While a tad disappointing, I can’t say that I was surprised after reading “Love Isn’t Color-Blind: White Online Daters Spurn Blacks” — the Time Magazine piece showing that African-Americans are the redheaded stepchildren of online dating. Based on a study from researchers at The University of California (Berkeley), this article merely reiterated what numerous sources — OKCupid’s “How Race Affects The Messages You Get” for example — have already stated: it just seems like online dating’s just not that into black people.
But, while this phenomenon has inundated us with “Who” and “What” (and a latent sense of “black people just aren’t as attractive as others”-ness), I’m more curious about the “Why,” and I thought of three possible reasons.
1. Black people are just not that into online dating, either
Although the aughts brought with them a beginning to the end of the black community’s ongoing (and silly) tabooization of many dating practices (ie: white male/black female romantic couplings), the stigma attached to online dating remains intact.
Despite our increasingly lascivious love affair with Facebook and Twitter — and the time we waste, er, spend cultivating that romance – a black person publicly admitting they actually sought out and met a potential romantic partner on the internet is akin to, well, a black person publicly admitting they actually sought out and met a potential romantic partner on the internet. While it’s generally considered to be “cool” if you happened to meet and date someone you happened to first meet online, nothing’s analogous to the level of simultaneous condescension and “wheredeydothatat-ness” admitting you joined a dating site usually receives.
I experienced this first hand a couple weeks ago while talking to Ms. Solomon of The Dating Truth and a few other single sistas at an open mic event. They were musing about the myriad dating difficulties present for black women in Pittsburgh, and when I suggested that online dating might be a reasonable and practical option, they each looked at me as if I suggested they start dating vegan midget pedophiles.
Quoting Ms. Solomon
“You’re not going to find hot guys on dating sites. Why? Cause hot guys are out living life, not sitting at some screen and hoping that some woman is going to think it’s cute that his profile says he likes dogs and Italian food.”
I realize this is anecdotal evidence, and I also realize other races/cultures may hold similar stigmas, but within our community, the mindset exhibited by Ms. Soloman tends to be the rule, not the exception.
Our general reluctance to embrace this part of 21st century life surely affects our success rate when we finally do, a fact leading to…
2. It’s not about online dating just not being that into black people much as it’s online dating just not being that into the type of black person who’d make this decision
Both the OKCupid and the UC Berkley studies cited data showing that blacks were much more interested in meeting others than vice versa.
From the Berkley study:
“Those who said they were indifferent to the race of a partner were most likely to be young, male and black,” said Gerald Mendelsohn, a UC Berkeley psychologist, professor of graduate studies and lead author of the study, which will soon be submitted for publication.
Overall, he said, “Whites more than blacks, women more than men and old more than young participants stated a preference for a partner of the same race,”
The reluctance of whites to contact blacks was true even for those who claimed they were indifferent to race. More than 80 percent of the whites contacted whites and fewer than 5 percent of them contacted blacks, a disparity that held for young as well as for older participants.
OKCupid even showed that we’re less interested in meeting each other than we are with meeting others:
Men don’t write black women back. Or rather, they write them back far less often than they should. Black women reply the most, yet get by far the fewest replies. Essentially every race—including other blacks—singles them out for the cold shoulder.
While this can (and has) been interpreted as proof of a general lack of physical/sexual attraction for black people (and black women in particular), I don’t share that self-defeatist opinion.
Instead I’d argue that — because of our previously cited reluctance to de-stigmatize online dating — the black people who do embrace online dating are probably more likely to embrace it out of desperation, a last option, a final “I need to find someone by any means necessary!!!” salvo. While exceptions definitely exist, people at the end of their dating ropes usually tend to be (thinking of the least offensive way to say this possible) less desirable than those who aren’t, and it’s no surprise that they would encounter some of the same difficulties online they’d usually face while dating traditionally.
Basically, just like pretty girl problems…only the exact opposite.
3. The type of people (black and other) interested in virtual dating and in actually meeting black people might not be found on the sites cited by these studies
Five days from now, approximately 250 to 400 very smart people will descend on Washington D.C. to attend VSB Lounge, Episode 1: Three Deez — an event created, sponsored, promoted, and organized by a website that each of these 250 to 400 very smart people frequent. Books will be signed, Patron shots will be passed, and babies will be conceived in parking lots and bathroom stalls.
And, while the majority of the people planning to attend are probably just hoping to have a good time, the singles in attendance — many of whom would scoff at the idea of joining a dating site — probably wouldn’t mind if they happened to meet a potential mate while there.
Well, between VSB, high traffic message boards like Okayplayer.com, and even smaller blogs and Facebook groups, there are myriad venues available for black people interested in meeting potential romantic partners; venues that usually don’t require fees and also provide a sense of community, making the virtual approach less stressful and unnerving. These people don’t usually frequent these sites just to troll for mates, but the commonalities present in the community makes them more likely to entertain the possibility of finding a partner.
Also, since OKCupid pulled from their own data and only “major” dating sites were cited by the Cal Berkeley study, both ignore the thousands of black people belonging to sites such as Black Singles and Black People Meet.
Lastly, while the OKCupid study did show that black women were less likely to get contacted than any other race, I’d argue that the type of black person (man or woman) who’s already lukewarm about intra-racial dating is probably more likely to join a site like OkCupid. It’s not that black males who date virtually aren’t into black women, it’s that the black men who are interested in sistas can probably be found somewhere else. I’d imagine that if you asked black men in Irish pubs in Boston and black men in Baltimore IHOPs to share their thoughts about black women, the results might be a little different.
When you add these factors together, you can make the case that it’s not so much “the concept of online dating’s usually just not that into black people” but “predominately white dating websites usually just aren’t that into black people” – still not surprising, but much less disappointing and pessimistic.
Anyway, people of VSB.com, I’m curious: How do you feel about online dating? Would you consider joining a dating site or physically meeting a person you grew fond of on a site like VSB?
Also, can you think of any other reasons why this taboo exists?
The carpet is yours.
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