A tweet recently went viral when a white woman complained about Hinge’s ethnic filters and described it as“racist”. When I first saw the now-deleted tweet, I was confused about why someone would think that, until I identified it as a display of white privilege from someone who’s likely never had to consider dating apps the same way the women of my community have.
It’s a complex and deep-rooted issue, but the unfortunate reality for many Black women dating online isn’t an easy one. We’ve had to question the intentions of the people who have matched with us. We’ve had to constantly consider whether the person we’ve matched – usually from outside of our race – sincerely finds us attractive after years of having society tell us that Black women don’t fit the Western ideals of beauty. There’s so much at play when we enter the dating arena, and many women like myself have found dating apps to be difficult when our ethnicity has come into play in these early stages.
Tomi, a 26-year-old Black woman from Hertfordshire, grew up in predominantly white areas and explains that her experience of dating has been influenced by this kind of doubt. “When I do date guys who aren’t Black, I always have the question of ‘Do they actually like Black women?’ in the back of my head,” she explains.
I can see how some people would deem Hinge’s feature as discriminatory, because it allows you to consciously shut yourself off from other races, but for a Black woman who has had bad experiences in the past, it makes online dating feel like a much safer place.
The topic of racial filters obviously calls interracial dating into question, which is something I’m not opposed to but I can relate to the number of Black women who say that finding someone who doesn’t define me by my ethnicity, but rather understands my experiences and with whom I don’t feel I have to explain cultural signifiers to, is important. Research from Facebook dating app, Are You Interested, found that Black women responded most highly to Black men, while men of all races responded the least frequently to Black women.