Dating While Black | The Walrus
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I had also heard of others trying on different racial personas before. As I sat in a coffee shop with my friend Jessica, I hatched a plan to see how well a white Hadiya might do. Jessica, who is of similar height, weight, and attractiveness, agreed to let me create a new profile that used my existing profile information, but her image. We staged a photo shoot where she dressed in my clothing, and we did our best to recreate some of my pictures.
She noted that the pictures looked like her channelling me, and not just like her. I expected Jessica to receive more messages than I did—perhaps twice as many. In fact, in her first three days, White Hadiya received nine times more messages—forty-seven messages to the five I had received in a comparable time frame.
By the end of this experiment, which lasted approximately seven weeks, White Hadiya was on track to receive more than 2, messages in the same amount of time that I had received with allowance for the spike in views a new user typically receives in their first days online. This difference in message rate occurred even though I got the impression that White Hadiya and I were receiving a similar number of views. Perhaps what was most shocking and disappointing was that my white persona seemed to receive messages of greater length and higher quality.
I have changed user names to protect the privacy of those who may still be active online, but the handles are typical. From my black profile: Hans As Black Hadiya, I also received some racially toned messages: I see the black…I see the brown…not so much the white though? There were messages in both streams from men who expressed interest and who had taken the time to read my profile. But the messages White Hadiya received were from users I would be more likely to go out with.
That is the single greatest profile in the history of okcupid! Im going to print it out and put it up on my fridge you adorable little nerd you!
Haha im just teasing. You caught my eye though… im a retired pro hockey player finally back in Canada full time. Looking to meet new people and preferably the type that are not hoping to get cast on the next season of hockey wives on tv. There is lots more to know about me but that requires an investment of time and effort on your part to find out! Id like to take you out for drinks. You know there is a lot of pressure in a first message….
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Anyway, in the crazy world of online dating I find random questions with no real point are the best way to get the ball rolling, hope you are a fan….
They were smart, they were engaged, they were cute. In order to find the kind of guy I wanted—to be seen by him—it seemed that the ultimate message was: I needed to be white. I admitted to myself that there were non-racial differences that could have contributed to the message rate. Perhaps people found Jessica more attractive, her features more enticing or approachable, her smile more endearing.
There is no purely scientific way of measuring these factors.
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But it is difficult, impossible in fact, to conclude that race did not play some significant role in the message discrepancy between the two profiles. Online dating dehumanizes me and other people of colour.
On the other hand, maybe online dating dehumanizes everyone. Moreover, it is short-sighted and dismissive to claim not to be attracted to an entire group of people without first seeing what the members of that group have to offer. It is one thing to say that you have a preference for brunettes or have tended to date brunettes.
Such categorical exclusions are significantly more often directed toward people of colour. The elevation of white beauty is not limited to white people. Growing up as a black girl with natural hair, I had few examples of beautiful celebrities who shared my features—no dark skin, no textured hair, no fuller lips.
Some black women have been penalized in the workplace for wearing their hair the way that it grows naturally out of their heads. Lighter skin is prized. I have had several white boyfriends, and it is routine for people to tell me how beautiful our kids would be. Even I am guilty of perpetuating these messages. My sister is significantly lighter in skin tone than me, has a more Caucasian nose, and appears biracial to outsiders.
Growing up, I remember being so envious of her lighter skin and straighter hair, calling her the pretty one and myself the smart one.
I internalized this messaging, often thinking that if I had just gotten the gene for light skin, or the gene for the long, wavy Indian hair of my mother, I would be considered more conventionally attractive.
In fact it goes a long way toward undoing any bias against you. Some professional matchmakers in the US have discovered that people of all races prefer white matches. A recent study of online dating among queer men in Australia found that the preference for particular races as a basis for romantic attraction correlated with general racism and that those who expressed sexual racism were more likely to agree with statements associated with bigotry.
Research by Kevin Lewis, a sociology professor at the University of California, San Diego, has demonstrated that cross-race messages in online dating are comparatively rare—individuals disproportionately message others of the same race. However, the users he studied were more likely to cross race lines if they first received a message from a user of another race.
They were then more likely to initiate interracial exchanges in the near future.
These findings support the idea that there is more nurture to attraction than nature. I decided on a third strategy: This would help to address the ineffable idea of attraction: With the help of another friend, I tinted the colour of my skin and eyes in Photoshop and posed in a long blond wig.
My features remained the same. I was left with pictures that really did look like me, except for the colouring. I used the text that had been up on my most recent profile and launched this blond, blue-eyed version of myself. Though Photoshop made me look more mixed than white, I described myself as white on my profile. The first White Hadiya, created with the help of a body double, had been popular.
The new version was even more so, receiving sixty-four messages in her first three days online.
In the course of a week, she received messages from ninety-three users, some of them the same people I had messaged from my black profile and never heard back from. Here was more evidence, to my mind, that my features were not the problem; rather, it was the colour of my skin.
In a Facebook community group whose members are Indigenous, black, and people of colour, I learned that my online dating difficulties are not unique. I asked some black women who are members of the group about their experiences.
Joy Henderson, a thirty-eight-year-old Torontonian, joined OkCupid for a month, creating what she thought was a witty profile. Tacha Wilks, a twenty-seven-year-old biracial woman of white and Jamaican descent, describes her online dating experience—on OkCupid in particular—as having been very negative. What has this overall experience taught me? First, it caused me to abandon online dating. It is one thing to be passed over on a dating site because of a hairstyle, or braces, or acne—or for a postgraduate degree or an addiction to Tim Hortons coffee.
Our supposedly post-racial society is meant to have left this behind, to acknowledge that race is a social construct and that we are all just human beings. I realized that in order to overcome bias, people needed to interact with me in person, to see the person free from the stereotype and its underlying assumptions.
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It promises objectivity, and yet it also asks us to make snap decisions based on a photograph or a conversation spanning the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee.
I am a multilayered human, and it takes time for me to be able to break through stereotypes or stereotypical expectations associated with blackness; I expect to have greater success when someone gets to know me and sees me as me, not as Random Black Girl 2.
I was lucky enough to find someone. My boyfriend and I met through our mutual love of Radiohead after he posted on a Facebook group, looking for bandmates. After a few exchanges, and after getting confirmation from a mutual friend that he was not an axe murderer, I found myself spending time with this handsome man. Give yourself the best chance at long-lasting love and sign up to EliteSingles today! Struggling to find new date ideas? Here are some of your favorites More dating advice Long-term happiness You might be debating whether or not to sign up to an online dating site or had an unsatisfactory experience with one in the past.
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