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Of OKCupid and Denials of Racism

by Guest Contributor (and frequent commenter) J Chang

My friend Tasha linked up a blog post on the dating site OKCupid analyzing how race interacts with whether people choose to reply to messages and while it wasn’t surprising that there is a huge disparity in how certain races are regarded in terms of the dating pool, what was (unsurprisingly at this point) interesting was how vocally all the commenters are responding to the very obvious data. Essentially, there is a huge fear on the part of most of the commenters about being labeled a racist, despite that the blog didn’t single out anyone as a racist. I left one comment on the blog, which will no doubt also be reacted to, but I won’t care enough to read the reaction:

“The whole matter of preferences is not necessarily racism, but can be, if you are judging what a person is like by their race and not by their actual character/appearance. However, no matter how innocent any individual preference is, if you look at the way that preference twists and turns over a large group, as we see in this study, racism clearly exists at the systemic level. Regardless of whether or not any person’s preference is racist, on an individual level, the fact of the matter remains that men (as a group) find black women less attractive than other women and that women (as a group) find white men more attractive than other men. While each individual preference might just be aesthetic, it points to a system wide conditioning of the sample group to have racial bias. Your preference might not be racist in itself, but the standards of beauty/attractiveness in the society that influences and shapes your own personal aesthetic preferences are most certainly racist. If they weren’t, we’d end up with the all yellow grid that we get with zodiac signs.”

On a greater note, I think the huge denial response, which has a lot in common with how some people try to minimize or explain away racism, strongly reflects the tremendous fear that people have of being called racist. But also, that racism itself presents a picture of an unjust society, where the people who stand to benefit from racism, and their apologists, fear that they are unjustly in that place. Largely, the primary factor that I can see influencing this behavior, at its core, is pride, but secondly is the fear of losing power. Continue reading