Dress Nice and Look White – Science Says So

Every so often another race-based study comes out that makes me wonder if scientists are just thinking of ways to fuck with people on an emotional level. On the other hand, it does solidify why I’m working so hard to be an Oreo.

This is another one of those studies. It’s findings: If you’re dressed nice, you’re probably white.

Researchers had people look at a bunch of pictures of folks who were dressed in either a nice business suit or in janitor’s clothes and guess the person’s race. Though people eventually guessed race correctly most of the time, if the person was in the suit, they were more likely to try and click “white” first.

Based on these photos, I'm more likely to pick "Dead-eyed Soulless Pedo." But no one asked me to be in this study.

What I’d like to know is whose idea this study was and how exactly they decided to do this. I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Researcher: So, I want to do a study where we show people pictures of nicely dressed people and badly dressed people and have people if they’re black or white.

Panel: Are you racist?

Researcher: What? No! Why would you say that?

Panel: Well, a person’s clothes are just clothes, right? Do you have a hard time judging a person’s race if they’re wearing Chanel?

Researcher: Of course not! I just think that…umm… maybe other people do.

Panel: Yes, but why do you think that? How did this come into your brain? Why spend millions on this piece of stereotyping? Johnson over here, he’s working on cancer. And Cortez is busy exploring chronic poverty. And you think a black man can’t wear a suit and still look black.

Researcher: Listen sirs.

Researcher stands up. Paces in front of the panel.

Researcher: I may or may not have all the answers. And I may have some crazy questions. But let’s be honest. Is there one among us who hasn’t at some point asked some crazy fucking questions! If so, I invite him to throw the first stone!

Researcher stands on the table. 

Researcher: Sure, it’s scary to look inside ourselves and probe what’s really in there. No one like colonoscopies emotional or otherwise.  Sure, there will be some long, dark nights collating data where we wonder who we really are. But it is in those trenches, sirs, that men become men. That women become women. And that God appears to all of us.

Assistant: Oh captain, my captain!

Panel: We’re science. We don’t really do God.

Researcher: Dammit.

Panel: And as for the rest of it. Well, here’s what we have to say about that!


A slow clap commences as Researcher takes his seat.

Researcher: Thank you, gentlemen. As a black woman, I appreciate this opportunity.

Panel: You’re black?!?!?! Ohhhh, it was the Burberry and the Louboutins. We had no idea. Nicely done!

There are three black dudes, two and a half Asians and one Native American in there. You just can't tell cuz they look so swank


  1. Hell, I’m so white I own 3 jeans, two slacks, have a dozen button downs, 6 t-shirts, assorted boxers, one pair good shoes, one pair sneaks and 1 pair cowboy boots. And a few leather jackets. Tha’t right, liiine up, ladies! LOL

  2. I’m filing this under “Another so-called scientific study we didn’t need, but somebody got a grant and HAD to spend the money somehow before it was taken away.”

    That, or “Are you really that freakin’ naive?”

    Seriously. People make snap assumptions about race, class, etc based on appearances? (White) people tend to assume “black folks” and “poor” are the same thing? I had no idea. *tongue firmly in cheek* I’ve put “white” in parenthesis in the sentence above because I have no idea as to the race/ethnicity of the study participants. (I did follow your links all the way to the original study, hoping to see some graphs or pie charts, but gave up.)

    I’m actually not kidding about the “somebody got a grant” part. That’s probably exactly what happened – they needed to come up with a way to spend money they’d been given before it was taken away or spent on something else.

    1. Just to build on what you said, I think we’re going to keep hearing a lot more about studies that we don’t need. From what I’ve read on the topic, apparently corporations have taken over the research departments in universities, and they’re the ones funding these kinds of research. Universities are just not in the business of building knowledge anymore. If they want the grants this is the kind of trivial research they have to do.

      1. Glorious, fabulous, magnificent CORPORATiSM! ALL HAIL THE CORPORATE STANDARD! Hold it high! Bear it proudly! Shittagoddamn it’s great to be alive!!

  3. Most white people that I meet, regardless of class, tend to think of clothes in terms of functionality. If they have a suit in their closet it’s because they need it. Where most blacks that I know think of clothes in terms of fashion. Since this is a post about a research study, I want to stress that my observation is purely subjective.

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