Debate: is it racist to rule out dating specific races?

The dating app ‘OK Cupid’ conducted a study which took over four years and assessed 25 million of its users and discovered that, on average, we take the race of a person into consideration when dating.

So, is racial bias racism? And what about ruling out specific races? We opened up this discussion:


Susan: Making a decision, whether conscious or unconscious, to rule out dating a specific race can be considered racist.  Race refers to groups of people who have differences and similarities in biological traits deemed by society to be socially significant.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “racism” as “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” Racism is also the “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed towards someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.” 

Firstly, our race does not dictate the content of our character. By ruling out searching for romantic prospects within an entire group of people, we claim that their superficial qualities would make it impossible for us to form any romantic connection with them. I want to stress that ‘ruling out’ is different from having a ‘preference’. And if we are doing this based on stereotypes or prejudices, we are holding someone’s race against them and being racist.

Racial preferences aren’t innate or genetically predisposed rights which are found in us from birth. Our attractions are culturally formed over time.  To decide that you will not consider forming any romantic relationships with a certain group of people, based on nothing but the colour of their skin, is racism.


Kate: Does ruling out a particular gender when dating make you sexist? I believe there is no reason not to have a racial preference when dating, in the same way you could have a height, weight or gender preference. Not wanting to be romantically involved with a specific race does not mean you are 'distinguishing them as inferior' or considering yourself superior, it's just a choice based on attraction.

This brings me to my second point. Say you are a white female who is generally attracted to black males. Does that make you racist against your own race? Or are you simply showing a preference based on initial attraction?

If you are considering the term 'racist' to just mean acknowledging there are differences between races, then maybe we can all be considered racist. But just being sexually attracted to a certain race does not mean you see that race as superior, nor does it mean you are ruling out any interaction with another race; it's simply down to who you, in general, seem to find more immediately, superficially attractive.


Susan: Preferences cannot be treated in the same way as sexual orientation.

It would not be considered sexist for me to rule out dating girls if I consider myself heterosexual. Our sexuality is arguably an innate characteristic which clearly affects who we are attracted to. So your sexuality can make it impossible for you form romantic relationships with someone else based on their sex.

It is not impossible for an individual to form a romantic relationship with someone solely based on the colour of their skin. For example, it is okay to decide that you are generally attracted to people with blond hair. But it would be considered rather prejudiced to decide to completely rule out dating people with say, red hair. You have no bearing on the content of their character and are likely to recognise that hair colour has nothing to do with potential romantic compatibility. Yet, you are validating this superficial judgment when it comes to race.

If a white female is generally attracted to black males, she has a right to have her own preferences. But she hasn’t seen every single male of every race.  And if she decides, based on her incomplete information, that she will not date any other person of any other race (this could be including her own), that would be racial bias.

Of course there are differences between races. “Acknowledging” differences between genders is not sexist and “acknowledging” differences between races is not racist. It becomes racial prejudice when we assert differential and more favourable treatment towards one race over another because of racially motivated stereotypes and prejudices. If you assert that there are NO circumstances under which you would date someone because of their race, you are saying that there is something about their skin colour that isn’t attractive to you. Say you have ruled out dating people with brown hair because your “preference” is for people with blond hair. With the amount of people in the world of both hair types, there is still a probability that you will meet someone with blond hair that you don’t find attractive and someone with brown hair that you do. Your lack of attraction to the person with blond hair therefore didn’t have much to do with hair colour. In the same way, people of the same race, don’t look alike. So to say that their race is what you are not “attracted” to, reflects internalised prejudices you have against that race.


Kate: My argument is that a lot of dating preferences, which also lead to who you would rule out dating, are down to physical attraction, and if you are completely not attracted to a particular race, does that really make you racist? You could find someone of any race who you really enjoy spending time with, but without that attraction the likelihood of entering a romantic relationship is, I believe, very slim. I am not saying it is impossible for people to be attracted to another race, but merely that some people will be more attracted to certain types of looks, whether that be the same or a different race to themselves.


Susan: If we were to rule out a specific race, we would be saying that there are no circumstances under which that would be possible.

 Bella Thorne, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez and Sofia Vergara are all Latinas– despite being the same race; they don’t have the same “type of look”. Ruling out dating a specific race, means that you think that race has something universally in common that is not attractive to you. As the only thing that people of race have in common is their race - a socially constructed concept used as a means of categorising people – you are saying that the thing you are uncomfortable with and which disqualifies them, is their race. What reasons could you possibly have for being uncomfortable with someone’s race or disqualifying such a diverse group of people that would not be because of the internalised racial prejudices that you hold.


Kate: What I am talking about here is physical attraction; being physically attracted to one gender doesn’t make you sexist, being physically attracted to people your age group doesn’t make you ageist. Ruling out a certain group just shows that you know what you personally find- or don’t find - attractive. I think there’s nothing wrong with that, providing you don’t think that one race is superior because they are (in one person’s opinion) more attractive. As I mentioned earlier, what about the many people who find races different to their own more attractive? Does ruling out your own race when dating make you a racist? Surely this can’t be the case.


Don’t forget to sound off below, on our Facebook page – Her Campus Nottingham or tweet us @HCNottingham !


Image Source

OK Cupid Study


Edited by Georgina Varley