Can Online Dating Include Racial Profiling?

With the innovation of new technologies, there has been a great emergence of online dating sites. But a strange aspect of these widely accepted, used and advertised sites is the racial factor.

According to studies conducted from September 2004 to May 2005 by Cynthia Feliciano, Associate Professor of Sociology and Chicano/Latino Studies, and Belinda Robnett, Associate Professor of Sociology, white men preferred Asian or Latino women instead of African-American women while white women did not prefer Asian men.

Feliciano said, “Internet dating offers a unique lens through which to understand the process of selecting a partner and how race plays into the selection. Studies point to increasingly tolerant attitudes about interracial relationships, but intermarriage rates remain relatively low.”

Most preferences are apparent in certain races more than others. While all races claim that they wouldn’t mind dating outside their race, informal factors exist that influence a person’s decision when it comes to dating, marriage, or just hooking up. The common biases include that Asian women are hypersexual, Black women are bossy, Asian men are not masculine enough, Black men are lazy, and that white women are status-oriented. What all races did seem to agree on was their preference to date a white man, a race seen superior to the others, most likely due to social status in the economy.

Recent studies by researchers at UCI’s own Yahoo! Personals dating service further points out racial preference statistics on “In the UCI study, of women who expressed a racial preference (73 percent) on Yahoo!, less than 10 percent would bother to respond to overtures from men of Asian descent, particularly East Indians, somewhat behind Black and Latino men. White women in particular were particularly exclusive in racial preference. 64 percent of those with a racial preference checked whites only (93 percent excluded Asian men). In other words, nearly one out of two white women wanted to date only whites. About three out of five men expressed a racial preference. Nearly half selected Asian women, compared with 7 percent selecting Black women. Men of all races will avoid black women, and all races had a degree of racial bias in terms of dating.”

Yahoo! Personals cites the UCI case study conducted by Feliciano and Robnett and, in response, discusses some obstacles of interracial dating as well as the methods to overcome them.
1.    The Traditionalists: Races who exclusively date the same races for a common cultural foundation. Resolution: Surround yourself with a diverse group of people. This opens your point of view to additional outlooks on life as well as establishing a connection with other races.
2.    Stereotypes from Mass Media: The public easily absorbs over-generalized images of different ethnicities and how they interact.
Resolution: Try not to let the media influence stereotypes portrayed and instead focus on your personal opinions.
3.    Offensive Family Member: Racial “jokes” add tension that makes you think twice about dating outside your own race.
Resolution: Prepare for confrontations and think of persuasive ways to respond to demand respect in your dating decision.
4.    The Gazers: People who blatantly stare at interracial couples.
Resolution: Instead of assuming the attention is a bad thing, bask in it. Their opinions shouldn’t matter to you or your date.

Feliciano and Robnett have released other studies on similar subjects including “Gendered Race Exclusion among White Internet Daters” in 2009 with graduate student Golnaz Komaie.