Tech & The Web

Online Dating Apps Ponder Removing Racial Filters

If you use racial filters on online dating apps, are you being racist? That’s a debate underway right now in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Some online dating apps are rethinking whether racial filters are appropriate.

Racial filters allow users to specify people of a certain race whose profiles they’re interested in seeing. This means, of course, that it also allows users to exclude people of certain races.

You can’t do one without doing the other, after all.

But is it wrong to filter prospective dates by race?

As the Black Lives Matter movement got a lot more national attention after the death of George Floyd, it sparked new conversations about race.

Those conversations have even touched into the realm of dating apps.

But when it is discrimination?

I have a friend who is white but who only dates people of color. He has no interest in dating someone who’s white. He explained the reasoning once nearly 20 years ago and I don’t remember what it was. But that’s his preference.

I know plenty of people, particularly since I grew up in the South, who would never consider dating someone outside of their race.

On the one hand, you could argue both sides are racist. In the first example, he’d filter everyone except people of color. In the second, they’d only filter out people of color.

It goes beyond just people who are black. Some would use racial filters to eliminate all races except their own (or except the ones to which they feel attraction).

There’s always the possibility that someone could meet someone who is “outside” of any preferences they might indicate on a dating app only to feel a “spark.”

I wonder what they’d do then.

There’s a gay dating app called Grindr that has pledged to remove the racial filter from their app. There’s a dating app called OKCupid that said it will add new questions “to facilitate member discussions around racial equality and justice.” But it hasn’t specified whether it will remove a racial filter. Still another app called Tinder allows its users to filter based on location, distance, age and gender identity. (Apparently, it doesn’t allow race filtering.)

Is this a good thing?

I think it’s meant as such. I think the idea is to solve a legitimate problem. But online dating apps, if I remember correctly, require, sooner or later, a photo of the person. Sooner or later, the person who is attracted to a certain race or is not attracted to a certain other race, will still know the race of their perspective date.

So I don’t think it’s going to solve the problem it sets out to solve.

There’s another question here that’s worth asking.

If we’re trying to stop discrimination, why are we focusing solely on race?

Why is it acceptable to remove filters that allow people to discriminate on the basis of race, but allow filters that allow them to discriminate by age, height or weight?

If it’s wrong to single out people based on one quality, why is it somehow less wrong to allow users to single them out on other physical attributes?

I definitely carry a few extra pounds. Well, more than a few, but I am working on it and I’ve made some progress. But wouldn’t it be nice if someone I might be interested in wouldn’t be able to eliminate me from consideration before even seeing my profile on the basis of height?

What if my potential suitor wanted a guy who’s tall? Well, I’m six feet tall, but if they’re looking for 6’4″ or taller, they could rule me out with that selection.

Unlike race, they wouldn’t necessarily know my height or weight from a face picture. But still, filters allow people to eliminate others by a quick selection.

If they’re going to remove one, remove them all.

Otherwise, they’re not so much interested in being fair as putting on a show.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.