Is Race Just A “State Of Mind” In Online Dating?


During the 2008 US Census, most Americans said they approved of racial or ethnic intermarriage. At least six of every 10 people checked “it would be fine.” But data gathered from online dating sites illustrates a different story between what people believe and how they behave.

“According to a new UC Berkeley study of one million online daters, cyberspace is just as segregated as the real world. When it comes to dating online, whites prefer whites, research reveals. More than 80 percent of whites — even the 48 percent of males and 28 percent of females who said they were indifferent to race — sent messages to whites and just three percent contacted blacks.”

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  1. 41

    “Human gods” ! I laughed at that one. This may explain why so many
    successful white men IMHO are quite full of themselves- both Asian and white women pursuing them.
    When I said other way around, I meant very few Asian men and white women couples. The Asian men I have dated- including extremely good-looking and successful men, have had a reasonable and not arrogant view of themselves.

  2. 42


    lol- ok, misunderstood that. you’re right though, about everything you wrote in 42.

  3. 43

    I think alot of white men  that are initially filling out their preferences will exclude black women because of stereotypes and don’t want to be contacted by them.   That being said, those  same guys will turn around and contact a black women when they see a profile and picture and decide that this one is different.  

    It sad that so many people don’t realize that although not the majority, there are many Cosby families in the real world.   Coming from such a family for generations it interesting to encounter whites an immigrants that are first generation middle to upper class and college educated and I am third generation.   When I happen to mention that my mother had maids and my father went to private school and took private piano and violin lessons when they were young or that my cousin received a baby grand piano on her 10th birthday, they look at you like you are an alien.    

  4. 44

    @Sherell, I agree, but I think that you’ll still get contacted by people that realize that you don’t fit the stereotype but still want to experiment with you, which is odd.   I mean, I’ve never called out anyone like SS did, because I didn’t want to clue them in to anything that might help them succeed with other women of color, but   if you do want to just play around with a black woman, do you think that a successful, educated professional black woman is really going to agree to be part of your sociological experiment?   I’ve gotten emails from people telling me that they’d never want to actually date me but want the experience of being to with a black woman, and I seem like the type that they might like to try. And I have two advanced degrees that I mention in my profile.   It makes me wonder what exactly they think black women are all about that they’d even send such a disrespectful email.

    And while my parents didn’t grow up privileged, my sister and I certainly did, so odds are, if anything, my background might have been a lot more comfortable than the majority of people out there of any race.   So to me, the biggest “cultural” differences that I might have with someone aren’t really cultural but socioeconomic.   Actually, when the Cosby show came out,   my family was interviewed for our local paper as a family that did fit that mold, since so many people were claiming that they weren’t reflective of a REAL black family. It’s really offensive when people try to claim that your family model is somehow not authentic, esp. when it’s because it’s a positive model and not a negative one.

    A lot of the people who assume these difference don’t know enough about the other cultures to really make that call. They are assuming things probably based on what they see on TV or whatever stereotypes that they know.

    And I don’t buy the cultural difference argument for the men who list everything but black, b/c we could safely assume that the majority of men on the site, since it’s in the U.S., are white American males, and are we are supposed to believe that they think that what is most likely a first generation Asian American woman(unless you are in California) has a cultural connection to him but a black American woman whose family has been in the U.S. for hundreds of years doesn’t? And ditto with the Latinas and other races that he lists as being okay?

    I think the aesthetic, both real and imagined, is what is mostly at play there. But yeah, some of those men will see a black woman’s picture and thinks “oh, she’s cute.”   You don’t even have to be ambiguously ethnic for that to be the case.   

    I’m a chocolate brown skinned woman, and I’ve gotten both sleazy and regular emails from men who have the “everything but black” racial preference.

    I liked A-L’s comment about speech patterns.   I screen on both education level and speech patterns, b/c someone who can’t write a coherent sentence but claims higher education is either lying or didn’t make good use of his time in school(which I’d read as either laziness or stupidity), and in either case, I’m just not interested.     

    But I love this discussion, and loved hearing from other women of color, and hope more people chime in from time to time. I’ve read a lot of Sayanta’s and A-L’s comments and always love when they weigh in. Thanks for having our “virtual” back online there.   I feel as though a lot of people don’t notice what you noticed regarding black women and online dating, so it’s nice to know that someone pays attention to how we are viewed online, because it says a lot about how we are perceived in real life. Listing the racial preference has nothing to do with who you fear will reject you.   It’s just so much more than that.

