On Tuesday, The Daily Show aired a typically sharp takedown from Jessica Williams, this time accompanied by fellow correspondent Ronny Chieng. The subject? The longstanding, oft-defended racist trends that lurk in online dating statistics. These tendencies aren’t really news; discussions have cropped up in the past couple years about our online dating habits, and how some groups, like black women and Asian men, are treated far less favorably than certain other groups. As Williams and Chieng note, many defend these tendencies as “preferences.” Attraction and dating are all about preferences and selection, some defensive people say. Why is this any different?
Well, it’s not just a preference. If these dating habits came down to individual preference—like cat people vs. dog people—the discussion wouldn’t exist. And the discussion is not about one person preferring not to date black girls, or who isn’t into Asian guys. This is a widespread societal message that black women and Asian men are somehow less desirable, and it manifests itself in how we date. We see these messages in TV and movies, and apparently replicate it on data-rich sites like OKCupid, where Williams’ and Chieng’s panel of “disadvantaged daters,” who have been confronted with phrases like “[you’re] pretty for a black girl,” and profiles that explicitly rule out Asian men because of assumptions about their genitalia.
There might not be an easy solution for our society’s racist dating “preferences,” but day-to-day, there is one easy solution we can all employ: Treat people, regardless of their race, like individuals. In other words, like people.