American beauty standards. I am all for changing the standards, but that’s reality.

        • Quite right. And where do those beauty standards come from? Racial bias, as reinforced by TV shows with few women of color or Asian men, fashion magazines that are the same, etc. Racist society –> racist beauty standards.

  • Ted, you’re out of line on this. I grok your point, but if one can filter for height, body type, and age, why NOT skin color?

    I ind it more troubling that what you says is happening on Craigslist is the case. And you’re wrong that CL has no filtering; the tools are rudimentary, but they’re there. The fact that people then type in “no blacks” (or whatever) feels way more hurtful to me than just being able to proactively and silently filter preferences.

    OTOH: If you ARE of “group x” and because of that you are blocked from viewing someone’s profile, THAT would be disturbing. But then again, remember that there are contact filters on some sites.

    It may sound horrible, but people have the right to self-select. And race, to many people, may be no different than “I don’t like fat chicks”.

    If anyone identifies as a fat chick, I hope you can take that last like in the manner I intended it.

    • Well, I’m not sure you should be able to filter for height, body type, or age either. But those are discussions about lookism and ageism, and here I was focused on racism, which in 2015 we really should be pretty much agreed is disgusting. Of course people can, and do, select. What I’m saying is, it shouldn’t be THIS easy. You should have to see the individual profiles of the “fat chicks” too. Many of whom are, by the way, hot.

      • Ted, (for the record), I didn’t say “fat chicks are icky”. What I said was that IF that’s what I think and I’m paying ort being advertised to, which is the same thing, then seriously I shouldn’t have to look at everyone. I mean, how ridiculously PC can we make this? Should I have to look at people of my own gender even if I’m a heterosexual?

        Listen: racism irks me plenty. But “I like my women pale” (MY women; there’s no value judgement there of any other sort) can be JUST a preference, and to hide behind racism strikes me as just as discriminatory (“you can’t make that decision for yourself”) as the original supposition.

        And seriously, when did PC infiltrate dating?

        • No. “I like my women pale” cannot possibly be teased out as “just a preference” in this society. The only way to assess such a thing would be in a colorblind society.

          • Well, maybe. But I presume your response is based on the belief that “I like my women pale” is code for “no black women, thanks”. I may be playing devil’s advocate at this point, but I wasn’t saying or suggesting THAT at all.

            Fact is, when I was young I had a profound preference for blondes. When I was forty and on “round two”, I noticed that I’d started leaning toward brunettes, almost to the exclusion of my prior preference. I happen to have ended up with a brunette with really pale skin.

            WE’RE ALLOWED OUR PREFERENCES. I think a problem develops when it’s about what we DON’T like rather than what we do. “Not like me”, common though it is, is a problem. “No blacks” is even worse. But “I’ve discovered I like women with big breasts”, delivered from a position of preference rather than prejudice, is not only your right but something that should be respected.

            By the way, let me be completely ridiculous about this:

            How many people with college degrees are too dumb in practical terms for that piece of paper to mean anything useful? (Lots). But pre-selection involves winnowing out a section of the world (or including a section), if only to make your job easier. I’e never heard anyone suggest that was a problem, except the folks who didn’t have the degree and were therefore rejected from the gene pool.

            Ted, it’s DATING, for goodness sake. If I want and am able to specify that I like women between 5′ 2″ and 5′ 3.5″, with natural red hair, an hourglass figure (I’m thinking of the old classic 36-24-36; I hope you get the idea, though), and over 42 but under 47 years old, that’s not only OK, but honestly is a good thing if that’s really how I feel and I save everyone time.

            I expect we have now reached “gonna have to agree to disagree” territory.

  • So if you take away the filter the problem goes away? You think no one walks past non-white women at a bar? Btw, they also have weight and body type filters on those sites. Should those go too? How about height?