This paper is part of the course Knowledge in the Digital World (Year 1 Bachelor Online Culture: Art, Media and Society at Tilburg University).
For a short version of this paper click here.
The emergence of the internet has provided all kinds of online communities on websites and social media, such as a variety of dating communities. This paper discusses how online interracial dating communities function in the 21st century.
About 75 year ago, my then approximately 8-year old grandfather slammed the door when he saw a black man in front of him who was trying to sell nuts to people in the neighbourhood. He told me he had never seen a person with a different skin colour than white in his life, which scared him and made him run away from the man. In this period, he could have never imagined that only two generations later, one of his closest family members would get into a relationship with someone with another skin colour: interracial relationships were not usual in in that period, definitely not in the village where he lived. When my 85-year old grandmother heard I had a black American-Kenyan boyfriend, her first reaction was: ‘’A black person does not belong in our family’’.
Now, in the 21st century, a lot has changed in attitudes towards people from different races: no child would run away from seeing a black man on the street and comments like my grandmother’s have become at least remarkable. The development of digital technologies has provided new knowledge on all kinds of romantic relationships. Though this does not mean that racism has disappeared: the discourse of my grandmother and grandfather is still with us today. The existence of the internet give us access to various attitudes towards other races, cultures and ‘mixed’ couples. Through ethnographic research, this paper provides a description of how online interracial dating communities in the 21st century. This paper takes digital ethnography as an approach as it ”can make substantial contribution of the study of present-day digital communication environments and our digital culture(s)’’ (Varis, 2015, p. 1). When examining others and partly myself, it has to be noted that ethnography is ‘’always a work of interpretation of complex social phenomena’’ (Hymes, as cited in Maly, 2016, p. 5). I should note I do not believe races are ‘out there’ but are rather socially constructed. In my eyes, there is only one race: the human race. In that sense, race is always a construct. Therefore, I would much rather use the word ‘intercolour’ than ‘interracial’. Still, I use the terms ‘interracial’ and ‘race’ in this paper as this is how it is mostly referred to in society and other researchers.
Norms in Online Media
In order to understand how online interracial dating communities function, it is important to know the online environment in which these communities function. McKee (2005, p. 1) argues that ‘’it’s common, both in everyday and academic writing, to hear people suggest that the public sphere – or ‘the media’ – are degenerating’’. One of the concerns is that people’s sexual relationships are increasingly discussed in the public sphere: ‘’Substantial parts of the public sphere in Western countries…deal exclusively with triviality’’ (McKee, 2005, p. 32). By studying Google search and searching ‘normal relationship’ and ‘normal couple’, findings indicate that online newspapers and magazines suggest to have an idea on what ‘normal’ relationships are by discussing personal issues, such as romantic relationships and sex. It should be noted that – before displaying the findings of the Google search study – the results I get in Google search are the result of my own algorithmic bubble: Google is not creating one reality, but creates algorithmic bubbles, which ”shape, or reinforce, our world view based on what we want to see or what is relevant to us instead of what we would rather not see but may need to see” (Hossain, 2016). These bubbles are based on online behaviour, location, language, etc.: if someone would search for ‘normal relationship’ and ‘normal couple’ in – for example – Arabic in Libya, that person would get different results than I who searches these terms in English from a place in the West. Still, it is useful to do this study. Elad Segev (2010, p. 170) found by examining the biases of online news through Google News that ‘’the USA and other English-speaking countries dominate content, and consequently empower their global vision and priorities’’ and by ‘’looking at global mass media channels (i.e. popular news sites and maps), it is the popularity and dominance of the US actors (e.g. companies and websites) and English content that often reflect US and Western views’’. Besides, most online content is generated in English: Tagg (2015, p. 51) stated that ”while English users make up nearly 27 per cent of internet users, the percentage of web content in English is much higher (57 percent)” and that ”English will remain a dominant prescence online for some time”. Thus, this study will provide interesting thinking about dominant ideas in the online world.
