“With what’s been going on with black folks in the country right now,” said the app’s 26-year-old CEO Brian Gerrard, referring to what he sees as black Americans being portrayed poorly in the media, his cohort needs a safe space to find dates. I work a room, not a screen, and tbh I don’t photograph particularly well. But for the purposes of this piece, I downloaded Bae and Meld, and also Tinder—as, like, a control. Gerrard, the CEO, said part of its inspiration was the lamenting of an attractive young professional friend.
Bae isn’t the only dating app for black singles, but with over 100,000 downloads since April, according to Gerrard, it may be the biggest. “He’d gotten like five matches on Tinder,” Gerrard said.
(She throws the best parties in New York.) “As if other people aren’t racist enough,” she said.
Their affect, segregation, is felt in everyday life: in schools, jobs, and neighborhoods.
“I want the dating apps I look at to be tailored not only for options but as a safe space,” says Judnick Maynard, 29, a freelance writer and nightlife queen.
Ok Cupid’s user base is a representative sample of the general internet-using population, according to the company, so its numbers urges us to think about how ingrained our romantic and sexual preferences are, and in what kind of spaces we feel most comfortable exposing ourselves.Racial preference and discrimination aren’t unique in America.A competitor, Meld, intended for more serious-minded black professionals, doesn’t disclose its user base, but says it has matched 3,000 couples since its debut last year and recently produced its first engaged couple. “It didn’t make any sense.” Gerrard’s friend isn’t alone.There’s also Soul Swipe and The League, two more black dating apps, for those of you interested in variety. According to an experiment by Anne Helen Petersen at Buzzfeed last year, the “more” black a user registers as, the less likely he or she will get a right swipe.
But despite these new options—and years of data that shows racial prejudice is alive and well on mainstream dating networks—none has gained enough traction to threaten robbing Tinder of users. There are apps for Jews and Christians, for older folks and divorced folks, for people who believe in ghosts and people who make 0,000 a year. Signifiers of education and wealth help, Petersen found, but users of color still appear to be at a disadvantage.
Another major mainstream network, Ok Cupid, has found clear evidence of racial prejudice.