In our Love App-tually series, Mashable shines a light into the foggy world of online dating. I had always found myself in mostly white spaces — college, jobs, vacations — yet white men never took a deep interest in me before I moved to the East Coast.
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Eventually, I stopped swiping on non-Black men altogether. But in New York City, the progressive melting pot of America, white men and Asian and Latino men for that matter wanted to take me out for dinner and drinks, probed my interests, and complimented my photos in a respectable manner. Why was my experience on dating apps with non-Black men on the East Coast so different from my experience in the South? The Dating Dividea non-fiction book that explores race and desire in the era of online romance, finally provided me with answers to this longstanding question.
A white man saying he only wants to be with white women because he only likes light skin and light eyes is different from a Black woman who prefers men of color because she wants to avoid fetish-seeking matches and racist messages.
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Some women of color reported that dating white people can be challenging because they have a general lack of awareness around racial oppression and discrimination, positioning their preference as a safety net in an online dating world full of strangers. Racist and hyper-sexualized remarks toward Black women on dating apps prove to be common, the authors found.
Even Black men reported feeling rejected and stereotyped by non-Black women on dating apps, pushing them to mostly only contact Black women. Does this collective anti-Blackness simply come down to an unintentional, harmless preference or is it a product of modern-day digital sexual racism? According to the research presented in The Dating Dividewhich includes interviews with online daters as well as an analysis of anonymized internal data provided by a mainstream U.
Additionally, Asian, Latina, and white straight women all refute messages from Black men, while Asian, Latino, and white gay men are also unlikely to message Black men.
Does this collective anti-Blackness simply come down to an unintentional, harmless preference or is it a product of modern-day digital sexual racism derived from historical white supremacist roots? The risible idea that Black women are not suitable for respectable dating or marriage, but instead fitting for temporary sexual relations, stems from the Jezebel imagea sexually aggressive Black woman dating back to slavery, Jim Crow, and present in the 21st century.
The ludicrous belief that Black men are dangerous and aggressive stems from the 19th century and much of the early 20th century when intimacy between Black men and white women was considered rape, despite consensual interest.
The Dating Divide dives deeper into these eras and the distinct rules and regulations that were enforced to prevent non-Black people from mating with and finding Black people attractive and worthy of respect, while simultaneously fueling anti-Blackness. Despite holding deep interest in the issues faced by people of color, progressive white singles still swipe on and message people of their own race to a larger degree.
As the book claims, white daters are more likely to ignore overtures from people of color who hold a conventionally more desirable education background, height, and body type, while being responsive to those who lack those qualities, but are still white. Online dating benefits white people the most and favors Black people the least with other races falling in between. White daters are more likely to report having a preference for their own race than other daters.
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Latinas face family pressure to date lighter. Asian and Latina women associate white men with more gender egalitarian partnerships. Black and Asian men face extreme stereotypes of being sexually aggressive and insufficiently dominant and unmanly, respectively.
White women are unlikely to respond to non-white men, and almost every other racial group readily responds to white men more often than to men from their own racial group. Even gay Asian and Latino men prefer white men.
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The pervasiveness of white desire paints online dating as an effective tool for white daters to not only succeed, but enjoy. In order for digital sexual racism to die, awareness of its existence and how we might be perpetuating it has to be known.
In addition to our own individual work in dismantling our unconscious preferences, both Lundquist and Curington place a responsibility on the platforms that uphold the divide with ethnicfiltering mechanisms, and algorithms that use racial data. Instead of hoping that businesses will make moral decisions, Lundquist suggests consumers advocate for more transparency, especially in the algorithms and how race might play into them, as well as ask corporations to eliminate racial preference options from profiles altogether.
She notes that digital sexual racism is just as much an institutional issue as it is societal. The choice to opt out of viewing people based on race, coupled with algorithms that prioritize race as a factor, is a form of discrimination that our most influential institutionsnot just dating apps, should be penalized for upholding. American housingeducationand employment institutions aren't supposed to make decisions based on race and ethnic background, but they often fall short of legal requirements.
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Dating app businesses facilitate that same sort of discrimination freely among their consumers with little consequence. Just a Jim looking for his Pam: Fictional couples dominate dating apps.
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