The Huffington Post – one of the most popular news websites and blogs – published the article written by professional matchmaker and relationship expert Samantha Daniels, called ‘Is Your Relationship Normal?’. She presented ten pointers for people are wondering if their love relationship is ‘normal’:
Point four – ‘’If you aren’t in a relationship but you want to build a family, that is perfectly okay’’ – deserves extra attention as it is entirely based on a Western point of view. For example, in Muslim communities, sperm, egg or embryo donation is not allowed (Joseph, 2006, p. 350). Besides, even though quasi-adoptive adoption is allowed, there is cultural resistance to it in most Arab countries (Joseph, 2006, p. 139). So for Muslim communities and many Arab countries, building a family when you are single is not the norm, but the opposite: abnormal.
The women’s magazine Bustle published a similar article – ‘This Is How Much Sex Is Normal In A Long-Term Relationship, According To An Expert’ – about what is normal in a relationship, again, based on expert opinions. Also the articles in the magazines Today, SheKnows, Canadian Living and Psychology Today base their logic of the normality of relationships on Western-based psychologists, therapists, and relationship experts. These experts seem to have a certain power in the media and can make various statements about who has a ‘healthy’ relationship and who has not by generalizing all love relationships and not taking differences in norms and values into account.
The magazine Women’s Health goes even further in suggesting what makes a relationship normal by publishing Brennan’s article ‘Curious if You’re in a Normal Relationship?’. Brennan introduces various concerns couples have about their relationship, like ‘’we never kiss’’, and then shares ‘the norm’ of that specific concern in order to determine whether the issue is ‘normal’ or indeed ‘abnormal’. These norms are based on the percentage of the society that has the same issue, for example the norm for ‘’we never kiss’’, is ‘’seventy percent of couples have make-out sessions from time to time, and more than half of couples say they kiss like crazy several times a week’’.
In the end, Brennan sums up what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘not normal’ or ‘deviant’ based on American statistics.
All these articles are based on Western norms, values and expert opinions. This is not a surprise in the sense that all magazines presented are magazines created in Western countries. It is therefore important to emphasize that I found these articles immediately by simply typing in ‘normal couple’ and ‘normal relationship’ in Google search. This means that these Western views on relationships are the easiest captured online and the first ones people find when searching articles about this topic.
Google Image also provides us interesting thinking about what is perceived as a ‘normal’ couple, and whether interracial couples are part of this ‘normality’. In a small research, I have chosen to search the terms ‘normal couple’, ‘couple’, ‘black couple’, and ‘white couple’. The results are listed below. By searching:
- ‘Normal couple’, only white couples show up.
- ‘Couple’, only white couples show up again.
- ‘Black couple’, only black couples are presented.
- ‘White couple’, mainly interracial couples are shown.
Google suggests that ‘normal couples’ and ‘white couples’ are the same kind of couples as these searches both only result in images of white couples. This implies that white couples are perceived as the ‘norm’. Therefore, it is necessary to add ‘black’ to ‘couple’ in order to get pictures of black couples, while adding ‘white’ to ‘couple’ seems to be completely unnecessary and even inefficient, as only interracial couples show up. In order to find pictures of white couples, it is more efficient to just type in ‘couple’, as, according to Google search, couples are white, ‘normally’.
These small researchers show that Western norms and values and white people are dominant on the internet. This means that these Western views on relationships are the easiest captured online and the first ones people find when searching articles about this topic, though with the nuance that I search the terms in English from a place in the West.
