The Sexist

A Brief History of Date Lab Racism

Date LabWe know that the vast majority of daters in the Washington Post Magazine's blind date feature, Date Lab, discriminate based on gender. Of the 3,300 potential District daters in the Post's applicant pool, only 9 identify as bisexual—and only one bi woman has actually been set up on a date.

So how many local Date Lab daters discriminate based on skin color? Plenty! A brief history:

A lot of daters set up by the Washington Post just don't want to date white people. Set up last March, professor Steven Kelts requested anyone but a white lady: He asked for "An Asian, Indian, Latino or black woman who is educated, likes to talk about ideas and wants to travel the world with me!" Another dater told Date Lab, “I tend to like girls that show signs of being foreign-born or maybe have something ethnically awesome about their looks.” Sadly, the Post matched him with a woman with a “Midwestern” appearance.

Other daters are looking to date exclusively white. In 2009, Patrick Chang stated a preference for “Tall, Caucasian women." Unfortunately, his date told the magazine this: “I tend not to find Asians attractive." When she met Chang, "With a name like Patrick I was kind of expecting an Irish guy," she admitted. "I tried to be as open-minded as possible." The pair declined to pursue a second date.

Chang's date isn't the only one to nix the entire continent: In one 2008 date, both Asian daters didn't date Asians. "I thought he was attractive and well put together, but you always have to end it with 'for an Asian guy,'" Stephanie Villaflor told the Post. "I don't usually date Asian guys." Her date, Christopher Dum, admitted: "I've only really dated white girls." Daters are generally open about their intra-racial racism: In 2006, a half-Filipino, half-Indian guy revealed a prejudice against Indian women—he finds them “a little snobby.”

Most racial preferences are aired out of disappointment—when the date who arrives is a little too white or a little too Indian. But sometimes, racial preference makes a match. Son Vang told the paper his date has "gotta be Asian, preferably Vietnamese." When Caroline T. Nguyen arrived, "I wasn't sure if my date was going to be Asian, so I was pleasantly surprised when she was," he said. Later, Vang told the paper: "At first we were trying to figure out why The Post set us up. We thought it might be the Asian thing." They hit it off.

Dater prejudice isn't limited to race, of course. After being set up with a man who uses a wheelchair, one dater reported being “really mad” at Date Lab for refraining from disclosing her date's disability prior to the meeting. “I felt like I was set up . . . I'd look like a jerk, and he'd just be ‘the handicapped guy,’" she told Date Lab. "I also didn't think it was fair to him—what if I had turned out to be a mean, tactless person?” What if.

For the record: Date Lab's gays daters can be prejudiced, too. “He's attractive, but [he has] this whole aura [of] your basic white guy,” Bob Baden said of his 2008 same-sex date. “I go for a more ethnic or foreign look.”

  • MisJante

    I tempted to say "oh dear, those poor white people" in response to an obvious provocation. But such snark would miss the mark by responding to this article which does the same disservice.

    Before expressing outrage in a misguided fashion, I would ask for a deeper level of insight (or at least more facts).

    What types of people (race regardless) tend to populate the Date Lab database? Better demographic breakdown gives you a glimpse at who's available for that population at large.

    What reason(s) do the participants state for going this route. People have all manner of reasons, especially based on age and experience, for acting on/against their bias/preference when it comes to dating their like/opposite.

    Dating history of those with/without a preference. It's one thing for someone to say they would never date such and such. It's another to say they've *never* dated such and such. Some people feel a need to make "a statement" in their dating habits, etc.

    What's the correlation among income, profession, etc. for those who date outside their race via this specific channel compared to national/regional numbers, online dating, etc. Hard to prove, but I suspect people bring fewer racial hangups in their search among relative equals.

    Is/should there be different standards against which we hold a person who only dates within their race (good for non-whites, bad for whites and vice versa) to a different standard than one who only dates outside their race? Does Date Lab actively promote or inhibit this?

    Why again for the umpteenth time is this about white people? As much as you all look alike to some, there's diversity among white people as much as there is among any race/ethnicity. The key is your lack of cultural baggage, gender stereotype expectations, etc.

    The more interesting thread Amanda misses is how, in a city with active anti-discrimination laws and culture, and a population actively engaged in policy/influence, etc. folks bring great disparity (or consistency) between who they are and what they do in professional life versus what they seek in their personal matters. Why are they not frequenting the spots/settings/people DateLab exposes them to before/after the dates?

    One thing in defense of WaPo I'd make is that it (hopefully) gets people to open their eyes, get outside their comfort zone of familiarity, and really embrace the diversity of people and scenes in town. There also seems to be more emphasis on communication, not merely "hanging out". So, not knocking speed/online/whatever dating fad, but with more thought and creativity, this could be a better thing the Post brings to the community.

    For people with a preference (*cough* bias), know that the narrower (whups, more focused) your field of vision, you will (maybe) find exactly what you think you want, but will sacrifice many great women/men along the way. The person who fills a need, versus satisfies a want-- yeah, that's a great catch, and once that catch finds out, congratulations on making both yourselves miserable.

    We've made racism both so complex to describe anything passes, and yet so facile an excuse it never holds everyone accountable for expressing what they may feel that harms or perceives to harm others.

    Overall, no one should have to waste time/energy/ etc. on convincing/shaming/guilting someone who isn't into you. Same token, don't waste time/energy trying to justify/rationalize what is an irrational activity like dating.

    Happy Huntings.

  • Golden Silence

    I read Date Lab frequently, and I remember that date posted upthread with Neville. Man, he was such a loser! I highly doubt the thin girl with dreads he was talking about would've given him the time of day.

