Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Implicit Bias in Online Dating: What White Men Need to Know!


In the 1970's the New York Symphony orchestra (one of the most prestigious orchestras in the world) was over 93% white men.  That's right.  93 per cent!  For years, women and minorities had stated that they felt like good, qualified applicants were the victims of discrimination.  But the hiring board of the orchestra fought back.  They claimed that they were liberal and progressive and so "NOT RACIST," but they just believed that all of the white men who came in to apply were just stronger musicians.  The hiring board refused to engage in what they called "tokenism" or "affirmative-action."  But they claimed that there was no racial bias.  

So after years of wrangling, the hiring board agreed to do something different.  All the applicants would perform from BEHIND A CURTAIN.  They would only hear the applicant's music.  They would not get to see the race or gender of the applicant until the final stage.  

Guess what happened???  

Within ten years, the number of women and minorities in the New York Symphony Orchestra jumped from 7% to 34%.  That is an increase in almost FOUR HUNDRED PERCENT!  

Hmmm...  So what happened?  Did a bunch of women and black musicians magically appear from thin air?  No...  Once the white men started hiring purely on the basis of aptitude and they removed the ability to pre-judge a candidate's performance purely by their race and gender (at least until the final stage of the interview process) they found that their own implicit bias was cutting out a lot of qualified women and minority candidates.  


I'm sure you've all heard news stories of organizations sending applications with the exact same credentials to potential employers: one has a "black sounding name" and the other has a "white sounding name."  And overwhelmingly, the resume with the white sounding name gets moved to the next round of interviewing...  

But let's take it one step deeper.  Years ago, in New York City, an academic wanted to examine implicit bias in hiring among lawyers.  Keep in mind, most lawyers are Democrats.  Many of whom are/were liberal.  So this is a group that doesn't believe that it's hostile to diversity.  Here's what one NYC academic did.  

He sent a legal memo that was IDENTICAL to two different groups of white male law firm partners and asked them to read the memo and decide whether they would hire the person who wrote the memo.  Now in reality, the professor wrote the memo himself (he just told the groups that his law students had written the memo).  The professor added specifically 26 errors to the legal memo!  Twenty Six!  And he wanted to see how the white men would react.  

The white men who reviewed the memo from a student they were told was a white male student said two things: First, they caught less than half of the errors!  Second, they said of the theoretical white male applicant, "Yes, he's a bit rough around the edges, but we'll give him a chance to prove himself."  

For the group of white men who were judging the theoretical black applicant, they found almost all of the 26 errors and they said that they would not hire this black applicant, because their work was sub-standard.  

So what can we conclude??? 


There is literally no shortage of articles and data that backs this point up.  Again, white people may not be intending to be racist or prejudiced.  But it happens.  That's why it's called IMPLICIT BIAS.  Whites are often not aware that they are doing it. 

And yes, black people and women can also have implicit biases.  Everyone can have implicit biases.  But when one group dominates politics, business, culture, entertainment and all the other groups have relatively little power or positions of prestige, the biases of minorities have a much harder time impacting the white majority in any substantial way.  


So if white men can have implicit biases in business and hiring, isn't it also possible that white men can have implicit biases in dating?  

When I write about race, I hear some of my white friends, who are definitely not racist and I love them to bits, often say things that are just really stupid.  I'm sorry, there's just no other way to say it.  The opinions are ignorant, uninformed and just don't really show any awareness or understanding of white privilege and white fragility.  But I know for a fact that these people aren't racist, and as I said, I LOVE THEM.  These are good people.  So if good white people can have very uninformed views, then so could a lot of other people.  And perhaps, racial bias on dating apps if far wider and pervasive than many "non-racist white people" believe.  

So if you're white, let's do a little experiment to see if you have an implicit bias in your dating habits.  


Who Are the People That You Message First? 

Open up Gridr, Scruff, Hinge or Tinder and look and see.  Look at the people where you begin a chat.  Only when you start the chat.  Look and see the results.  Do you only message white people first?  (It very well could be the case that you tend to message Black men first.)  I'm not saying you're bad or wrong.  I'm just asking you to look and see.  

Who Are the People YOU Ask Out on a Date? 

So keep looking at your messages.  Find the guys that you ask out on a date.  (Or a shag if you're that way inclined).  Not the people who approach you.  Look at the people that you openly state "Hey, let's definitely meet up."  

