COLLEGE FEMINISMS: Are Racial Preferences Racist? – The Feminist Wire

COLLEGE FEMINISMS: Are Racial Preferences Racist?

By Denio Lourenco Jr.

Everyone has had a time in their life when they have been rejected or turned down by someone they were interested it, even the most “beautiful” of people. These encounters are either dismissed by a simple phrase: “Sorry, I’m not interested.” Or the more common: “You’re just not my type.” However, more often then not the line, “You’re just not my type,” has been used and associated with racial preference.

In 2014, it is unfortunate that race continues to be an issue of social segregation and particularly in the dating scene.  Although there are many people who are willing to befriend people of different cultures, races, and ethnicities, but less likely to date them. The friendliness often ends when romantic or sexual relations are involved. Despite making claims that they are “not racist,” these people provide excuses such as: “we don’t have anything in common” or “I’m just not attracted to (insert race here) people.”

What can we understand from these statements, particularly given that race functions as a classification system used to categorize people into superior/inferior and desirable/undesirable groups?

In social media, dating is at a whole new level of accessibility with the many different dating apps such as, OkCupid, Tinder, Grindr, Jack’d, and hot or not. Part of this new media take over of dating is accredited to the ability to tailor your search results and only see profiles of people who have physical or personal characteristics that interest you. However, many people’s description of what they are not interested in crosses the line into racism. On many occasions when I have read through someone’s profile, I come across the phrases “no rice” or “no chocolate.”  Sometimes people even state in explicit terms “no Blacks” and “no Asians.” This racism is not only tailored against people of color, as “white” skin is also discriminated against on these dating apps.

For example, ten Grindr male profiles specified they were not interested in a particular race. Five of these profiles could not explain why they did not have a racial preference and simply stated, “that’s just not my type.”  Importantly, these profiles also stated that they weren’t racist. One of these profiles explained, “Darker skin is sexy. a.k.a. Latino, Middle-eastern, Asian, Indian, Black.” Another profile detailed that he was disinterested in “brown” men because “I like guys that are more dominant and I just don’t usually see those qualities in brown people.” When he was asked if he found a person who was both Brown and dominant, would he date them, his response was: “It depends on the person.”

Although none of these profiles expressed hatred towards any particular race, there are explicit racist undertones in their answers.  The statements in these profiles relied on a belief that people who identify as a certain race, share universal characteristics—ones commonly not liked in dating.  The only commonality in the above example is race is being used as a tool to socially construct sexual desire and to categorize people. In grouping “brown people” together as having a particular characteristic and then stating that race is not a factor is, in fact, a racist practice. Stating that “brown people” don’t express the level of dominance desired in a partner builds upon and contributes to racist stereotypes that serve the interests of whiteness.

Often people do not perceive racial preferences as something negative. They fail to understand how their sexual desires can be considered racist because of the belief that it is “natural” to either not be attracted or overly attracted to people of different races. We need to acknowledge the racial reasoning behind who finds whom attractive or not is a form of subconscious racism that leads to racist practices.

Everyone should be accountable for their actions and these dating apps should also be accountable.  They are enabling racist attitudes by designing features that give users the ability to only be matched with, or see other users of, a particular race. Both Grindr and Jack’d have filters, which allow the tailoring of your search results to only view people of a certain race or races that you desire.  Not to mention they also include the problematic and superficial body type features such as desired height and weight.

Why is so much emphasis placed on ethnicity and race? Why are we not challenging the way race, alongside weight, height, body type, and relationship status, are acceptable dating deal breakers?

You may argue that these apps only provide these features per request of the consumer—consumer demand. However by creating these features, these apps promote the conditions of further racial segregation and racist attitudes.  What may be marketed as only a small group of users choosing racial preference has a consequence of opening the door for more users to be “acceptable” racists and take advantage of these features to further discrimination.  How you choose your type or preference is not out of ignorance because it attributes certain characteristics to entire groups of people; it is a racist logic in which racism can be understood as the belief in distinct racial groups and all members of each racial group possess characteristics and abilities specific to that race.

Dating sites suggest that we are all humans searching for acceptance by one another through some form of partnership. What would you decide about racial preferences– are you racist?


Denio Lourenco Jr. is a Yotuber on the channel Denio and Alexa and radio personality on CFRE radio, as well as an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto pursuing a double major in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies.

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