    What is interesting to me is that a lot of negative stats (e.g. lower levels of education, lower socioeconomic status, and the supposed “urban” mentality)    that are identified with blacks are pretty much the SAME within the Latino population too, yet that doesn’t decrease their desirability with white men at all.    So to me that screams that the light or white skin that some of them have (I get so annoyed by people acting like Latino is a race when plenty of Latino are black or Asian or Native American) is enough to ignore the other possible issues.

  5. 45

    Growing up in a certain area I was only exposed to my own culture which correlated at the time to a certain ethnic group in the local area  so the only women I was attracted to in my youth were women of my culture and ethnic group.   I had no idea of anything else. And I had no problems with that.

    After ateending a multicultural private school and a normal university and tech school I met different people and found that my actual preferences and choices, aside from how I was raised, were mutual with people from different backgrounds.

    And living in the bible belt makes it really hard to find someone in general when you are atheist/agnostic and not into the nuclear family dynamic. There are more quirks, but I just do not fit in with my local demographic much.     Evan would probably tell me I need to tone the weirdness down to find someone.

    And relocation is not economically feasible at this point.

  6. 46


    I don’t know if you’re still reading this, but I was curious. You said that you’ve gotten e-mails from men who’ve written “everything but black” on their profiles. What do you do when you get these? Do you respond?

    Even though I’m not black, it really bothers me when I see that on Match profiles. And usually I don’t bother with them. But my friends tell me I’m being too picky, and just because he wrote that doesn’t mean that he’d be a bad partner. I don’t know though…I feel like it shows an insensitivity on that guy’s part. For example, if I were a black woman (I’m Indian, by the way) reading through profiles that kept saying that would really hurt me. Am I being over sensitive here? I don’t know.  

    Just recently, a white dude emailed me on OKC. I was pretty stoked by his profile, but in his ‘questions’ he made it very clear that he will only marry white women. Obviously, this put me off big time. But he still insisted that we’d be great together! Weird.  

    I would think the best thing to do would be to write ‘no preference’ for race, and then if you’re not attracted to a person of a certain ethnicity, just don’t write them or email them back. Simple, no? Also, I saw some Australian guy’s profile on Match, and TAGLINE was “I ONLY LIKE WHITE WOMEN. WOMEN OF COLOR, DON’T CONTACT ME.” He wrote it like that, with the caps. I mean, is that really necessary? Jeez.  

    But going back to my old point, I’d be particularly interested to hear what any black women reading my post may think.  

  7. 47

    Sayanta: it can be a practical matter.   If you don’t exclude the ethnicities you aren’t interested in, then your search results can be  rather long.

  8. 48


    Yes, but what I’m saying is there’s no need to put your race preference ON your proflie. If you do a search on your own, it obviously doesn’t matter what race pref you put- no ones going to see you searching anyway.  

  9. 49

    @Sayanta, I ignore them.   You get three types.   You get some who say “no black chicks” but send you a more or less normal email, which I delete.   You get some who say “no black chicks” but “I’d like to have sex with one so how about it?” which of course SCREAMS to me the stereotypes that they likely believe about black women, even the ones who have nice jobs and are educated.   I delete those too. Then you get the ones who don’t have any preferences, send a normal first email but get inappropriate or racist pretty fast (e.g., trying to get permission to ask some offensive question about racialized sexual stereotypes).   I mean, I only told one person that I could tell he was veering into offensive territory so I was done.   But normally I’d just delete and block at that point too.   They aren’t worth anything else b/c I also don’t want to “clue them in” about what they are doing wrong.   I’d hate for another WOC to go out with a racist who got tips on how to hide it.   

    @Joe, if you are conducting a SEARCH on Match that lets you FILTER out people you search for, why the need to exclude those races in your profile?   You don’t like them, then don’t include them in your search.    Match’s algorithm will ALWAYS send you matches who don’t meet all of your criteria.   That’s how I’m sure I get seen by men who “don’t like black women.”   I filter out men who don’t have college degrees or higher.   But I get plenty of matches emailed to me who don’t have them.   But again, when I’m SEARCHING on Match, I filter those people out.

    And did you read anything that we were writing?   If you say “no black chicks” in your profile, then don’t EFFING email ME.   I’m a black chick.   Not some vaguely ethnic, light skinned one that you could convince yourself wasn’t really black.   You don’t like them.   You put it in your profile, and then email like like I’m what, supposed to be flattered to be the one Black woman in America that you think doesn’t suck?   WTF?

