Imagine this hypothetical situation: you’re on a blind date. Well, you’re about to be on a blind date. Your date hasn’t arrived just yet. You have no idea what your date looks like. All you know is that your friend considers your date very nice, successful, funny, and overall put together.
Your date chose your favorite restaurant to meet at. This is a great start, you think to yourself. You like this restaurant. It’s cozy, not too stuffy, and has great food. The lights are not too dim, and you can hear the faint sound of Italian music bringing an authentic energy to the atmosphere. The rustic wooden table you are sitting at reminds you of childhood visits to your grandparents’ house. This brings you comfort; you feel like it’s easier to be yourself at a restaurant like this.
You’ve only been sitting there for three minutes. You weren’t too nervous before, but now you begin to wonder, what if I’m being stood-up? Another minute passes. You begin tapping your foot under the table—a nervous tick of yours. You check your cellphone for the time and it’s five past the hour. No “Sorry, I’m running late” texts either. I’ll give my date another couple of minutes, you say to yourself. It could just be traffic. You shake it off because you want to keep your cool.
Another minute goes by. Your date finally arrives, but a wave of disappointment floods your body at first sight. Your date isn’t your type whatsoever. You like the tall, dark-haired type… Oh, and one more thing – your type is white. It’s not that you don’t accept other races. In fact, your “type” isn’t even the same race as your own, but when it comes to romantic relationships, you simply have a specific type you are attracted to.
Let’s rewind and change the scenario a bit. Your date arrives. He/she is the same race as you, whatever race that may be. You consider someone of the same race to be your type. Instead of a wave of disappointment, you are relieved. You do not have to waste a date on someone who is not your type, someone you are not attracted to.
Here is my ultimate question: Is having a racial preference as part of a romantic “type” racist?
If you ask me, I’d say, it’s hard to say—but let’s have a discussion.
I grew up in an Arab household. My parents said they would prefer if I end up marrying someone of the same heritage as me, although, by no means did they enforce that preference upon my love life. I know that this preference does not stem from racism. When it comes from my parents, I know it’s more about maintaining Arab culture within the family. In other words, my parents want me to end up with someone who knows the significance of olive trees or how afraid you should be when Teta threatens you with her shoe. To me, it’s totally understandable that people look for a partner from within the same cultural sphere. There are so many preferences people seek in a partner that go beyond just race. In my case, my parents presented a cultural preference. Another example, and an extremely common one, is religious preference. However, that does not mean society does not contribute to racial preferences towards certain races and away from others. In fact, it cannot be ignored that there are existing studies that show that stereotypes constructed by society do affect one’s racial preference when it comes to dating.
Look no further than dating sites. Twenty-five million users are on OkCupid. And that’s just one site alone. What this means is we have a plethora of choices when it comes to online dating. And when we have a plethora of choices, we can find patterns. Dating sites such as OkCupid provide ample, real-life insights as to what kind of people are being sought out and what kind of people are not. What studies have found might surprise you, then again, maybe it won’t.
…Individuals among a race associated with positive stereotypes do much, much better than individuals among a race associated with negative stereotypes.
The pattern found across multiple studies on dating sites (including same sex dating sites) is that individuals among a race associated with positive stereotypes do much, much better than individuals among a race associated with negative stereotypes. For example, white men are more sought out on dating sites and more likely to get replied to, whereas black and Asian men have very low chances of being sought out. This is very likely due to the fact that white men are seen as dominant, sexy per society’s standards, powerful, and successful. Black men are seen as dangerous and violent. Asian men are rarely ever portrayed as sexy, manly, or someone to be desired. Think about movies or TV shows you’ve seen that include Asian actors. Are they ever the lead? If so, are they an “attractive” lead, meaning do they have shirtless scenes with chiseled abs sculpted by the heavens every five seconds and a bombshell blonde by his side to fulfill all his wants and needs? These types of movies are problematic as it is, but you get the picture.
On the flip side, men (except Asian men who reply most to Latina women) reply most to Asian women. Think about the stereotypes among Asian women. Smart, but also docile, submissive, and respectful – also kinky. Here, we have Asian men as undesirable and Asian women as the ultimate achievement: a woman who is submissive to a man’s desires. Hence, Asian women being replied to the most on dating websites.
The pattern does not stop there. One study showed that even though black women are three times more likely to respond to black men, black men are more likely to respond to women of other races. In fact, black women are the least likely to get responses among women. This might not make sense to you. But, if we bring stereotypes into the picture, it is almost obvious. The stereotypes of black women are as follows: angry black woman, baby mama, uneducated, overweight. Compare this to Asian women, who are seen as docile and submissive, and it all makes sense as to why black women are the least likely to get responses on dating websites — they have undesirable stereotypes stacked against them.
Finally, studies show that white men prefer all other races to white women (although, white women still do exceptionally well) and that Middle Eastern women have an overwhelming pull on dating sites, proving once again that exoticism is alive and well.
These stereotypes are problematic. Not only because they are overwhelmingly false, but because we are beginning to form racial preferences on who we seek out romantically because of them. We, as a society, are handpicking who is worthy to be desired and who is not. What we should look like and what we should not look like. How we should act and how we should not act. Most of the time, we don’t even realize the subtle ways we exclude racial groups, and dating is one of them. And yes, there are a million reasons why people might want to stay within their racial groups. And maybe there are a million reasons why people might not want to stay within their racial groups. I get that. But when people disregard others and categorize them as undesirable based on stereotypes that have been embedded into society to systematically suppress and disadvantage certain groups… Well, isn’t that racist? Shouldn’t we take a step back and look at who we are forcing out of the picture? What advantages we are giving out and to whom? I think this is a discussion worth having, and it starts here.