Are Millennials Less Open to Interracial Relationships Than They Think?

Biracial Couples Research
Photo: Tory Rust

Ever the progressive dating app, Tinder just published a study that found when online dating, people feel more comfortable dating outside of their ethnicity or race. Though it’s great to hear that the study affirms racial acceptance, it’s also based on what people believe they’re open to, rather than what they’ve actually done, leaving us to wonder—do people’s actions validate their words?

The study was spurred by a separate 2017 Cornell study, which found that the rise in interracial marriages may be linked to the rise in dating apps. And as Buzzfeed mentions, a 2017 Pew study found that 91 percent of Americans believe interracial marriage is neutral or good for society. So, the numbers are looking good—at least in terms of how people think.

According to Business Insider, Tinder’s own study involved 4,244 participants (both users of the app and not). The results landed at 63 percent of 24 to 25 year-olds in the US, UK, Australia, and France feeling more confident about dating people from different races or ethnicities when online dating. Almost 80 percent of respondents who used Tinder said they’d been a date with someone of a different race or ethnicity. 

MORE: Are People in Open Relationships Happier Than Monogamous Couples?

However, according to another dating app, OKCupid, it’s only our thoughts about interracial relationships that have changed over the years—not the reality. Between 2008 and 2014, its data shows that the percentage of people who would want to date solely inside their own race at OKCupid dropped from 40 to 30 percent. Yet, in 2009, Asian men on OKCupid rated black women 16 percent less attractive than the average woman, and in 2014, that same statistic rose to 20 percent, which isn’t exactly encouraging. Not to mention, the data from 2009 to 2014 found that all races of women preferred to date men within their own race.

The stark truth of non-acceptance and ignorance in 2018 is clear when told by a black woman, Ari Curtis, and her online dating struggles. She talked NPR in January and recounted some of the baseless things white men had to said to her: “He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, my family would never approve of you,’ and ‘Oh, so we have to bring the ‘hood out of you, bring the ghetto out of you!’”

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It’s not surprising to see people think that they’re being more accepting than they actually are. In reality, biases and prejudices run deep—consciously and unconsciously—and they can be hard to shake. As a white person dating a black male, even my family has unconsciously been biased against our relationship with questions like, “What will happen if they have kids?” or assuming he’s from a broken home. The preconceptions about a race do more than deter relationships—they also hurt people (read more about Curtis and you’ll hear firsthand). All that being said, it’s not wrong to be attracted to a particular race or ethnicity, unless you’re only fetishizing them for those race-associated qualities and attributes.

Ultimately, for single millennials who consider themselves woke, it seems it’s time to take a hard look at your history and ask if you’re truly practicing what you preach when it comes to inclusivity and acceptance in dating.