    Those guys should set the filter on their search for no black women and they should not contact black women EVER.   Problem solved.

    Actually, the whole thing has been kind of gross to me and I haven’t bothered with any of it for MONTHS.   

    I think I just need to move someplace where there are more black women and black people in the general population b/c I dislike the real life scene where I currently live too, and I see few black people and people make it obvious that they think it’s something weird to be.   It’s not about needing a black man, b/c I don’t think it’s most important thing, but about finding men who are used to being around black people and black women and don’t think we are all undateable aliens.   


  10. 50


    You definitely sound frustrated with the whole online dating thing- I sympathize completely. Like I’ve said before, it’s really very hard for dark-skinned women on those sites. I wish I could offer genuine words of encouragement about the whole thing…but well, I can’t. 🙁 Men, no matter where they live or are raised, will prefer light-skinned blondes. They may not get that, but they prefer that. I guess I have to make peace with that.

    1. 50.1

      The men I grew up with, all black, and are still friends with don’t prefer light-skinned blondes or light-skinned women. We knew from a relatively young age that ‘colorism’ or being ‘color-struck’ was nonsense. If we thought a girl was cute it never mattered to us about how light or dark her skin color was or the color of her hair.

  11. 51

    Hey Sayanta… I think I mentioned what I used to do. For the most part, I just ignored the guys who excluded black women but still wrote me/winked at me, but a few times I got so annoyed that I wrote to them what I mentioned in #6.
    I would specifically ask these men why they wrote me when they stated in their profile that they were interested in every race of woman BUT black, and yet, they wrote me, a black woman.

    None of them ever wrote me back, btw. One could say that maybe I didn’t need to bother doing this, but hey, I considered it my little blow against their prejudices. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me if some men aren’t interested in women of certain ethnicities (we all have a right to our preferences), but if that’s the case, then don’t contact women of those specific groups because you might find their pictures hot or possibly want to have a sexual experience!
    Like you said, I don’t see why it’s so difficult to just leave race open and then only search for the women of your desired group. And if someone of the group you don’t like contacts you, just ignore her.

  12. 52

    Sorry for the double post but it just occurred to me- Nicole, have you ever asked any guy why he would email you after he specifically said no black women in his profile? If someone calls them on it, I’ve got to wonder how they would respond. I should do that next time.  

  13. 53

    Daphne 42
    The Asian men I have dated- including extremely good-looking and successful men, have had a reasonable and not arrogant view of themselves.

    I think that’s why the stereotypes (there are quite a few of them) have been allowed to perpetuate and grow – because asians (or orientals over here) lack that arrogance that dispels and kills it off, whilst white men continue that – and with their arrogance, push their agenda – which of course is to label other races other than their own as poor catches.

    SS 17
    I also think that while Asian women are definitely perceived as submissive by most groups of men, white women are not perceived that way by white MEN. In fact, most white men that I know laugh at the idea that white women are supposed to be more submissive or easier to get along with in a general sense. The only men that seem to have this perception are minority men.
    I’ve noticed with such assumptions in the pairings – whilst going like for like (same race), the woman and the man never have that submissive view of each other. But a different race does e.g. an asian man would never say an asian woman is submissive, and and asian woman would never say an asian man is a wuss, based on their interactions and “history” with each other….but to other races, the asian man is a weakling, and the asian woman is a submissive little flower.

    Same goes for whites, there’s a “grass is always greener” mental element coming into play. And of course the long reaching and ever present stereotypes for asians (both men and women) that have stayed in western society – not on the surface, but always between the lines – that influences mindsets.

  14. 54

    Just to elaborate on my previous post, it isn’t only just how a person of a race sees the opposite sex of another race differently from their own…they also, subconciously or otherwise, ACT differently towards the other race. e.g. asian women are (in general) demanding authoritarians when dating asian men – but are submissive, eager to please when with a white man. It’s an exclusively asian women trait too – white women (who date black men) do this, but nowhere near as common as the above.

    It’s the ingrained animosity, usually towards their own races’ men, which in turn makes them more open to others.

