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No Blacks Or Asians: Racism On Dating Apps

On May 25th 2020, a black man called George Floyd was strangled to death by a police officer in Minneapolis. Footage of the incident raced around the internet. It spread to a multitude of countries around the world and sparked fierce debates about the prevalence and nature of racism in our society. 

Racism is defined as “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” The origin of this issue can be traced back to 18th-century European colonialism, when colonised people, such as Africans, needed to be dehumanised in order to legitimise their oppression.

The pseudo-science and lies that were fermented in order to justify racism are still prevalent today, and the George Floyd incident was a stark reminder of this. Various companies rushed forward to try and show support for the “Black Lives Matter” movement, with some of these companies being dating apps like Grindr, for example.

Image byAna Carolina Mantelli from Pixabay

It was fitting that they did this, as many ethnic minorities have experienced racism on dating apps. Campaigner and writer Stephanie Yeboah revealed in 2018 that she had been fetishized on them, with men asking to “get a taste of jungle fever” and see whether black women are “as aggressive in bed as they’ve heard.” Christopher T. Conner, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, reported that on gay dating apps, like Grindr, there are many users who use phrases like “I don’t date Black men,” or that they are “not attracted to Latinos” on their profiles.

University of California Press research revealed that white straight men are four times more likely to message a white woman than a black woman, even when the two women share otherwise similar characteristics. White straight women are twice as likely to respond to white men compared to black men. In 2014, the founder of the dating app OkCupid, Christian Rudder, published Cataclysm. The report found that most users on OkCupid, and therefore also other dating sites, swipe left on black women and Asian men the most. Below is a collection of some of the findings.

In many ways, it is not surprising that the prejudice which is so common in our society seeps into people’s online dating lives. The problem, however, is that the dating apps themselves have algorithms that reinforce the issue. Jessie Taft, a research coordinator at Cornell Tech, investigated the algorithms of a variety of dating apps and found that if a person had many successful matches with white people, then they were more likely to have white people put forward to them as potential matches. This, therefore, reduces the visibility of ethnic minorities, as the algorithm assumes that this was the individuals’ preference.

The topic of dating filters is another controversial one; the dating app Grindr, for example, used to have an ethnicity filter which would allow users to exclude or search for individuals based on race. The company promised to remove the feature after the George Floyd incident, as many complained that it legitimised discrimination. However, some apps, like the app Hinge, still retain this feature. Some would argue that people should have the right to have a specific preference when it comes to dating and that this may not necessarily mean they are prejudiced.

One could also suggest that ethnic minorities, or people from a specific culture, may want to match with people from their own culture as they may find it easier to forge a connection with them. It is likely that family and parental pressures play a role in this matter because if those closest to you would prefer you to be with someone of a certain race or culture, this could consciously or subconsciously affect your decision.

However, the fact that minorities are statistically less likely to be successful on dating apps can be extremely damaging to their mental health. A study by researcher Ryan Wade and University of Michigan professor Gary W. Harper showed that the veneration of “whiteness” on dating apps results in higher rates of depression and generally negative self-worth amongst ethnic minorities.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

With this in mind, it is important that minorities are aware of the features available to them on various dating apps. For example, on Grindr, they can use the “Block” function to stop a user messaging them, and can also use the “Report” function. If the content that the user sent is deemed to be hate speech, the user will receive a lifetime ban. Tinder also allows users to block and report matches.

Outright racism on dating apps is intolerable, and it is fitting that apps like Grindr are willing to dish out such severe sentences, however, the question of race and sexual preference is a nuanced one. Is it possible for someone to be friends with ethnic minorities, and to treat them with fairness in every aspect of their lives, yet still refuse to consider them romantically because of their skin colour? Is it possible that it is purely an aesthetic preference similar to height or eye colour? On the other hand, is an inability to see the beauty of an entire ethnicity, with the millions of diverse features within that ethnicity, a form of racism?

These questions are extremely difficult to answer, and it is almost impossible to rectify them through dating apps because they are societal issues. Dating apps are merely a filter through which people express their prejudices and preferences. The only person who knows the reason why they swiped left or right on an ethnic minority is the person who swipes…perhaps.

Luke Gyesi-Appiah

Recently graduated with a BA in English Literature from the University of Exeter, and about to study an MA in Journalism at the University of Sheffield. He is an aspiring journalist and novelist; in his free time, he enjoys playing chess, listening to music and taking long walks through nature.


No Blacks Or Asians: Racism On Dating Apps Reviewed by Luke Gyesi-Appiah on Friday, November 05, 2021 Rating: 5
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