Is there a racial discrepancy?  

What Happens When Black People Start the Chat?

Now... Go back through your Grindr, Tinder or whatever and look for areas where someone from a Black or Ethnic Minority background started a chat with you.  Do you continue the chat until you decide to ask them out?  Or do you just let the chat die?  Does the BME person ask you out and you come up with a polite reason to decline?  

Look for racial discrepancies.  


Who Are the People YOU Ask Out on a Date? 

Now... Keep this same question going, but look through WhatsApp, your texting messages, Facebook Messenger or Instagram Messages.  Look for the people that YOU AFFIRMATIVELY ASK SOMEONE TO MEET UP.  Again, look for a racial discrepancy.  If you have WhatsApp look and see - maybe all the profile pictures are all white.  Just notice and observe a racial discrepancy.  

Again, this doesn't mean that you're racist.  I didn't say that.  But you might be noticing an implicit bias at this point. 

Who Are the People That You SPONTANEOUSLY Re-Start a Chat With?

So... We've all done it.  Maybe the chat fizzled out for some reason.  Maybe you got busy with work and forgot to message someone back.  Maybe you were going through a tough time and needed to disconnect.  

But now, go back through your phone and look at the people where things fizzled out and yet YOU MADE THE EFFORT to re-start the conversation.  Just look at the different people.  What do you notice?  Is there a racial discrepancy. 


It's about to get real uncomfortable...  

Who Did You Last Rearrange Your Schedule For?  

Anyone can wait for the "perfect" time to find a date.  But circumstances rarely align perfectly -- except on Saturday nights at 3AM, apparently...  Some men you are keen to meet and others, less so.  So take a moment and go through your phone - either texting, apps or your memory and ask yourself "Who was the last guy that I inconvenienced myself for?"  Maybe you rearranged something for him?  Maybe you canceled a drinks with a mate for a shot shag?  Maybe you got someone to cover your shift at work...  Just think back to these kinds of situations.  Who did you rearrange your schedule for?  Was he white or black?  

This also works in the hypothetical sense as well.  Maybe look and see - Who was the last guy when he messaged you online, you thought "Yeah, I'd cancel on my best friend to shag this new guy!"  What did he look like?  

Now nobody has to know the truth other than yourself.  But ask yourself "Do I rearrange my schedule for white guys?  And do I make men of color wait until the timing is perfect?"  Take a look at the situations above and tell me what you think. 

Who Did You Want a Second Date With?

Go through in your head the last three or four dates that you had.  Maybe five if you've had a busy month since the pandemic started to ease up.  (And yes, this can involve hookups, assuming you are up for an on-going friends with benefit interaction with someone).  Ask yourself, who did you want a second date with?  What races were these people?  Is there a racial discrepancy?  

Who Did You NOT Want a Second Date With? 

Now... Look at the last 3 to 5 dates you had and ask yourself, who did you DEFINITELY NOT want to have a second date with?  Is there a racial discrepancy.  If all the white guys you met got second dates, but none of the black guys did, you might have an unconscious bias.  

Who Were You On the Fence About? 

Now, go back and look at these 3 to give dates and ask yourself, who were you ambivalent about?  Maybe yes, maybe no, you really weren't too bothered either way.  Again, look for a racial discrepancy.  

What Happened on the Last Three Dates w/ a Non-White Person?

So... Think back to the last three or four dates that you had with men who were not white.  (Maybe you haven't even had three dates with men who weren't white, which that is a big signal that you have a very strong bias against people who aren't white).  

How did those dates end?  What was your reaction?  Did you want a second date or were you just not that fussed?  (It's entirely possible that you did want a second date, and he didn't text you back).  

I'm not saying that you are racist or he is racist.  I'm just asking you to look for racial discrepancies.   But if none of the white people you are meeting for coffee are making it past Starbucks, after a while your track record speaks for itself. Maybe you just don't want to date a non-white person.

But here's another place to look... Has more than one person of color called you racist?  I don't know you. at all  And I don't know if you are a racist.  But if the people you are dating get a racist vibe off of you (even if you don't mean to send it out), maybe your energy towards people of color is definitely sending a signal that they are not affirmed, desired or wanted.  Maybe you're being rude to them, because on one level, you're trying to push them away.  Again, I am no mind reader, I'm just asking you to look. 


