Does Race Matter…on a Blind Date?
47. Are race, religion or age important factors regarding who you date? (This won’t be published, but is important so we know who you’re looking for)
Of all the answers I look at on the questionnaire, this is the most important because it’s the most specific. The person’s answer helps me figure out how to group them.
A lot of answers focus on age; they give me a range they either want or don’t want. Every now and then, their response is religion-specific; some will say they don’t want someone who is too religious, or they’d like someone who is the same religion as them. Then there’s race, which is always interesting.
Some people will say they’ve never dated outside of their race, which makes me have to clarify with them, Does that mean you want to keep it that way? Others will be more blunt and say they prefer not to date anyone of a specific race or outside of their own race. The answers never bother me. The way I see it, the more honest they are, the easier my job.
The most problematic answer is the one I probably get the most: Race doesn’t matter.
People like to make a point of saying that, and I assume they’re telling the truth, but how truthful is that truth is the question I find myself asking whenever I get this response.
When I took the reins of Meet Market, one thing I wanted to do was make the section as diverse as possible. Part of this was influenced by my own worldview on dating. I’m mixed, and to an extent, the lens through which I look at the world is racial, though I feel that lens is shrinking as I get older. I’ll be the first to admit I have a mixed person bias, in the sense that I find interracial couples to be the most striking. That’s not to say people who date of the same race are not. I’m here for black love, white love, asian love, and hispanic love. But when I see an interracial couple, I see a reflection of myself and my family.
Personal bias aside, I also live in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Over 80% of my job is recruiting people for Meet Market, and if I’m doing it right, the slices in the race pie won’t be dominated by any one group. Sure there might be one or two larger than the other, but it won’t be half of one, and then slivers from others.
But for all the diversity NYC has to offer, a racial utopia this is not. Neighborhoods here are worlds unto themselves. When I first moved here, I lived in Washington Heights, which is known as NYC’s Dominican Republic. It’s so Dominican, I was greeted in Spanish before English (I’m Puerto Rican, and to many people, look the part) more than I was greeted in English. English is like a second language up there. In central Harlem, where I have lived for the better part of seven years, I can go for days without seeing a white person in common areas such as the supermarket. There are reports I’m too lazy to link to that have talked about Harlem becoming more white, but let me be the first to tell you, that doesn’t pass my eye test, and I go out in Harlem often.
I don’t have a problem with the way this city segregates itself. After all, I did go to Howard University. And anyone who tells you segregation is one-note is only looking at the surface. To the naked eye my apartment complex is dominated by black people, but if you also use your ears, you will see how many Nigerians, Ghanians, and Kenyans live near me. There is diversity within the hordes.
But seeing this lack of race mixing is why I’m sensitive about imposing it in my column. When people say race doesn’t matter, and they end up getting paired with someone of a different race, I always wonder if I should say something. I never do, because the more logical side of my brain takes over and it tells me, These people signed up for a blind date because they’re willing to take a chance, relax. Then there’s the romantic side of my brain which answers Rodney King’s age old questiona bout whether or not we can get along. Yes, we can get along, especially in the name of a date with free food!
In the romantic comedy, Something New, Sanaa Lathan plays Kenya, a single black woman who allows her friend to set her up on a blind date with a man named Brian (played by Simon Baker). They meet at Starbucks, and much to Kenya’s surprise, Brian is white. Kenya is so shocked she can’t focus on the most important part of the date, get to know someone new and enjoy yourself. When Kenya reports back to her friend on how the date went, she expreses her dismay that Brian was white.
This is the kind of scenario I sometimes envision happening when I set up blind dates for my column, and it gives me great anxiety. I want to set people up for a nice night, not an exercise in racial acceptance. Nor do I want to shock and awe them, unless it’s the good kind where the person says, “I was shocked they were so good-looking, and in awe of them all night.”
So what say you, dear readers? Should I, to avoid any awkwardness, inform both parties when the date is a person of a different race, even if they said race doesn’t matter? Or should I just see what happens and say nothing at all, since these are blind dates, and they’ve left themselves open to chance? If you were being set up on a blind date, would race matter, and if you say it didn’t, would you mean it?