Swiping through anti-Blackness and colorism on Tinder
My Blackness isn’t going anywhere and I can’t change people's dislike for my complexion.
by Tynesha M. McCullers
Summer is officially in full swing. With temperatures on the rise and Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” in heavy rotation, the thought of having someone to kick it with permeates my mind on a daily basis.
As someone who’s been out of the dating scene for over a year now, I turned to online dating for assistance in finding a summer boo. When swiping through profiles and reading bios on Tinder, I quickly realized that finding someone was going to be difficult. Not because I didn’t find people attractive or because there were so many to choose from. Nope. It was what I kept seeing on people’s profiles and reading in their messages to me: anti-Blackness.
As a dark-skinned Black woman, I am struggling with overt and covert anti-Blackness in potential partners, because my Blackness isn’t going anywhere and I can’t change people’s dislike for my complexion.
The purpose of Tinder, I’ve found, is debatable depending on who you ask. Some have said that it’s a dating app while others argue that it’s only for hooking up. I downloaded Tinder knowing that I wasn’t really interested in getting into a serious committed relationship or a simple hookup. Companionship was my goal.
Tinder’s fast-paced set-up essentially requires you to be charming, witty, but most importantly, visually appealing in order to get matches. Outside of viewing pictures, users rely only on short bios to determine whether they should swipe left for not interested or swipe right for interested. These bios sometimes have blatant requests for people of certain racial or ethnic groups to swipe right. Naively, I initially thought that there would only be a few bios written in this way, but I was wrong.
I grew tired of seeing “I don’t discriminate but I got a thing for Asian girls”, “mixed girls apply”, “Latina girls hmu”, or “white girls automatically swipe right.” No one called for my Black ass to shoot my shot with them. I basically expect to see requests like this from non-Black people, but seeing it from other Black people more than anybody was a shock. My chances of matching with someone who looked like me, or who didn’t look like me for that matter, were limited based on my physical appearance.
Erica Campbell and her daughter, Krista Campbell, recently sat down and had a conversation about colorism. Krista discussed her limitations for dating because of her dark skin. Even at the age of 13, she was already well-aware of the fact that boys were only interested in light-skinned girls because they were deemed prettier. I connect and identify with Krista’s experience, and have found that these difficulties also extend to online dating. Constantly being reminded that my skin is too dark for companionship is not only frustrating, but also disheartening, especially when it comes from people who look like me.
Occasionally, I see some encouragement in user bios for Black women to swipe right, and I find myself questioning the motives of the non-Black users who do this. While there is a clear desire to be wanted, being fetishized is not what I want either.
Sometimes, these sentiments are not blatantly stated in user bios, but they are present nonetheless. I swipe right and give someone a chance only to encounter their desire to separate themselves from Blackness. I’ve been repeatedly praised for “not being ‘loud’ or ‘ghetto’ like the rest of [them].” I don’t know how that can be determined from my Tinder profile or my small talk, but okay.
The covert and overt rejection of me and people who look like me makes for negative experiences in online dating that feel almost impossible to shake. What’s even harder for me to witness is Black users on these platforms spewing anti-Blackness, because I know it ultimately means they don’t like themselves, and that’s unfortunate.
There are so many complexities around dating and desirability. I would like to meet someone with shared interests and experiences, and promising life goals. For me, turning to online dating was a choice I made to find companionship in my busy day-to-day life. I wasn’t expecting to see messages devaluing Black people and Blackness, but it happened.
Truth be told, I really don’t mind swiping left or unmatching with prospects as soon as I clock their anti-Blackness, because I know things will never work between us. Being single forever isn’t my plan, but I refuse to compromise my love for my Black self and Black people for friendships, hookups, companionship, or love. And whoever is down with that, can swipe right on me any day.
Tynesha is a strong-willed higher education professional in the DMV with a passion for social justice. Born and raised in North Carolina, Tynesha is true to southern roots. Tynesha has a B.S. in Human Development and a Master of Education. Tynesha’s interests include watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, singing, painting, traveling, and writing.