So... Who are you likely to commit to?  Are there any trends?  Let's look and see. 

What were the races of your last two or three boyfriends?  Do you have a type?  Do they all look alike?  Do they all look like you?  Are they all one race?  They might have other characteristics - like maybe they all had really BIG... Personalities! Lol...  Maybe you go for gregarious, confident men.  Maybe you like bad boys.  Look at the characteristics - both internal and external.  But also observe whether there are any discrepancies in race?

By the way, I'm not saying you're racist.  If you live in a town like Aberdeen, Scotland, it's going to be significantly less diverse than cities like London or New York.  But still... The point is to constantly be questioning your own biases.  If you never question your own biases, how can you expect to grow?


I posted this meme purely as a joke on my @GrindrSurvivr Instagram account.  It was purely meant to be a little funny.  And this made me laugh, but it created a lot of controversy.  A lot of people got into a massive debate into the comment sections. 

I thought it was funny, because it's kind of true.  I notice a lot of couples date people who look just like they do.  Again, that's not bad.  But it's what I observe. 


Well, to be honest, the main issue is for you to look at your behavior and notice who you are willing to invest time into and see who you are not willing to invest time into.  Maybe there are racial discrepencies.  Maybe there aren't.  

By the way, this exercise is still great from a non-racial perspective.  Maybe you just chase muscly meat-heads who you know are going to treat you like crap.  Maybe you're looking past some really great guys (of all races) to chase the perfect body or the largest "eggplant."  Again, I wrote a non-racial book to help empower you in your dating choices.  It's called @GrindrSurvivr.

So What if You Noticed Racial Discrepancies?  

But my next book is about racism in dating apps.  And implicit bias is a major issue.  

So, if you looked back at your behavior and you noticed a racial bais against people of color, what are you going to do about it?  

There are only two options really: either you actively choose to work on it, and you actively choose to NOT work on it.  

But be clear... It's your choice!  Obviously, it's better for more white people to work on their racial bias.  It can in fact save lives.  But also be clear, if you choose NOT to work on it, you're unwilling to make the gay community a more welcoming place for queer people of color.  So if we complain about racism or "racial preferences" you can't get defensive about it.  You powerfully chose to do nothing, so please just politely keep your mouth shut.  

Also, you need to be honest with yourself and stop LYING to people of color (not to mention yourself) about how open and "woke" you are.  If you're not going to go to work on your racial biases, then you're not really woke.  You just want to virtue signal.  And that doesn't help queer people of color at all.  

I have one final thought to leave you with...

Given what I've explained here (regarding implicit bias), and given what I've explained in my previous blog post (about white privilege in the gay scene)...

Why should a queer person of color take a risk on you?  Why should we put our mental health (and occasionally our safety) on the line for you?  

I'm not being rhetorical.  I actually want you to take a moment and think about this.  Why should a person of color take a risk on someone who has a lot of implicit bias against them?  If you now know that you are very likely to not text back, if it's unlikely that you actually want to date us, but only use us to either fulfill a fetish fantasy or meet us for a drink only for you to say "Yeah, we just didn't hit it off", why should we interact with you at all?  

Maybe it's better for our own self-esteem to try to find people who don't have your implicit biases...  

And maybe you need to quit kidding yourself about it.  Stop patting yourself on the back for meeting an Asian guy for coffee, when you knew deep down inside you had no interest in him.  Stop wasting the time of people of color.  Stay out of the way.  Don't be rude or aim your now overt biases at us.  Don't make us feel less than for not being white -- there are already way too many white people who do that.  Just politely be silent and let us find other BME queer people who can affirm us or other white people who genuinely appreciate our good qualities.  

Alternatively, would it kill you to put a little bit more effort in when it comes to dating people of color?  I'm not asking you give a kidney to a stranger.  But a little bit of kindness goes a long way.  You have a lot of privilege and opportunity in the gay community.  White gay men bend over backwards to accommodate other white gay men - whether that's sexually or their personality quirks.  

Would it kill you to demonstrate some genuine interest in people who are awesome but don't get all the perks of white privilege that you take for granted?  

What's the point of having that privilege if you never use it to help other people who don't?  

Be Prepared for a Direct Question: Have you Ever Dated (as in a Committed Relationship) with a Person of Color Before???