Online Interracial Dating Communities
After the transition from a community based on locality to a community that is disconnected from time and space, Miller (2011, pp. 189-190) suggests that online communities could be a reasonable next step in the transformation of the community. Due to detraditionalisation (the shift from fate to choice), disembedding (disconnection of interaction and locality), globalisation, reflexivity and the tradition of imagined communities, people are exposed to a variety of people. In the 21st century, the term ‘multiculturalism’ is not enough to describe the diversity among people in society. Instead, the term ‘superdiversity’ has been introduced by Vertovec, adding ‘super-’ to ‘diversity’ in order to describe an evolution towards a ”complexity surpassing anything…previously experienced’’ (as cited in Maly, 2016, p. 2). Besides new migration patterns after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, superdiversity can also be linked to the changes in communication technologies: not only migrants have superdiverse lives, but everyone can engage in it (Maly, 2016, p. 3), for example through participating in online communities. One of the benefits of online communities is the increased choice in an individual’s social relationships, which also includes love relationships. Very popular are dating sites and applications, where someone can find a partner based on his or her interests and preferences which are asked for when he or she signs up. Meeting people through online dating means being able to connect with people on a transnational level and meet people from all over the world with all sorts of different backgrounds. The emergence of dating sites also meant the emergence of dating communities with certain specific interests, such as interracial dating communities, where individuals are (only) interested in dating a man or woman from another race. Nowadays, there are plenty of interracial dating sites available.
Becker (1963, p. 1) argues that ‘’all social groups make rules and attempt, at some times and under some circumstances, to enforce them. Social rules define situations and the kinds of behavior appropriate to them’’. ‘Outsiders’, then, are ‘’people who are judged by others to be deviant and thus to stand outside the circle of ‘’normal’’ members of the group’’ (Becker, 1963, p. 3). As we have seen in the previous section, interracial couples seem to stand outside the circle of ‘normal’ relationships. Still, we can apply Becker’s knowledge on ‘deviant’ online communities as well, as these communities also make rules and decide what is ‘normal’ in their own group which excludes other people, or, how Becker would put it, creates ‘outsiders’.
The goal of the interracial dating website www.afroromance.com is ‘’finding love beyond races’’. Though, at the same time, the site only seems to allow dating between a white person and a black person: ‘’Black singles and white singles – that’s what we do’’. This shows that the website does not really look beyond races, but rather emphasizes them. Furthermore, an important function of the website is that it makes ‘’black and white dating easy’’, which implies that this ‘kind of dating’ is more difficult in the offline world.
When looking at the home page of the website, it suggests that they only allow black and white dating and exclude other people, such as Asians. Though this is not the case, as they also allow other ethnicities besides black and white. As this is not obvious from the home page, it could accidentially exclude other races from signing up. When signing up for the website, you have to provide your ethnicity and the ethnicities you are interested in. You can also show others that you are interested in any ethnicity, though most people show specific preferences regarding ethnicity in the option ‘Looking for a:’.
Some people even explicitly express their own ethnicity and their preference for a certain ethnicity.
It is also possible to do ‘quick searches’ on the dating website, which provides you to quickly find the ethnicity of your interest. Thus, the interest of the people signing up on the dating site is especially the other’s ethnicity. Again, this shows they do not actually go beyond races but rather emphasize them.
Not all interracial dating websites suggest to focus on black and white dating. For instance, www.interracialmatch.com focusses on dating between all races. Their goal is to ‘’bring like-minded singles together under one ‘roof’ and help them go about with their interracial dating and even cement interracial relationships’’. Also this website argues that it is more difficult to establish interracial relationships in the real world ‘’due to time and work constraints’’. Moreover, this site functions through the concept of ‘authenticity’: ‘’This truly makes us stand out from the entire cluster of other dating sites on the internet, because unlike them, our members start out having something in common: a love for singles from other races and ethnicities’’. They argue they ‘stand out’ from other dating sites because of the members’ love for people with a different ethnic or racial background. Besides, by saying ‘’a love for singles from other races and ethnicities’’, also this site emphasizes racial differences instead of really going beyond them.
