Does expressing a racial preference on a dating app speak to underlying racism?

Over the years, there have been many, many articles written about the “gaysism” that people of color receive on gay dating apps such as Grindr. These micro-aggressions usually come from gay white men. “No rice, no spice, no fats, no fems and especially no blacks” is commonly seen in profile descriptions.

This made me curious, and I decided to conduct a social experiment of my own. What would happen if I downloaded a popular dating app, but added, “sorry, no whites,” to the profile? What kinds of reactions would I receive?

Since I don't use dating apps, I will admit I'm not familiar with the dating patterns of gay white men. My main goal was to see how many people called me out on my profile description, if I was even called out at all.

The first response I got was a simple, “Nice profile,” which was surprisingly calm. But as the day went on, the responses varied from confused to downright angry. “If the tables were turned you would be calling me a racist,” read one message. “Well that's definitely the pot calling the kettle BLACK,” read another, all-caps emphasis on BLACK. All in all, I only received about five messages that mentioned anything about my preferences.

I ended my experiment with a brief exchange about the research I was doing. When one person asked, “What made you do this?” I responded, “I was curious.” I expected to get into several deep conversations about the experiment, or even a confrontation, but it didn't happen. Most of the replies I received were mainly from other men looking for casual sex, which is the app's most common use. My hopes of being the catalyst for change, or at least triggering some engaging conversation, went for nil.

Since there wasn't a big “a-ha” moment, I began to ask myself questions. Was there anything wrong with having preferences? We all have them. I mean, you like what you like, right?

The problem begins when those preferences are born of prejudice. While one might have a preference for certain qualities in a person, openly expressing disdain for another's racial makeup can speak to an underlying racism.

The conversation on gaysism in the gay community is one that needs to happen with all sides being honest about their biases. It's also, I learned, a conversation that needs to happen in real life rather than within a dating app.