Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Lists, Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

Three Possible Reasons Why Online Dating’s Just Not That Into Black People

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.

My point?

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.

—The Champ

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't.

  • http://heardhimsay.com Drew-Shane

    I think dating tends to be a market that really doesn’t target Blacks. Why would they spend money trying to reach a demographic who’s not interested? The commercials and marketing tactics are getting really cheesy now. BlackPeopleMeet? BlackChristians? Maybe that is supposed to entice a sister or brother to join.

    I don’t think I would join a dating site. No need. I have Facebook and Twitter–

  • ImJusSayin

    This is interesting. I know this is a taboo but I have no clue why. I have been secretly on an online dating site for about a yr. Ive had some great and not so great dates. But it’s fun and an easy way to get to know people. I have met some very cute black men, with degrees and no children and all their teeth! *gasp* I know… lol. But when I go out on dates and one of my friends ask where I met him, honestly I lie and say I met him out somewhere. I already know their all judgmental eyes would pop out if I said I met him online.But why? At least I’m dating right? Maybe because black people in general have had a shorter history with the internet so some things are still taboo, or black people are just so damn judgemental and uptight sometimes… I dunno.

    But online is cool for me, I get men all the time tryin to holla at me when I’m out but the online aspect lets you read something about that person, like their representative comes out instead of the oh so lovely “AY GURL!!!”. I also have a demanding job and I’m in grad school so this helps out with time constraints. I think we should step outside of the box, you never know who you’ll find…

  • Sierra

    That was a very interesting article. I briefly tried online dating. I’ve always wondered about the interest of the people on online dating sites. I too thought that they were only interested in women outside of the African American race, which has made me look negatively on them (online dating sties). But I’ve only looked at EHarmony and Match.Com. The men on there only were interested in everything ELSE. You only see about one out of ten men that had an interest in African American women. That’s why I lost faith in those things. I will just stick to the traditional way of finding a mate, which is outside of the world wide web.

    I thought I was the only one feeling that way. Glad to see that I’m not.

  • Leila

    I’ve never done online dating, but I know a lot of other people who have because they have no luck dating or are too busy to go out and meet people. It seems to work for them. I have the stereotype that desperate people do online dating, but my friends have met good people. I might try in the future, who knows but right now I’m prefer meeting guys in person…

  • http://fatgrlatheart.com fatgrlatheart

    someone suggested i do it last year and i immediately thought “helllllll nooooo” … but after a few examples of some “happily ever afters” and some prodding I went on match.com …

    turns out most of the men weren’t exactly lookers … most of the messages i received i completely ignored (from creepy 44 yr old men or profiles that actually had words like “cutie with a booty” in them).

    the decent looking ones just seem to be using match to look for hook ups.

    i only met two in person. first = no spark. second = got “busy” cause i hadn’t given it up by date # 4.

    i did not renew my membership and wont be joining ever again. i’ll stick to meeting men the old-fashioned way … random luck lol

  • Hawaii

    “Books will be signed, Patron shots will be passed, and babies will be conceived in parking lots and bathroom stalls.”

    Oh lawd! Please y’all… if IT is to go down, have your protection and your Plan B readily available.

    “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.

    LOL! Exactly.

    Hmmph. Wish I could attend on April 2nd. :(

  • DQ

    I used to think that there were 2 places you would never meet your significant other:

    The Strip Club
    The Internet

    People have proven me wrong about both counts.

  • Kamala Jones

    Great article!! But, I take umbrage with one assertion you (Champ) made.

    “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.”

    I can say for myself that (and maybe some other Black men) it may not be whether we’re desirable or not but rather we’re likely to find more educated, common sense Black folks including Black women on a site like VSB or facebook instead of traversing the dating scene in many cities across the U.S. I live in Baton Rouge, LA FOR NOW (and you can ask Panama about it) and this isn’t the place to meet seemingly to meet more than a handful of progressive Blacks. I’m trying to miss as many hoodrats as possible.

  • Mo-VSS

    Black people meet was something that I tried and I actually got into a long term relationship from it. The site itself was cool. Just like in “real life”, you can meet some good and not so good people online. It’s just about safety though. Making sure you meet that person in a public place with a friend or group of friends, and honestly do a background search on that person too. It may sound overboard but it’s not the same as meeting someone in person. And while a person to person meeting can illicit some crazy fools too, the internet is known for folks perpetrating.

    Overall, I enjoyed the experience and I wouldn’t trade it. It wouldn’t be my first choice in the dating game, but I’m open to it again if the situation presents itself. The reason I wouldn’t is because I can read someone better in person. And, while I ended up enjoying the person I was with, I would never had dated him if I wouldn’t have befriended him online first. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but in the end, it turned out differences do not attract and hold long term.

    But, the stigma of online dating shouldn’t be there. It’s just another form of meeting folks and doesn’t (at least not to me) designate that someone is out of options or desperate.

  • http://www.twitter.com/hipployta Hipployta

    You know it occurs to me that this statement may be kind of backwards but….I’ll pay thousands of dollars for shoes but I will not spend one cent on an online dating site.

    You can meet people some many ways online and IRL that I just can’t see myself paying for the pleasure of a bad date (and a good one…who knows).

    If it was free I might join.

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