The Sexist

Date Lab Race Redux

On the subject of race in the Washington Post Magazine's Date Lab, a former Date Labber weighs in with some insight into some behind-the-scenes engineering on the subject of skin-color (I've edited the remarks slightly for clarity):

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? How 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’ . . . 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?

Interesting. Any eager applicants for the Washington City Paper's Race Lab?

  • upk

    I don't know much about the Washington City Paper's demographics versus that of the Post, but if the WCP is like most alternative papers, its readership will be far whiter and more culturally homogeneous than that of the local mainstream paper. Careful about throwing stones.

  • Amanda Hess

    The City Paper's staff is overwhelmingly white, and I'd guess its readership is too (not sure about the specific stats on that one, though). And I'm not sure how the demographics stack up to the Post's---do you have any info on that?

    That's not to say that writing about race / critiquing other publications' approaches to race should be avoided. I'd welcome criticism on this paper's racial/gender/sexual-orientation makeup and its coverage in relation to all of those factors. I imagine it's just that the City Paper is small, and so less people read---or would care to read about---the Washington City Paper than they would a giant like the Post.

  • upk

    I don't have any real stats, Amanda, but in all the cities where I've lived, the alternative weekly was read by young white hipsters and the large corporate-owned daily by everyone else.

    My comment was mostly in response to the last line of your post musing about starting your own dating column. It would be easy to avoid racially problematic statements from participants when you're dealing with a single-race dating pool.

  • drsnacks

    This topic isn't beaten to death at all. Among the few times it's brought up, almost everyone on the privileged side of the dating pool (and everything else) responds with complete naivety of the idea that racial preferences can be considered racist. It's also funny that they're the ones who are most defensive (I can't imagine giving a crap if I were born with the luxury of literally shopping for human beings with an ease and peace of mind reminiscent of a local supermarket).

  • kza

    Where is this supermarket for white people? And I guess that the Asian people in the original article who talked about racial preferences are honorary "privallaged" people now.

  • drsnacks

    You don't magically become privileged just because you covet it. They're like middle-class people who prefer to date old money (no kidding!).

  • kza

    Do they date all money hoping to get some cash to spend at the human-buying store?

  • Al

    Amanda, why don't you attempt to reach to former DL participants. Get off the record feedback on their take of the process, intent, etc.

    For the record I read CP quite regularly-and I'm black.

  • TJ

    @Al, that's a fantastic idea.

    And as I am also a black regular reader of the CP, I do understand the concern about the demographic of readership. It is true that the majority of the readers is the white hipster, more than likely upper middle class, so it will be difficult to attract a wide variety of participants for a Date Lab.

    Like, how many black lesbians would be participating? Hell, how many LESBIANS would be participating? Would I be the only one if I put myself on the chopping block? Those kinds of questions are enough to scare anyone who is of a minority away.

  • Amanda Hess

    @upk Touche. Then again, several of the statements I highlighted are from white people disappointed they've been hooked up with other white people. I'm sure the in-depth Race Lab interview will manage to ferret out plenty of hangups from our lily-white hipster participants.

    @Al good idea. Will try my best.

  • Glenn

    Seems to me that none of the above comments address the point of the former Date Labber, which is that the "reporters" of these Date Lab stories went out of their way to highlight racial aspects to the stories that may or may not have been significant for the participants. It's not surprising. Race sells. And Race + sex sells even more.

  • drsnacks

    She didn't give any details. You basically just have to trust her claim that they play it up by taking comments out of context (what racial comments can be deceptively taken out of context in this situation; to the point where it's a dramatic misrepresentation?).