The dating site www.lovecrossesborders.com also argues that interracial and intercultural dating is more difficult in the offline world as there seems to be a lack in racial and cultural diversity, in this case in Jamaica. The site presents itself as a ‘’platform for color blind and culturally sensitive singles from all over the world’’ who ‘’believe that geographical borders, pigmentation, sex or religion shouldn’t determine who you spend the rest of your life with’’. So, the website tried to ‘normalize’ ‘mixed’ relationships. Also, this website – unlike the previous two – does not only focus on race. Though, they still present intercultural and interracial dating as something ‘authentic’ by showcasting ‘’‘’our kind of love’’, intercultural and interracial that is’’. ‘Our kind of love’ implies that it is something authentic: they suggest it is a different ‘kind of love’, namely intercultural and interracial. This suggests that they are, in fact, not ‘color blind’, but see interracial dating as something ‘abnormal’ or ‘different’, though they give meaning to this ‘abnormality’ in a positive sense of uniqueness or authenticity. While all dating sites imply that their primary objective is to find you true love, they compete all other dating sites out there and are driven by consumerism, arguing they are ‘unique’ in the online dating business and you should choose to sign up for their site instead of others.
Also online media, such as Facebook, are involved in creating online interracial dating communities.
Looking into the Facebook community named ‘INTERRACIAL UNDERGROUND’, thirteen rules are clearly defined in the description. If a member of the group violates one of these rules, he or she will be ‘booted’ (banned). The second Facebook group for interracial dating that came up was ‘Interracial! Black women and White men ONLY! No exceptions!’. This group is less popular on the social media site with around 20,000 members compared to the previous one, and by only reading the group name it is already clear to see why. The owners of this Facebook community only include – unlike the owners of ‘INTERRACIAL UNDERGROUND’ – only white men and black women, and thus, as the description tells us ‘’are not allowing in this group any Indians, Arabians, Asians, Turkish, black men or white women’’. People who do not fit the category of white men or black women and still try to sign up for the community ‘’will be threaded [treated] as an intruder for not respecting the main purpose of this group and shall therefore be banned’’ and thus treated as outsiders. Also noteworthy is the name of this community. By using the word ‘underground’, it suggests that the community exists outside the mainstream society of culture, and could be perceived as a counter-culture with its own rules.
All people engaging in interracial communities seem to have a certain ‘love for the other’. ‘Otherness’ is in fact embodied in stereotypes: ”stereotypical images of the cultural other have become enmeshed with intimate personal desire – which we often regard as deeply individual” (Piller, 2011, p. 112). If I would have signed up on one of these websites because I have a desire for the culture and race of ‘the other’ and would have met my boyfriend on there, I would have been disappointed: our culture, way of life, etc. is not far apart from each other. Someone should not be placed into a box based on his or her skin colour: stereotypes often do not match reality. Futhermore, the love for certain stereotypes is not merely an individual threat. Instead, it is part of a wider discourse.
Memes are captioned images that are intended to be funny, often to ridicule human behaviour or make certain statements. They have become increasingly popular on the internet, especially among young people on social media. To give an idea of how popular memes have become: according to Google Trends, a system that tracks down how many people search for certain terms, the term ‘memes’ have surpassed the term ‘Jesus’ on Google Search in 2016.
Everyday, when I look on my social media accounts – whether that is Facebook or Instagram – I see several memes. They do not only appear on my Facebook or Instagram feeds, but also in my messages, as all my friends send it to me personally or in group chats: it has become a way of communicating with each other and making each other laugh. With regard to romantic relationships, there are way more memes about interracial couples than there are about white couples to be found in Google search. Besides, most of these memes are about black and white people in a relationship.
As argued before, the West and white people are the norm on the internet, which make white couples ‘normal’ couples. Then, it is not a shock interracial couples are more often made fun of in the form of memes, as ‘’the world of the joke involves the abnormal’’ (Oring, 1992, p. 81). Many jokes are negative regarding interracial couples, by for example implying that parents will not be proud if you are in a relationship with someone outside your race or suggesting that race-mixing is something that you should not get involved in.
Also, many of these negative jokes are based on black stereotypes, such as the idea that black people love chicken and melons, black men leave their partners after they got a child, and even the racist thought that black people are closer to apes.
Controversially, memes are also made for expressing support towards interracial relationships in a funny matter.
