Why Race Isn’t So Black and White: The Smarter You Dress, the ‘Whiter’ It Makes You Appear, According to New Study

Ted Thornhill, Daily Mail (London), September 27, 2011

Clothing, it seems, can make us colour blind, because whether we perceive someone as ‘white’ or ‘black’ depends not just on skin tone–but also how smartly they are dressed, according to researchers.

Volunteers in a U.S. study tended to label someone as white if they were dressed in a suit–even if the face had dark skin–and labelled someone black if they were dressed in working overalls.

The scientists revealed that perception of race is shaped by prejudices that we already hold–and that racism runs deeper than we think.

In the study, conducted by a team of researchers from Tufts University, Stanford University and the University of California, participants, of various races, were shown a series of computerised faces, with different skin colours and clothing.

This was recorded by a hand-tracking technique that followed the trajectory of the mouse.

The study revealed how racism can be subconscious, because it comes from preconceived ideas.

This was reinforced by the fact that the more racially ambiguous the face was, the more the volunteers relied on the clothing to reach an answer.

The study’s lead author, Jonathan B Freeman, from Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences said: ‘The study shows how the perception of a face is always a compromise between the visual cues before our eyes and the baggage we bring to the table, like the stereotypes we hold.

‘Racial stereotypes are powerful enough to trickle down to affect even basic visual processing of other people, systematically skewing the way we view our social world.’

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  • Daniel

    So these researchers from Tufts University, Stanford University and the University of California, aren’t aware that Asians are capable of wearing suits like THEIR white man? Jeezus H! Dirty minds dirty academics.

  • Anonymous

    “Volunteers in a U.S. study tended to label someone as white if they were dressed in a suit—even if the face had dark skin—and labelled someone black if they were dressed in working overalls.”

    Blacks have not worn overalls for decades. This study has got to be bogus. They probably blacked out all the faces.

  • RegvlvsSeradly

    They are confusing “whiteness” with simple respectability.

    It is simply a truism that white people would be associated with the dress of our culture. If I were to dress as a Bedouin or a Mandarin, people might on first check assume I was a nomadic Arab or a Manchu noble, respectively.

    By the same token, if I donned on a du-rag, sagged some baggy jeans, and threw on a Bape hoodie, people might say I was “black” out of simple resentment.

  • Jeddermann.

    Generally speaking, based upon my observations and experience, black folks dress in more fashionable clothes, wear them in a more stylish manner, are more concerned with dress, etc. Just dress better than the whitey period and do so all the time.

    FUBU [for us by us] too is a clear and obvious intent to appeal to the fashion trends and style of the Bantu. They like threads and like to wear them. Hats and shoes from top to bottom.

  • Anonymous

    The delu-world of TV very much infuses this. The total varied

    representation of Blacks on TV has rather thin overlap with what is

    actually seen, say, in Wally World. Without the plethora of White

    Black people on TV, it would be breaking dawn in DreamLand.

  • sbuffalonative

    There’s an old White saying, “the clothes make the man”.

    If you dress like a stereotype, people will see you as a stereotype.

    “This was reinforced by the fact that the more racially ambiguous the face was, the more the volunteers relied on the clothing to reach an answer.”

    Clearly “White dress” is seen as a sign of seriousness, upper-level professionalism, and self-respect.

  • eduard

    The old saying “You can put a baboon in a suit, but he still remains a baboon” applies here. In mandela’s new third world south africa the blacks like to dress up and drive in their wabenzi’s, but have a look at their dwelling situation. They either live in small apartments, usually in numbers, or they buy a fancy house, sleep on the floor with a tv and no curtains.

  • Anonymous

    In Las Vegas, the pimps and VIP hosts of the black persuasion, well, they dress really nice, but it doesn’t stop them from sponging off white women until the inevitable break up which results in them beating up females.

  • Anonymous

    The old IQ matter–the “g” factor–again. IQ is pretty basic

    to knowing how to dress for THIS or THAT setting and how to

    “navigate” the social observations, judgments, affinities. Blacks that can, are less different from us than are Blacks who can’t (and who seem a bit too close to the forest )

  • Gary

    I will admit, I am quick to make judgement on how someone is dressed. I would probably be more inclined to be receptive to a Black person with the dress and demeanor of Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice as opposed to a White person who dressed and resembled Kid Rock, Roseanne Barr or Dog The Bounty Hunter.

    Appearances can mean a lot.

  • Frederick

    Some news.. Study shows that people view race as more than just skin color and so look for racial indentification in dress as well. Surprise, surprise.