If You Only Date People From Your Own Race, Does That Make You Racist?

This short video from The Guardian tackles issues of race, romance and stereotyping, asking why it is that most of us don’t look for love with people from other ethnic groups- and whether that makes us all secretly racist.

Statistics earlier this year from dating site OK Cupid (in addition to data from facebook and various other academic studies) show that the vast majority of website users prefer to date someone the same race as them. Journalist Mona Chalabi believes that while there are a variety of reasons people express certain preferences when looking for a partner, this trend is in part due to our exposure to negative racial stereotypes. Chalabi gives some examples of how Asian women on dating sites are seen as submissive and docile (worryingly, this stereotype makes them quite popular) while Asian men don’t do very well at all. She argues that it’s time for us to examine how systematic racism is affecting our romantic choices.

Researcher Christian Rudder from OK Cupid blogged about the most recent research, which uses data from 25 million accounts and follows on from another in-depth study in 2009. His summary back then: ‘Non-black men applied a penalty to black women while black men showed little racial preference either way. All women preferred men of their own race, but they otherwise penalized black and Asian men. These biases are pervasive in the data I’ve seen. For example, 82% of non-black men on OkCupid show some bias against black women.’

Unfortunately, Rudder laments, nothing much has changed in six years. ‘OkCupid users are certainly no more open-minded than they used to be. If anything, racial bias has intensified a bit,’ Rudder writes. ‘One interesting thing is to compare what you see above with what those same users have told us about their racial attitudes’, saying that the number of people claiming to be willing to date anyone from any race have increased over time. In practice, though, it’s not happening.

And it’s not just this one site: ‘While OkCupid is large enough that its demographics reflect the general Internet-using public, DateHookup is a niche site particularly popular with Latinos and blacks (those groups comprise 13% and 20% of the site, respectively.) Other sites in our portfolio, with still different demographics and business models, show the same attraction patterns,’ Rudder writes.

‘What do you think? Do Chalabi and Rudder make an important point, or do you disagree with their conclusions? Do you have any stories or anecdotes about inter-racial online dating? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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