Now... As a Harvard lawyer, who spends way too much time thinking and analyzing these issues, I am very well aware that many white men have an unconscious bias against nonwhite people.  But obviously, I can't send everyone a link to this blog, expect them to read it and give me an excel file print out of how their dating preferences play out in the real world.  I ask my readers and the people I date to give me some honest answers, but even this would be too much.  

So what if I've told you that I, as a Black gay man, have come up with a super simple question that has over a 90% success rate at letting me know whether your unconscious biases against non-white people might be a problem if I wanted to date you.  

And if you hadn't guessed from the heading, the question is simple: Have you ever dated a black or mixed-race guy before?  

This question is simple and it's INSANELY EFFECTIVE.  I'll get into the full details of the effectiveness in my next book.  But this is the perfect question to suss out someone's potential implicit biases.  And the results don't lie.  

The vast majority of white men who HAVE DATED someone who looks like me (ie a Black guy or a mixed race guy) ask for a second date.  The vast majority of white men who have NEVER DATED a person of color do NOT ask for a second date.  (I'll get into the details of this in my next book, but this is totally valid evidence for me)

In the age of Grindr, gay men have a LOT of dating options.  So who they are willing to commit to is extremely revealing.  If you are willing to cut off all dating options (white men and Black men) to pursue a relationship with a Black man, there is over a 90% chance that either don't have a strong implicit bias AGAINST dating people of color.  And it certainly would make me feel more comfortable before I expend any energy in getting to know you.  

If you've only met a few Black guys for coffee once, and none of them got second dates or even got to date you causally for a few weeks, then you're probably not someone I want to get to know.  Your dating history shows that you probably don't value people of color.  And I don't want to upset you or deal with your white fragility.  But it is my right to take this limited amount of data and act accordingly.  

Noe some people will scream "That's not fair!"  And in some sense, they're not wrong.  You genuinely do have to meet everyone to a get a full sense of who they are.  (In my book, I argue that people should always give second dates to guys who ask them, simply because first dates can be so awkward.). But at the same time, racism is rampant in the gay community.  And lots of gay men want to act racist in their boyfriend choices, but want to pretend to the outside world that they are open minded to dating people of different colors.  But I've just gotten a little ahead of the curve, and I would encourage more gay men of color to follow suit.  Black men should not feel afraid or hesitant to start asking these types of questions...


I'm a muscular, Harvard lawyer, who is intelligent, funny, kind and sensitive.  I write books; I have no fear of commitment, and I am actively working to transform my community.  I'm not a basic bitch. I'm the real deal.  And I don't want to date someone who only thinks "Yeah, he's hot for a black guy."  Or,... "He's okay, maybe I'll meet him for coffee."  Or... "Maybe I'd fuck him at 3AM, but I'd never date him."  

I want someone who thinks I'm amazing and wants to get to know the real me.  But because I'm not white, the easiest way to suss through people's unconscious biases is to look at the results they are producing for themselves.  Look, I know I have a lot to offer.  But I also know that most white guys just can't look past my color.  And I want to avoid those people at all costs.  And if asking this one question helps guard my self esteem and mental health, white people need to respect that without calling me "crazy" or "stupid."  (And yes, these insults tend to come from people whose academic backgrounds are not as prestigious as my own.  But since when have white people not derided intelligent black men that they deem to be "uppidy.")

And in my experience, the data doesn't lie.  Don't get me wrong.  I still get disappointed.  Things often don't go the way I want.  But for the first time inn my life, I can enjoy being single.  I can enjoy dating!  I don't have to walk into dates with the burden and fear that this white gay has an unconscious bias against my skin color.  We're just free to connect, laugh and get to know each other.  And by the way, I'm really good at that.  

Am I asking for special treatment? Definitely not.  Most white men get to take this for granted.  It's a very rare date where a white guy can't walk in and know with absolute confidence that his race will not be held against him. So if you get this white privilege, then don't begrudge me trying to get a fraction of it in my own life, particularly as it helps keep me sane.  If you know that the gay scene is racist, if you know that Black gay men have to deal with a lot more shit than white gay men, why are you getting fragile and butt-hurt when I ask you to answer a simple question that will help increase my chances of finding happiness.

I have more to say on this topic, but it's getting late, and I'm getting tired.  But I think you get the gist... 

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