  • cdog

    In all fairness, you don't have to be a racist to just be kind of a douche.

    Case in point, the hypothetical "no fatties" personal ad – it's offensive, insulting and crude, but not racist. That's the difference between saying that people with freckles need not apply for your lovin', and saying "no Asian chicks".

  • Katz

    It's fine to have a preference, or hold an ideal of beauty and attractiveness, it's another if you're intolerant and prejudiced. My white boyfriend's "type" is Asian or black, and I'm white. But that's okay because he isn't attracted to me based on my ethnicity.

  • Kit-Kat

    @Katz--that's exactly the point. Your boyfriend may have personal preferences for physical attractiveness, but they didn't make him unwilling to get to know you or date you. He didn't use your race to prejudge you and rule you out as a potential dating partner, which is what I think most people who object to Date Labbers using race as a criteria are really objecting to.

    @cdog--so true! I suppose one problem that confuses the issue is that I've yet to see a Date Labber who expressed a racial preference or exclusion who wasn't also kind of douche.

  • Kristine

    Jesus, when did Leave a Comment turn into Write a Book? Anyway, there's nothing wrong with these preferences. I've always been gaga for lanky, dark-haired dudes (which also happens to include the vast majority of Asian men; so sue me). Nobody "decides" this in adulthood. It's grounded in experiences from very early in life.

  • Al

    ove the dialogue and various interpretations of "racism" w/ respect to dating.

    I agree that a "preference" can be characterized as racism however we all must respect each other's preferences. However a preference is no longer respected as such if driven by negatively-held stereotypes of an entire ethnicity omitted from one's preference(s). The same principle applies to weight, age, hair color, you name it.

    Africans in most cases will stay with fellow Africans due to cultural issues and cultural tensions with African-Americans (beleive it or not).

    African American (there is a difference from African) and women have a overwhelming loyalty to AA males for obvious reasons however their occasional shortsightedness can skew their judgment in choice of mate. Many will accept ANY black male despite his prospect yet totally shun and dismiss the prospect of a promising male of another ethnicity. Meanwhile an army of women become honery and dejected toward the opposite sex if not life in general, hence the Angry Black Woman Theory. We all know the definition of insanity.

    While it is true Indians may tend to gravitate toward their own they only seem to deviate only with respect to whites (IMO a lasting effect of colonization) however some, ala Christopher Dum may categorize it as "snobbery". As rational and sensible as many describe me I'd have to agree w/ Chris on this one!

    I have witnessed a lot of white dudes with Asian women lately. Surely this isn't a new phenomenom but it could possibly be due to their apparently easy going nature. From everyone I've polled there is at least anectdotal evidence in my mind to support the assumption. Someday I may discover it for myself.

    Persons of all "races" make the ill-fated mistake of rabid loyality resulting in exclusively embracing or shunning someone solely on basis of ethnicity, color, with sometimes devistating results (neglect, emotional and physical abuse, etc) and I have witnessed this in EVERY "race" I mentioned above.

    The major exceptions to the observations above seem to education and age (rationalization and realization/maturity). I guess the moral of the story is never rule anything or anyone out especially on the basis of race/color/ethnicity.

    Preference or ism. The choice is yours. Hey you never know...

  • Matthew

    Absolutely ridiculous. You should be ashamed of yourselves for publishing this narrow drivel.

    People have preferences. Deal with it.

  • Ex-date labber

    As a past date lab participant, I want to vomit every time this beaten to death subject arises. Luckily none of the above mentions my particular article, but I have to chime in. As with any reporting, as I'm sure Ms. Hess knows, the interview process which took about an hour and a half over two days was boiled down to about 45 seconds worth of quotes pieced together to make an 'interesting' story. Most questions are fairly run of the mill to try to get a dialogue going (what did you do before the date? ow did you feel about blah blah blah), but a fair number were very specific and in hindsight an attempt to lead the interviewees toward a particular topic. I recall being told that a certain application question answer was used to set us up, and was asked if I was happy with the looks and race of the date since they thought he would be 'my type' and then the interviewer linked my response to this question to a totally separate one in which she asked me to describe in detail what my date looked like physically 'because she hadn't seen photos yet.' Yes, obviously in retrospect after reading the final product I should have foreseen this, but at the same time it's kind of ridiculous of readers to take these stories as truth and divine prejudice/racism/whatever. Maybe, City Paper, if this is newsworthy, you should create a better date lab type column? Or highlight something actually new and different for a change?

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  • Matt

    Is it sexism if, as a heterosexual man, I don't want to date a dude??? Give me a break!

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  • carey


    There is more and more evidence the being a homosexual is genetic. This means that you are actually born being attracted to one/both/any gender, etc. Being a man who is attracted to women is inherently part of your identity, down to your DNA. No one is genetically predisposed to not like a specific racial group. Any prejudices about race are gained after society has started molding us. We live in a racist society; put two and two together.

    In summary: Being attracted to a certain/any gender = inherently you. Thinking and ENTIRE group of people, regardless of gender, is unattractive based on their race = a prejudice (racism, since it's based on RACE) that you picked up sometime between birth and now.


  • DB

    When people have talked about "racism" in the past 25 years, they have Bern using it (not inappropriately) as shorthand for cultural chauvinism, color-bias and social distance that accompanied the racism (belief in subspecies/races) problem in the USA.

    There is little wrong with this shorthand, as we know damn well what people mean.

    There us, however, something troubling about the readers who freak out when something they do is labeled as such. Extreme defensiveness? "Whatever-i-do-could-not-possibly-have-harmful-societal-effects"-itry?

    The more i read Amanda Hess, the less i'm like WTF, and the more i'm like "yes, exactly".

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