  15. 55

    I’ve just stumbled on this site for the first time, so I have no idea if this thread is recent or years old, but what a fascinating discussion!
    For comparison, I’d like to weigh in from a point of view I haven’t seen yet: a gay man’s perspective. A lot of the same crap goes on with online dating on our side too, but with some differences.
    Sayanta and SS (#14, #19)
    I’d say in the gay male world, it’s exactly the reverse of the situation you describe. The older men get, the MORE relaxed they seem to get with the idea of interracial dating. Unsurprisingly, men of color tend to get there before white men, but in the end I find that it’s rare for men in their 40s or 50s of any race to list strong racial exclusions in their profile.
    Meanwhile, it’s something you see in nearly every profile for men under 30. The most common is for them to exclude everyone but their own race (i.e., white only, black only, etc.), something which I honestly don’t have a problem with. But then the next most common thing seems to be to list everything EXCEPT black, or often everything EXCEPT Asian. That I do find repulsive.
    There are a couple of factors, I think:  
    #1) Age: gay men over 50 are toast within our culture and so if you’re 55 there’s no reason to narrow your pool any more than absolutely necessary.  
    #2) Status: Young gay men can be extremely status conscious. It’s almost like family pressure, I think. Just as it’s been described above that Indian parents pressure their sons to marry within the race, there’s a similar pressure among gay men to have a “hot” boyfriend. When you’re 26 that almost always means someone who’s typical of the race of your social group and with six-pack abs. It’s less important what YOU think of him, would EVERYONE ELSE think he’s hot? No gay guy would ever admit this is true, of course, but believe me it is. Karl referred to a similar thing in #28. It’s less about people’s preferences and more about what they think everyone else will think. By the time they reach 40 or 50, you just don’t care as much about what your friends think.
    To Sherell (#44) and Nicole (#45), I completely feel that! I’ve never gotten an email from a “no blacks” type profile, but I have gotten winks, favorites, and multiple visits over time. (I am black and have dated men of all races.) Yes, when you fill out a profile, it’s in the abstract. It’s not concrete with real people in mind. So people seem to mostly go with their prejudices and stereotypes. Most of these young guys are probably looking for an Ashton Kutcher or a James Franco, but are so creeped out by the specter of an email from Uncle Remus that they’d shut out a Shemar Moore or a Tyson Beckford in the process, whom they would certainly NOT turn down in person.  
    That’s why I think SS, Nicole, myself and others get these contacts. In the abstract those men think “they’re all ghetto”. But then when faced with actual human beings, they find that we have a FULL RANGE of education, looks, jobs, lifestyles, preferences, and concerns just like everyone else.
    This gets at some of what Sarah talked about in #31. I too have found myself on occasion flipping through Match profiles as though I’m flipping through a furniture catalog. Nope, too tall. Nope, too fat. Nope, his hair looks weird. Etc., etc. Whenever I do that, I go back and try to remember that people aren’t furniture. I may not initially be attracted to a heavyset man, say, but then I remember the guy I met at a party years ago who was overweight and was totally smart and charming and wonderful, and with whom I had a brief fling that was nice while it lasted. (We broke it off for reasons having nothing to do with his weight.) Or, I used to say that blonds can’t do anything for me but point me to the dark men. But then I fell head-over-heels for a beautiful bolt of lightening who came into my life over the summer, who was… you guessed it, blond.
    Now I basically don’t put any preferences in my profile because I’ve realized that I’m not designing a sofa, I’m entering (potentially) into a relationship. And in my experience at least, it’s possible to be quite surprised by who you would be compatible with. Why rule any of that out?

