When it comes to interracial dating and intercultural romances, skin color tends to get noticed, although attitudes about interracial dating have become more accepting with each generation, with a 90 percent approval from millennials. Now, a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships suggests our romantic attractions toward people of other races is influenced by our ideological beliefs, like “color-blindness” and multiculturalism.

People who support a “color-blind” ideology believe the best way to fight race discrimination is to ignore the concept of race altogether. In other words, the ideology affirms the belief “race should not and does not matter,” according to PsyPost. Meanwhile, those who support multiculturalism believe society should accept a multitude of ethnic and cultural groups and celebrate their differences. 

With these ideologies in mind, James E. Brooks of Tennessee State University and Helen A. Neville of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, sought to observe how these concepts influenced interracial romantic attraction among a cohort of 124 heterosexual black and white college men. The participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of women featured in eight fake online dating profiles. Three of the profiles featured black women, three featured white women, one featured an Asian woman, and one featured a Latina woman. The researchers only focused on the participants' ratings of the black and white women.

The findings revealed the participants reported greater attraction toward women of their same race. White men were more likely to give higher ratings to white women, and black men were more likely to give higher ratings toward the black women. However, the participants’ ideology greatly influenced their responses. The more a white male believed in a “color-blind” ideology, the less likely he expressed interest in dating one of the black women.

“Thus, although white men endorsed statements which suggest that race does not matter in society, it appeared that race did matter in their personal lives as indicated by their romantic attraction,” wrote the researchers.

Unlike the white participants, no correlation was found between black participants who believed in “color-blindness” and their attraction to white women. Black participants who supported this ideology were less attracted to women of their own race.

Multiculturalism had a different effect on interracial romantic attraction. In other words, the more a participant believed in multiculturalism, the more likely they were to be attracted to women of another race. This held true for both black and white participants.

In a similar 2009 study, researchers examined the viewpoints and experiences of college students in reference to interracial dating. A total of 35 black students and 35 white students in a predominantly white university participated in face-to-face interviews. The findings revealed black men and white women expressed more positive attitudes toward interracial dating, compared with black women and white men. Some white females downplayed the social significance of interracial relationships, and even admitted they were unaware it was an issue of concern to students, especially black females. The researchers suggest these attitudes could be influenced by the concept of white privilege.

According to the book Sociology: The Essentials, white privileged is defined as: "... the ability for Whites to maintain an elevated status in society that masks racial inequality." In a dating context, the white females believed, based on their experience, racial biases didn’t exist, or they lived in a “post-racial” society.

The belief that we live in a post-racial society, especially when it comes to dating, is idealistic, but inaccurate. In a 2009 OKCupid “Race Report”, the site observed how race factored into attraction. It turns out most races preferred to date within their own race. Asian men and black men received fewer messages than white men, while black women received the fewest messages of all its users. In comparison to a 2014 Race Report, OkCupid users were not more open-minded than they used to be. In fact, racial bias seemed to increase.

So, although attitudes about interracial dating suggest we are more accepting as a society, the truth is even those who believe in “color-blindness” ideologies contribute to the racial bias that still exists.

Sources: Brooks JE and Neville HA. Interracial attraction among college men: The influence of ideologies, familiarity, and similarity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 2016.

Schoepflin T. Perspectives of Interracial Dating at a Predominantly White University. Sociological Spectrum: Mid-South Sociological Association. 2009.