There seems to be a contradiction in memes concerning interracial couples. There are different niches (and political positions) among people in society: one the one hand, people give meaning to interracial dating in a negative way and make racist jokes about it, and one the other hand, people give meaning to it in a positive sense and show support towards these couples.
One of the key principles of doing digital ethnography is ‘non-digital-centric-ness’, which implies that the digital is de-centred in digital ethnography (Pink et al, 2016, p. 9). Pink et al. (2016, p. 9) state that always putting media at the centre of studying media ‘’would be problematic because it would pay too little attention to the ways in which media are part of wider sets of environments and relations’’. Thus, they argue, ‘’in order to understand how digital media are part of people’s everyday worlds, we also need to understand other aspects of their worlds and lives’’ (Pink et al., 2016, p. 10). This means the explanations for the way online interracial dating communities function are to be found in the offline world.
The ‘abnormality’ around interracial couples reflected on the internet and social media finds its origins in racist thinking, or racist discourse, of European powers – such as Great Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands, and Belgium – which sought worldwide European domination starting in the seventeenth century. Their urge for expansion included creating colonial markets which boosted Europe’s economic and social development. At the core of this expansion was the Atlantic slave trade – the forced migration of Africans across the Atlantic for slave labour on plantations and in other industries – and racist discourse:
‘’Racist discourse is a form of discriminatory social practice that manifest itself in text, talk and communication. Together with other (nonverbal) discriminatory practices, racist discourse contributes to the reproduction of racism as a form of ethnic or ‘’racial’’ domination. It does so by typically expressing, confirming or legitmating racist opinions, attitudes and ideologies of the dominant ethnic group’’ (Van Dijk, 2004, p. 351).
For example, the discourse of stereotyping black people as children and animals protected Western powers from charges of exploitation.
Hondius (2014) argued that through racist discourse, ‘’the concept of race…has enabled the construction of racial hierarchies that justified racist regimes far beyond European borders’’. For example, the discourse of stereotyping black people as children and animals protected Western powers from charges of exploitation: ‘’caring for the infant, domesticizing or taming the animal, are both positive’’ (Hondius, 2014). Orientalist discourse has played an important role in stereotyping ‘the other’ by Western powers. Orientalism, a term marked by Edward Said (1978, p. 1), refers to ”a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient’s special place in European Western experience”. Furthermore, he describes the Orient as ”not only adjacent to Europe; it is also the place of Europe’s richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and language, its cultural contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other”. In general terms, orientalism is a racist discourse based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between ‘the Orient’ and ‘the Occident’; the basic distinction between East and West. Historically, orientalism refers to a Western style of dominating, restructuring and having authority over the Orient. Said (1978, p. 73) argues ”the Orient for Europe was until the nineteenth century a domain with a continuous history of unchallenged Western dominance”. The Orient is thus a European invention: on the one hand, ”a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences” (Said, 1978, p. 1), and, on the other hand, ”there is the motif of the Orient as insinuating danger” (Said, 1978, p. 57). Online interracial dating communities do not present other races as dangerous, but do exotify ‘the other’, which shows that they do not go beyond racist discourses.
Mostly ‘the other’ has been treated as a dangerous individual. For instance, in 1664, Maryland passed the first British colonial law banning marriage between white people and slaves; a law which did not make any distinction between free black people and slaves. In 1691, Virginia firstly followed the British example in banning interracial marriage followed by many other American states. In 1883, with the Pace v. Alabama, the US Supreme Courts announced that ‘’[I]f any white person and any negro, or the descendant of any negro to the third generation, inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation was a white person, intermarry or live in adultery or fornication with each other, each of them must, on conviction, be imprisoned in the penitentiary or sentenced to hard labor for the county for not less than two nor more than seven years’’ (as cited in Head, 2017).