  16. 56

    I have read a lot of these and found them to be quite interesting.   As a black woman growing up as a minority amongst mostly whites I spent a lot of my high school and college years single and unpursued by men of any race.   I felt ugly and lonely despite older women and friends raving about how beautiful I was.   I decided to try online dating later on in college and found a lot of profiles had the “Ill date anyone but black women” taG lines.   Yes, it was hurtful to read these… Very much so.   I didn’t understand how some people could be so blatantly mean.   Like Sayanta, I couldn’t help but notice how some of these people couldn’t picture themselves on the other end and be more courteous to these black women who would read their profile and be hurt by it.   I understand we all have preferences.   I do as well; but if a person has my level of education and cultural interests I would give them the time of day anyhow.   Unfortunately most people I encountered on dating sites did not share this open-minded view of mine.   
    Some people did, however.   I had to “read their eyes” like I think Sayanta mentioned above to figure out if they only sought me out for “fun” or a “trustworthy companionship.” It was a really long, hard journey.   Lots of first dates and some questionable “relationships” but I managed to avoid being used as a persistent blow up doll Using that instinct alone.   
    To turn around a sad story, I found the one! Hes half Asian and white and he shares the common interests that I do.   We met online and were just friends for years and one day we met. We are married now and I’m quite happy as he loves me, finds me beautiful and accepts me for who I am.
    i was interested in this article as I still have many black female friends struggling out there.   It really is harder for us to find love and appreciation from the opposite sex.   I don’t know if its stereotypes, prejudice or a basic American preference for European beauty (as we reflect the race most different from that Scandinavian beauty so many men find irresistible). This all can be really psychological damaging for black women who, like all women, desire love and genuine compassion.   I grew up in that environment and it took me a really long time to love and appreciate myself because of it.   Yes, I’ll always be a little thicker despite diet and exercise. My nose isnt pointy, my skin isnt going to get any lighter, my hair is thick and curly. I’ll never have the dainty, petite, slender build some men desire.   But I have accepted who I am and continue each day to love myself more. I appreciate my differences and have embraced them. Nobody can take that away from me, and boy have they tried! I just hope my friends hang in there and stay strong.   It wasn’t easy for me but there is someone out there who will love them for the wonderful women they are.   Same goes for the women in this thread.   Stay in there, be strong, love yourself and someone will love you too. He’s out there somewhere.   Good luck ladies. I enjoyed your posts.

  17. 57

    as a black woman who has dated online, I can say YES it is a factor. although how much of a factor I don’t know, because the men who were in contact with me obviously knew I was a darker skinned black female when they saw my picture, so as to who didn’t look, etc. I can’t know. however I noticed   TONS of looks and winks by white men/other   who never spoke. Even though some would browse my profile several times.   I remember reading somewhere black women were more likely to respond to men overall , but least responded to. Maybe thers something to that, I ju st think in a sense we are just trying to be polite/ empathetic, who knows.   I had to learn to make a conscious note to note respond if I wasn’t interested, not just out of politeness. Honestly I wouldn’t want to date a guy so shallow that he saw my race as a drawback , or who harbored negative stereotypical thoughts about who I might be as a woman.   I don’t online date anymore, but I think it just mirrors reallife in a lot of ways. I focus on men who ARE open and interested,   not the ones who have racist hangups, and most importantly that they are   good people

  18. 58
    That East Asian Man

    I had the good fortune to attend UCLA Parents’ Weekend in November 2013, and heard Professor Kerri Johnson deliver a lecture on the topic, “Can You Judge a Book By Its Cover?   Insights from Social Perception Research.”   Evan likes to ground his dating advice in research, so I thought I’d share some of what Professor Johnson said, and give you my thoughts on how her research might apply in dating.
    According to Professor Johnson, our social perceptions are (at times) surprisingly accurate, but at other times are prone to systematic errors and biases.   For example, when an adult in the States initially sees an Asian, the perceiver’s first impression (in that first microsecond of response) is that the Asian is a woman, even if it’s a man.   On the other hand, when an adult in the States initially sees an African-American, the perceiver’s first impression is that the African-American is a man, even if it’s a woman.   There must be something about Asians that conveys the feminine, and something about African-Americans that conveys the masculine.
    It seems to me that, if Professor Johnson is correct, then Asian men and African-American women in the States should take steps to overcome this perception bias, if they want to be more successful in dating.   For Asian men, develop a more masculine appearance — for example, cut the hair on your head shorter or go bald, use facial hair, and exercise to increase the size of your shoulders.   For African-American women, develop a more feminine appearance — for example, create an attractive hair style, use make-up, wear stylish clothing, and exercise to reduce the size of your waist.       
    Some readers of this blog may criticize the existence of this cultural norm (if that is the correct terminology), but I think the better, more practical response is to take advantage of Professor Johnson’s research to overcome whatever negative effect that cultural norm might be having on us.  

  19. 59

    OK, I didn’t read the whole article, but I don’t see a disconnect between what people approve of and how they behave.   There are many, many behaviors that I “approve” of (or figure it’s none of my business) and what I do.
    I “approve” of gay marriage, but I will never date or marry a woman.
    I also “approve” of inter racial dating & marriage, but I am rarely attracted to anyone outside of my race, but I have absolutely no problem with other people’s choices.

  20. 60
    melvin spinoza

    Bible says do not mix the cattle which means inter race marraiges are forbidden.

    1. 60.1

      The bible also says not to wear clothing made of two kinds of material, not to eat fish and to cut off a woman’s hand should she attempt to come to her husband’s aide in a fight. So, um, yea….

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