Social and news media alike were both abuzz when word got out that a “racist” billboard was erected in multiple states across the country. The advertisement inflamed the emotions of many, causing an internet firestorm. But, there are those who say the sign isn’t bigoted at all.
When Sam Russell erected a billboard for a dating website along SR 201 in West Valley City, Utah, as well as one in Winslow, Arizona, his advertisement quickly garnered a ton of attention as the surrounding communities became upset by the “outdated thinking” promoted by the sign.
Advertising the now-defunct dating website WhereWhitePeopleMeet.com, the billboard was quickly deemed racist as the company was told to take it down. However, there are those, including Sam Russell and his wife, who claim the message and the services offered weren’t racist at all. In fact, the sign might have been something else entirely.
Although the website’s “About Us” section said anyone could sign up as long as the user was over the age of 18, regardless of race, that didn’t stop the quick condemnation of the company behind the giant ad. “I just don’t think it’s the way to teach our kids to love all when you see billboards like that,” Utah resident Kim Gilbert said, according to Fox 13.
Kayla Lemmon was also opposed to the idea of dating sites aimed at a single race. “I have a lot of friends who are biracial couples and they’re in love and they’re happy,” she said. “I don’t think we should have a dating site with only one race. I think it excludes someone who could be your soul mate and is a different color than you.”
Michelle Dessau agreed, saying she thinks the billboard represented exclusionary views. “I just feel we should be past that whole mindset of staying within our own race and segregation pretty much,” she explained. There’s just one problem with these complaints, though. Dating websites for specific races, other than white, have been around for years with no one seeming to take issue.
Dig around on the world wide web for only a few seconds and you’ll discover Latino People Meet, Black Cupid, Asian Dating, Single Muslim, Native American Passions, and even Black People Meet. While the website for “Where White People Meet” has since been taken offline, following the intense criticism of their billboard, all of these other sites have continued to exist, seemingly without allegations of “racism” or “discrimination.” Indeed, it seems only “Where White People Meet” was mocked relentlessly.
What’s more, even “generic” dating websites allow users to filter dating options according to religion, height, weight, body type, and, yes, race, ABC News reported. In fact, it seems anything goes as far as detailed desires in a mate — as long as you aren’t white and looking for a white companion.
That’s racist, but Latinos, Blacks, Asians, and Native Americans wanting to date within their own race isn’t. Those sites are allowed to exist and advertise, but “Where White People Meet” was not. Instead, community pressure and demands led to the billboard being taken down, and eventually, the entire website was too.
Even Ashley Madison, the affair website, hasn’t gotten this much hate, and it was set up as a way for married people to cheat on their spouses. The website only came under fire when it was hacked, leading to the publication of users’ personal information. Otherwise, no one has taken issue with the site, tailored to certain desires many would consider immoral.
But, perhaps the firestorm that was created is exactly what “Where White People Meet” founder Sam Russell, a 53-year-old used-car mogul, wanted. Although anyone could join his site, the choice of the exclusionary title may have been an extremely calculated attempt to rile our collective outrage, according to Vox, and it worked. In other words, it was a marketing angle, which Russell even admitted.
Sam Russell came up with his idea after he found himself marveling at the number of Black People Meet ads aired on daytime TV, and he saw a business opportunity, hoping to get his piece of the pie in the over $1 billion industry. “It’s about equal opportunity,” Russell told the Washington Post. “The last thing in the world I am is racist. I dated a black woman … I helped raise a young black man,” he added. “I just believe it’s hypocrisy to say ‘one group can do this, but another can’t.'”
Although his website was brought to an end, what Sam Russell began may be more important. Whether or not you agree with his methods, he effectively started a conversation on racial discrimination and whether it goes both ways since most people, regardless of their race, do have a racial preference when it comes to dating.
Is such a preference due to prejudice or bigotry or does it involve simple biological features that people are innately attracted to? There’s also the issue of culture, which is typically related to race. So, it stands to reason that those within your own race are probably more likely to have similar interests, hobbies, expectations and goals, and even values.
Racism is an intolerance of other races. Do you need to be intimately involved with another race to prove your tolerance of them? Let’s look at this another way. Another biologically assigned identifier is sex. Most people have a distinct preference for a male or female mate. Does this make them sexist?
Just because a person prefers to date a specific race doesn’t make them racist any more than liking a slender and svelte figure as opposed to a voluptuous or obese one makes you a “fatist.” People come in all shapes, sizes, and, yes, colors — and everyone has their own preferences for a mate.
The view that whites must be color blind when choosing a partner and deny any personal tastes they may have while others can openly prefer their own race seems hypocritical. If we want to increase tolerance in this country, perhaps it’s time to revisit the definition of the word. It does not mean to “love” something. It means you accept “the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.” So, who was really being intolerant when it comes to this billboard? You decide.