By Aisha Mirza
The incredible racial reckoning we have seen this year has left organisations, celebrities, sports teams and probably your friends scrambling to prove they are not white supremacists by donating to a Black charity one time or posting a black box on Instagram. The thing about not being racist though, is that it’s not a one-time thing. To be truly anti-racist, you have to understand that as a non-Black person, you will have soaked up and internalised so much racist messaging, particularly against Black people, that it might actually take a lifetime to unlearn. Despite the recent renewed focus on it, racism did not begin in 2020, it is a global structure that we all perpetuate, and so the unlearning of it needs to happen at every opportunity we get – even the quiet ones.
There has been successful propaganda around the idea that dating and romance, lust and love are or should be somehow exempt from racial politics. Historically it has been easier to herald the idea that love is colour-blind or desire is not political than to engage with the introspection and interrogation needed to ensure that what we consider simply our dating preferences, and the ways in which we interact on dating apps and in real life are not influenced by our racist, anti-Black, fat phobic, misogynist socialisation. We can all do better, and online dating can be a really useful tool with which to learn to check ourselves, be accountable for our prejudices and unlearn racist instincts that ultimately harm us and the people we want to share intimacy with.
Understand, accept and utilise your privilege
Social privilege is typically defined as having a ‘special, unearned advantage or entitlement, used to one’s own benefit or to the detriment of others’ (often determined by how closely you align to white cis-male heteronormativity). It can be hard for us to really own the ways in which we are privileged because it can feel like understanding that about ourselves invalidates our identities, experiences or hardships we have faced. This is not the case – our privileges are just one part of the complex web of characteristics that build a person. We are all privileged in one way or another (being white, light-skinned, straight, able-bodied, cis, male, access to intergenerational wealth – the list goes on).
Actively and consistently reflecting on your privilege through continuous research and reading will help you learn to recognise when it manifests itself in ways that are harmful to others and will also teach you to be receptive when it’s brought to your attention. Be aware that for many of the Black people and people of colour you may be talking to, constructing a dating profile to be judged and scrutinised by a (usually) majority white audience is an experience which takes a great mental toll. That’s not to mention the frequent racial micro-aggressions and slurs which have to be fielded by non-white people using these apps, even more so if they are trans, femme or fat. Be sensitive and careful not to replicate these dynamics.