The end of the colonial empires meant a change in Europe’s attitude towards non-white immigration, which provoked interaction and segregation. After World War II, the presence of black people in Europe created mixed feelings amongst white citizens: there were strong feelings of supremacy and racism on the one hand, and an ideal and wish to leave traditional ideas of racial differences behind on the other. These contradictions gradually developed into a ‘’general antiracist norm’’, in which the concept of ‘’‘’human races’’ could by now be considered as a thing of the past, considering the generally accepted insight that human races do not exist’’ but are socially constructed (Hondius, 2014). Constructionism is on the one hand ‘’a belief in absolute agency’’ and, on the other hand, ‘’a belief in the importance of society in constructing everybody’s personal identity on the other’’ (McKee, 2005, p. 53). The importance of society in constructing someone’s identity is about the influence of external factors which influence who we are. In post-war context, people generally started believing race is created by society and does not contain certain characteristics which belong to an ‘authentic core’ of a certain race. New attitudes towards race meant overturning the Pace v. Alabama by the US Supreme Court by introducing Loving v. Virginia, which made interracial marriage legal in all the American states. Interracial marriages have increased a lot since then: in 2013, a record-high 12% of newlyweds married someone outside their own race in the US (Wang, 2015). Still, white and black people are less likely to marry people of another race: only 7% of white and 19% of black newlyweds in 2013 married someone outside of their race.
Though the idea of race as socially constructed became more important in scholarly debates, it has not accomplished much according to African-American historian Berlin (1998, p. 1): ‘’Few people believe it; fewer act on it. The new understanding of race has changed behaviour little if at all’’. Though I do not agree on that it has not changed anything, based on the new positive attitudes and increase in interracial marriages. But, essentialism, the belief that ”women and men, Black people and white people, straight people and Queer people, each have a particular ‘essential’ culture that belongs to them’’ (McKee, 2005, p. 53), is still alive in today’s society in the form of stereotypes and prejudges. As showed in the previous section, stereotypes and prejudges are used in judging interracial relationships between a white and black person online, often in the form of memes. The meme which presents a white girl with a monkey, shows that what Hondius (2014) calls the ‘bestialization’ – the ‘’inclination of Europeans to regard and to treat Africans and Asians as animals’’ – is still apparent nowadays.
Also the stereotype that black people love chicken has its origin in colonialism and its racist discourse, as chickens had been important in diets of slaves in the Southern states (Demby, 2013). The same counts for melons: free black people in the US grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and by doing this, they made the melon a symbol of their freedom. Southern white people, who rejected their freedom, made the fruit a symbol of the black people’s dirtiness, laziness, childishness, and unwanted presence (Black, 2014). These remnants of biological racism are described as ‘embodied racism’ by Weaver (2011, p. 67), which is the ‘’racism with an order-building and hierarchical propensity, and an invention of modernity alongside of the development of race itself’’. These memes seem to be innocent, but are in fact embodied in racist ideas developed centuries ago in order to justify Western dominance, disguised and justified in the thought that ‘it is just a joke’.
I have experienced such ‘jokes’ as well, especially sex jokes: people saying that ‘’it must hurt’’, ‘’it probably does not fit’’, etc. Or people joking that joking that I am getting ‘’the taste for it now’’, as I went from a Moroccan boyfriend to a black boyfriend (he said this in a negative way: he meant going from bad to worse), and asking ‘’what will it be next?’’ There have also been people stating ‘’he must be a fast runner’’ and even ‘’he must like chicken’’. Normally we do not feel very offended by such comments: ”usually these things do not bother me as it is usually committed by unintelligent people,” my boyfriend argues. Though it shows implicit racism is still with us today, leading to unconcious biases when making comments or jokes about other races. This would mean that racist comments and jokes are not just made by unintelligent people, but by all sorts of people who are unconsciously influenced by racist discourses.
