Race, dating, and lazy-ass statistics

Race relations AND online dating? TNC is making me absurdly excited today.

After sharing OKCupid’s report on racial preferences among its users, he lends us some perspective:

Look, I deeply suspect that, on a national level, there are an unfortunate number of people who think black women are less attractive then women of other races. The remnants of white supremacy are not just economic, they are cultural. I also think that’s less true today then it was twenty years ago.

But that said, I think that people passing this data around need to be really careful about using this study to draw inferences about the dating world of black women. One significant problem is that, as any black person will tell you, when black folks date online they don’t go to OKcupid. They go to blacksingles. They go to soulsingles. Or if they’re truly high post, they go to EliteNoire. (Dig the sensuous piano riffs and candelabra.)

Black people who are going to a site like OKcupid are generally black people who, with some exceptions, are open to interracial dating. But the same isn’t true of white people on OKcupid. So the game is rigged–on OKcupid you have many white men who have no interest in dating black women, but very few black men with no interest in dating white women.

That’s because all the black men who don’t want to date white women are on the African American Dating Network or Blacksinglesconnection. There simply is no real white corollary. Stormfront excluded, there aren’t many “WhiteSingles” websites or “EliteIvory” dating sites. There is no Caucasian Dating Network, because the broader world is the Caucasian Dating Network. OKCupid is the Caucasian Dating Network. (Note that there is Jdate, though.)

First of all, I am so using “high post” in the future.

That aside, TNC is right to point out that OKCupid is in fact the Caucasian Dating Network and therefore its data on racial preferences is inherently incomplete.

I would add, before going any further, that reporting news based on a study of data mined from OKC is incredibly irresponsible because OKC users are an absurdly biased sample. First of all, they are biased towards people who approve of online dating, and that is not necessarily true of the general population. Second, it is a free dating site, so its users are not exactly comparable to a paid dating site. Third, it is much more bi-friendly and poly-friendly than most mainstream dating sites, so there’s a further bias towards more liberal-minded users, especially regarding sexual orientation and non-monogamous relationships. Using a single online dating site to measure dating trends among anyone outside of users of that particular dating site is a piss-poor excuse for social science.

Back on topic, as TNC points out, and which many white people would probably otherwise miss, a dating environment for the general American population will inevitably be absurdly biased towards whites due to our being the majority. This doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t join OKC if you don’t want to date whites, but you will necessarily need to filter through a hell of a lot of users who don’t interest you. The implications of this demographic bias is what I mean by “white people have no race.” (Aside from it being entirely facetious.) Due to racial privilege, we end up thinking of ourselves as not only the majority but in fact the default, a non-race, the null hypothesis of racial dynamics. In some cases, due to numbers, we actually end up being a sort of non-race because there are certain race-related concerns which do not affect us to the same degree as other racial groups, if at all. We don’t need to set up whites-only dating sites when an environment open to everyone is going to be mostly white folks. Therefore, a dating pool like OKC or Match or eHarmony or anything else with unrestricted membership is going to be much easier for whites than for people of color.

Which is not to say that all is sunshine and bunnies if you take the race-specific sites into account; the bloggers at OKC may not be wrong to say the dating world is especially hostile to black women, but their data source is not a random sampling. There are some dating websites devoted to interracial matches, and it would be somewhat more helpful to study who gets the most responses in those environments. What are the gender ratios on race-specific sites? Does acceptance of online dating differ according to race, and if so, how? Does acceptance of online dating correlate with acceptance of interracial relationships, and if so, to what degree for each racial group? However, these questions are somewhat more difficult to research than counting up messages exchanged on OKCupid.

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