Dating Apps Promote Opening Your Heart, But Here’s Why People Of Color Have To Protect Theirs While Swiping

"... things in the digital world have largely played out the same way they play out every day in the real one ..."

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| September 05 2018,

5:27 pm

With the advent of the Tinder age, many people of color welcomed the era of online dating with open arms expecting these new apps to make it easier than ever to find like-minded partners from similar backgrounds. However, racial discrimination on dating apps like Tinder has served as a stumbling block on the route towards love for many people of color, and racial discrimination is still rife today across online dating platforms.

Here's how racial discrimination uniquely plays out on Tinder, and why it’s important to address the persistent bigotry and discrimination people of color still face on dating apps.

The Digital World Mirrors The Real One

Many people naively greeted the era of online dating apps, defined by incredibly popular services like Tinder, in a naïve way that foolishly expected people to leave their biases behind them when they entered the digital world. In reality, things in the digital world have largely played out the same way they play out every day in the real one; people of color face routine discrimination, and dating services are populated by bigots who let terrible comments fly in digital chatrooms, never having to face the social repercussions of what they say.

What’s worse, discriminatory algorithms take all the bad things about online dating and essentially amplify them for people of color — especially women, who put themselves out there and render themselves vulnerable to perverts and harassers merely looking for someone to belittle, thanks to the anonymity provided to them by the internet. The trouble with algorithms has been already been revealed to the public, but it’s worth going over the basics as it pertains to racial minorities.

Algorithms may seem unbiased in many ways, particularly since they’re seldom much more than a few lines of code. How could a computer ever be racist in a way that a person can? As a matter of fact, however, algorithms are thought of and made into a reality by people, necessarily meaning some of our basis are imparted in them. Programmers call these “baked-in” biases, and they’re not going away anytime soon. That means people of color will have to get used to being sorted by algorithms that weren’t made by people like them, which will result in the occasional nasty backfiring.

Sometimes, these mistakes are accidental and understandable to certain degrees. Algorithms have been known to accidentally generate racial slurs as passwords in the past, and such misfires are likely to happen again in the future. More insidious discrimination can be carried out by algorithms too, and the targeted persecution of minority communities online and on dating apps is very real.

Tinder’s Problem

Tinder is the king of the contemporary dating app scene, which you can access anywhere with a cellphone signal booster, making it all the more important that racial discrimination and bigotry that plays out on its platform isn’t given an opportunity to survive and thrive. If racial discrimination becomes the norm on Tinder, for instance, it will continue to trickle down into other apps that try to mirror its popularity to ride its coattails to success. That’s a big problem, because it’s clear to see that Tinder is already losing the fight against discrimination, and not all of the bad behavior can be pinned on the robots. Sometimes, it’s mere old-fashioned racism simply played out in the digital world.

Every woman of color who has used Tinder is probably familiar with a certain string of phrases that’s meant to sound enticing or serve as a compliment, but really plays out as a staggeringly stupid barb. Whether a Black woman is being called cute with the addendum of “for a black chick” or whether an Asian girl is reminded that her partner is only after her because he or she has “jungle fever,” girls trying to use dating apps are guaranteed to be inundated with bigotry. The discrimination crosses gender lines and is experienced by people of all sexual orientations, but minority women in particular are always specifically targeted out, thanks to their vulnerability.

The anonymity offered by the internet and the laissez-faire policy many dating app companies have taken towards discrimination on their platforms is only going to get worse in the near-future. People of color won’t stop being fetishized by others anytime soon, either. Research from OKCupid shows that even men of color penalize women of color on dating platforms.

Until we fess up as a society about the reality of racism and discrimination on today’s online dating platforms, like Tinder, it’s going to continue unabated. Tinder is fast becoming one of the leading cesspools for racism in the online dating world, and people of color will continue to face discrimination on that platform until we stand up and do something about it.