Western norms and values and white people are dominant in the online world. Consequently, white couples are the ‘norm’ and therefore are perceived as ‘normal’ couples, which makes interracial couples that involve a black and a white person ‘deviant’ or ‘abnormal’. Still, online communities that deviate from the norm are out there and are for all of us to see and participate in. It could be argued that online interracial dating communities have made interracial relationships in general more ‘normal’ as they can be established more easily and are visible for everyone and in that way people get more used to it. Controversially, they are still ‘abnormal’, as they do not fit in the ‘norm’ and their online existence could mean there is a lack of interracial relationships in the offline world. Online interracial dating communities themselves function through the idea that there really is a lack of interracial relationships in the offline world – due to the lack of time and/or lack of racial and/or cultural diversity in that world – and therefore exist to reverse this lack through digital communication. At the base of the online dominance of the West and the ‘abnormality’ of interracial relationships is the establishment of Western dominance and racist discourse which has its origin in the colonial era. Orientalism has been a powerful discourse in stereotyping ‘the other’ – by exotifying it or describing it as something dangerous – which assured the power of the West. Even though many people had the wish to leave racism behind and constructionist thinking had been established after World War II, there was still a feeling of white supremacy and racism. Though the situation for people with a dark skin colour and interracial relationships have been improved in the last century, this contradiction in attitudes is still with us today. One the one hand, an anti-racist norm is established in policies (for example racist laws have been left behind) and the percentage of interracial marriage have gone up. On the other hand, white people and Western norms are still dominant in today’s world and remnants of racist thinking and the feeling of supremacy are often disguised in the form of essentialist stereotyped ‘jokes’. For example, memes make use of the ‘abnormality’ around interracial relationships by making jokes about it, which shows implicit racism is a mechanism in the 21st century. Though, not all memes concerning interracial couples are the same: some are negative and others are positive towards interracial couples. This reflects the contradiction in attitudes towards race after World War II.
For online interracial dating communities, there seems to be a contrast between the wish to be ‘normal’ and the wish to be ‘authentic’. They argue to be ‘colour blind’ and go beyond the concept of race, which would make their relationship just another relationship. Paradoxically, partly driven by consumerism, they try to be different from ‘normal’ dating communities in mainstream society by actually emphasizing racial differences between people. The fact these communities are using the word ‘interracial’ shows they are influenced by and making use of remnants of racist discourse they argue to avoid. Also, while the love for ‘the other’ in interracial dating communities seems to be positive and is often regarded as proof that racism is disappearing, it is actually part of a wider orientalist discourse: they are exotifying ‘the other’. Online dating communities function through the influence of the dominant thinking of society in the sense that they imply their way of dating is ‘different’ by emphasizing racial differences themselves, though they choose to pick the ‘positive’ (misleading) orientalist way of thinking.
It can be suggested that the internet and online media are especially a reflection of the offline society. The white Western dominance versus the existence of and ability to engage in interracial dating communities, the essentialist thinking versus constructionist thinking, positive attitudes versus negative attitudes, normalization of interracial relationships versus authenticity or differentness of interracial relationships, etc. are contradictions in society that are reflected on the internet and in online media. The only difference the internet and online interracial dating communities have brought is that you can more easily engage in interracial dating – namely from behind your desk at home – which could increase the amount of interracial relationships in the offline world. But it was not the internet that introduced the ‘general antiracist norm’ after World War II. It was not the internet that gave impulse in legalizing interracial marriage in all American states in 1967. So, it is not just the internet and online media that shape the ‘abnormality’ and various attitudes towards interracial relationships, rather, society is plays the greatest role: the internet is just a mirror. This results in that the idea of interracial dating communities are more shaped by the ideas of dominant society than they are shaped by themselves. They function through the ‘normalization’ process of interracial relationships since the post-WWII period in Europe and since 1967 in the USA, and the idea of being ‘different’ shaped by racist discourse. Explicit racism is not the only kind of racism, implicit racism should be recognized as well. In fact, racism should be recognized as an ideology; it is more a collective, structural and universal mechanism or discourse than an individual characteristic. This means that not everybody necessarily shares it, but it is capable of reaching every group in society, so also online interracial communities that argue to avoid racist thinking. If racist discourse was to disappear, the interracial dating communities and interracial relationships would disappear with them and just become dating communities and relationships. Indeed, without the legacies of racial discourse I would have never examined how interracial dating communities function in the 21st century.
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