Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Soy Sauce on Tamales or Interracial Online Dating

A friend posted the link to this article on facebook - being a student of Diversity Studies, in an interracial relationship, with a biracial man, whom I met online....of course this was something I'd read! 

I would like to know what dating service they surveyed (although really, I'd put my money down on eHarmony being their unfortunate source). And I was slightly disappointed about the focus of black-white relationships in the article (until you reach the last few short paragraphs when they focus on a Jewish white man and a Chinese-Mexican woman). Dating a man who identifies as Asian-American; there aren't many articles/books/etc focusing on our "type" of interracial relationship....White man and women of Asian decent sure, but not the other way around. 

Sadly, there wasn't anything I'd consider "new" information but it is interesting to see the "Race is a state of mind" via the lens of cyberdating.
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Study shows that for many cyberdaters, race is a state of mind
By Jessica Yadegaran
Contra Costa Times

With a plethora of interracial dating sites on the Web and a black president in office, one would think that we're living in America's post-racial era. But, apparently, that's not the case.

According to a new UC Berkeley study of 1 million online daters, cyberspace is just as segregated as the real world. When it comes to dating online, whites prefer whites, research reveals. More than 80 percent of whites -- even the 48 percent of males and 28 percent of females who said they were indifferent to race -- sent messages to whites and just 3 percent contacted blacks.

Researchers won't disclose which major dating site they used to compare the racial preferences and online activity of more than 1 million singles. But, we do know that they found significant differences between blacks and whites. Young black men are the most likely to cross the race barrier when looking for love online, and blacks, including women, were 10 times as likely to contact a white person than whites were to contact blacks.

Some people don't date outside of their race simply because they don't come into contact with people of other races in their communities.

"There's no segregation online, which makes this data so interesting," says Gerald Mendelsohn, a UCBerkeley psychologist and lead author of the study,which analyzed online subscribers between 2009 and 2010. "Online dating is about courtship and attraction. Segregation is a physicalmatter but it's also a state of mind."

Mendelsohn says there are three possible reasons for the discrepancy between attitudes about interracial coupling and the actual behaviors of online daters when it comes to race.

"It might be appearance management," he says. "They think it makes them look better to say that they're open to another race. Also, saying you're open to another race is only stage one of the dating process. Stage two is actually taking the step. Another possibility that can't be discounted is that people are just hypocritical."

Certainly, it's a touchy subject. Even talking about race can make people uncomfortable.

"I don't think I've ever dated someone outside of my race," says Stephanie of Fremont, who is white and works in retail. She asked to omit her last name. "I think I'm just attracted to white guys. It's what I know."

That's not the case for Lynne Herendeen, an operations manager living in Pleasanton. She has a thing for black guys. "I love the darker skin tone,"says Herendeen, 31. "I feel like it makes their features pop, their eyes sparkle and their smiles more beautiful."

When searching for matches on,Herendeen specified tall, nonsmoking, African- American men. That's how she met her boyfriend, Rick Kamfolt, a Santa Clara lab analyst who is black. The two have been dating for four months.

Kamfolt, 29, has dated women of all races, including his own, and says that intelligence and communication are more important to him than race. That said, there is an added layer of intrigue when he dates outside of his race.

"It adds a certain spice to the relationship," Kamfolt says. "It's something different, so you're always learning and growing."

Rob Thompson hears those stories every day as the co-founder of two Nevada-based interracial dating websites, and Thompson, who is white and Australian, met his wife, who is black and Kenyan, online in 2006.

"I think people are becoming aware of more dating opportunities outside of their race," says Thompson, whose sites have 1.1 million users combined. "The president has certainly done a lot to raise awareness that it doesn't matter what your race is. What does matter is your substance. And it's probably influenced people when they go online looking for love."

But Thompson's websites cater to a niche audience. In Mendelsohn's study, which was based on data from one of the major dating websites, the young, black men who searched outside of their race were most likely to contact white women.

"The theorizing is that it's upward mobility," Mendelsohn says. "Like any other minority, they want to move into the dominant power structure, which is white." Also, Mendelsohn adds that white women are the idealized image of beauty in the United States, and that all men receive that message from a young age.

A major objective of the study was to gauge how changing attitudes about interracial marriage and an increase in dating opportunities have played out in relationships between blacks and whites. In the past 40 years, the approval rating of black-white intermarriage has gone from three to one opposed to three to one in favor, Mendelsohn says. But the study found that our attitudes do not match our behaviors.

"One hypothesis is that while people might feel like it's acceptable for themselves to date outside of their race, they might feel that it's not as accepted by their families, friends, and society at large," says Lindsay Shaw Taylor, a research associate in UC Berkeley's psychology department and co-author of the study.

Herendeen's family has never had a problem with her preference for black men. Still, she says she gave them a heads up before introducing Rick. "Not like I had to warn them, but I was like, by the way "...," she says. "It's not like I care at all what they think."

Rita Kwan and Todd Feinberg of San Francisco understand. Kwan is half-Chinese and half-Mexican, and Feinberg is white and Jewish. They met on Eharmony in 2008 and will be married this May.

Planning the wedding has brought an awareness of their cultural differences to the surface, but both families are embracing those differences, the couple says. Still, there are minor generational snags to work out, says Feinberg, who is 37 and works as a criminal prosecutor.

"It's hard for the parents. It's not that they're not open to other races, but they have a lot of pride and tradition in their own cultures," says Kwan, 32 and a surgeon at Oakland's Highland Hospital.

On their profiles, Kwan and Feinberg said that they were open to dating all races. Neither is attracted to a particular race, they say.

"I didn't fall in love with Rita because she is half-Chinese and half-Mexican," Feinberg says. "I fell in love with her because she was smart, beautiful and we were just able to talk for long periods of time."

That said, he says he believes that dating outside of one's race adds to who you are as a person. "I love the thought of our future kids being so well-rounded culturally," Feinberg says.

There are other perks, too. Feinberg spent last Christmas with Kwan's family in Albuquerque, N.M. When it was time for dinner, they served piping hot, pork tamales covered in red sauce. To his surprise, some of her family members spooned soy sauce onto the tamales.

"That's just one of the things you can learn from dating someone of a different race," Feinberg says. "That soy sauce goes really good on tamales."


  1. love it. and so true-theres not much out there on "white women who date outside their race." having been in relationships with someone with a different skin color and who was biracial, this is true. Although I echo/build on the sentiment of the interviewee that race is a non-issue- education and financial stability are. and in the US, that can have a strong correlation to race due to a variety of social factors. Altho as a white woman, i refuse to date anyone who loves country music.

  2. I thought that was going to be about actually putting soy sauce on tamales and the horrible curse of death that followed.... I was SO off.

  3. Another article about interracial relationships - this time focusing on couples living in the American South.

    "Black and White and Married in the Deep South: A Shifting Image"