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Does Race Matter…on a Blind Date?

On the questionnaire I give to all my Meet Market applicants, there is one question I immediately skip to upon receiving it.

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?

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  • KK

    If they’ve left themselves open to the chance by saying race didn’t matter or didn’t directly state that race did matter, then let your logical side rule and don’t tell them. If they meant it, they wouldn’t care. If they didn’t mean it, then clearly they need to figure out more about themselves and their preferences. You could even be doing them a favor by making them realize that race does indeed matter to them if they react a certain way when they go out on that date. I was set up on a blind date, race did matter, and I said it did.

  • FrankieBeverlysNephew

    Don’t say anything and let the chips fall where they may. No bias going in makes it as neutral as they can be b/c there is no build up of preconceived notions especially considering the already existent blind date jitters.

  • T. Miller

    race doesnt matter to me at all, but height is another story. I’m 5’9″ and would be shocked to find that my blind date is 5’3″. In all seriousness, this country is lacking religious and cultural empathy, and any thing or one that can help us all recognize ourselves as human, serves as a great justice to the nation. I understand the notion that someone who looks like you may “understand” you acc your struggle better, but do would someone from the same walk of life. So, in case my answer to your question isn’t clear, no.. don’t give people the heads up that they’re meeting someone possibly a shade lighter or darker. Height though, yes! 🙂

  • Koo25

    I don’t understand people who say they don’t see color or race doesn’t matter. The truth is one way or another race will be a factor at some point in their lives, especially in interracial relationships. Acknowledge it and build from there. That’s why I stay on/love #Teamblacklove.

  • Aleksie

    It depends on the person and how honest they think they can be. For me and many people I know, it doesn’t really doesn’t matter when it comes to dating; I understand that race does matter in a lot things, but I’ve mostly interracially dated. FWIW, I’m also Asian and was adopted by a white family.

    For others, however, they feel like it’s the “right” thing to say when it really does matter for a lot of different reasons. I think you should take people’s word on it, but maybe emphasize that you’re not trying to judge them and want an honest answer.

  • Rhonda

    There’s no reason to mention anything. From what I understand, the questionnaire is telling you everything you need to know to match people up. It’s their responsibility to answer truthfully and honestly. Just trust the information that was provided to you, match them up, and see what happens.

  • T. T. Miller

    unfortunately race will always be a factor in America because that’s what the system has told us matters. the actual reality is that we are all more alike than different -so no, for me, race doesn’t matter. Im definitely not colorblind, but I’m not going to let the skin color of someone stifle my chances of meeting and being with someone with whom I could share other amazing connections… connections that matter more than the melanin in their skin. There will never be equality if no-one believes this. I believe in black love too, because there is something beautiful about two people who share the ancestry that we share, but if I had a connection with a Hawaiian man, or Cambodian, or Nigerian, or Australian, our Cuban… best believe I would explore it, and seriously so.

  • Star

    I would not inform the parties that the other dater is of a different race. I believe you just have to trust what folks tell you . If you begin to doubt if they are being truthful about their responses than the potential of it becoming a slippery slope for other criteria is there. Do they really not care if he is a vegan or not? Does a man height matter? What if she is not a natural blonde is that okay and so on, I think you are going to have to allow these adults have some sense of self awareness and recogonize if it really doesn’t matter if the guy or lady is more chocolate than vanilla.
    Perhaps what is at the heart of your question is the idea of priviledge because so often if you are not a person of color and if you are white you are not aware of your priviledge until you are in the pressence of someone of color . Until you are dating the other and that can be a shock. Like if your date is stopped and frisked, for example and you never experienced that, and so on. And just because people are of the same race does not mean instant chemistry. I would like to believe that the heart of a human being goes far beyond a social construct like race.

  • Philip Goetz

    My GF once set up one of my friends on a blind date with one of her friends. I thought he’d be irritated at being surprised that she was very fat. He didn’t mind that all, but he was very upset that she was black. He was actually angry at us.

    But if you set somebody up with someone else of the same race, they might assume that you assume that they’re racist. Like in the South Park episode “Cartman finds love”, where the two black kids in the school don’t want to date each other because they think everyone else would think they were dating because they’re both black.