At one of the numerous happy hours my company has hosted for its employees this year, my teammates and I stood by a fence, surveying the array of pale, hirsute faces. The scene prompted one of my coworkers (who is also white and bearded) to point out that our office is a real life game of Guess Who. Remember that game? Twenty-four faces on the game board, most of them white men? Your first question was always “Is your person a man?” and your next was “Is the person white?” If your secret person was one of the only four women, the only black person, or one of the other three people of indeterminate ethnicity, you were setting yourself up to lose. You always had to choose a white man.
Which also seems to be the only choice in Boulder. In hiring, in dating, in anything. Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m always in favor of hiring the best person for the job, regardless of the external factors that enabled that person to become the best. It’s just business and if I had a business, my primary focus would be its success, not righting historical wrongs. Factors such as gender and skin color are largely irrelevant (with some specific exceptions) to how someone can perform a job.
But in dating, I’ve reached the point where all guys on Bumble look alike. They are all white dudes with beards and one photo of themselves skiing, one holding a relative’s baby, one lounging and drinking a craft beer, one on top of some mountain, and one holding a dead fish. All of them. And it doesn’t help that they don’t use the text portion of their profiles to differentiate themselves either. Half of them won’t even write out their interests. They write “all the typical Colorado things” because everyone knows that means the activities I just listed. They have no distinguishing characteristics and I can’t see myself using up any of my precious time to meet them in person.
So I find myself giving the non-white profiles (of which there are very, very few) an extra look and messaging people I probably wouldn’t message if they were white because I don’t think we actually have anything in common. And then I quickly realize from the conversation that we truly don’t have anything in common, so I unmatch them. Perhaps this is vaguely racist somehow. Perhaps not.
I have seriously dated two non-white guys in my life, “seriously” meaning we took weekend trips together and the Saturday night date was automatically implied. In both cases, the guy had wildly distinct life experiences from mine. They grew up in different neighborhoods (different cultures, really) and saw the world in a way I did not. This helped make the relationship interesting. We learned from each other and got more pleasure out of finding our commonalities.
However, I also distinctly recall a day several years ago when I was out in downtown Denver with two white female acquaintances. Anyone looking at us would have thought we were three basic, middle-class white women, one indistinguishable from the next. Yet one of us came from a Jewish household and her religion was still important to her, one of us was deaf, and one of us was me. Our backgrounds were nothing alike at all, our current interests had few points of intersection, and our future plans and desires were also nothing alike. We were not remotely interchangeable. So, maybe I should give this or that bearded white guy who likes to ski a chance. But first they have to write something that gives me incentive to reach out.