.
Racial identity becomes a guessing game - literally
CNN's David Matthews scored six out of 10 on the Guess My Race app. "Really good," the creator said.
December 22nd, 2011
05:54 PM ET

Racial identity becomes a guessing game - literally

By David Matthews, CNN

(CNN) - Though I scoff when I hear the term “post-racial America,” there are occasional glimpses we’re advancing as a culture when thorny subjects such as race can be made into games.

No, not games like “Scrabble: The Spanglish Edition", “Trivial Police Pursuit: Driving While Black,” or “Sorry: White America’s Apology Boardgame.”

But how about a game for your smart phone that lets you guess the race of a real person whose photo appears on the screen before you? This app is “Guess My Race,” and it displays pictures of real-life people who were interviewed about how they racially identify. Its creators say it has been downloaded nearly 30,000 times and is used by teachers to get students involved in discussions about race. (They created  another app, "Who Am I? Race Awareness Game" for younger kids.)

And for those that are fans of the app already, here's some good news: A second edition will be out early next year. It will include new photo examples and expanded educational information culled from the 2010 Census.

“I created this app to shake up people’s understandings of race in this country,” said creator Michael Baran, the director of Cambridge Diversity Consulting and a former Harvard anthropologist. “And we decided on making the game an app because we wanted it to always be there with you, so you could learn a little at a time and so that you could share the experience with friends and family.”

Before I shared, of course, I had to give the app a good test run myself.

The verdict? I have to admit, it's all types of fun. Not only because the curious and nosy have always wanted to play this game in real life, but because you have freedom to make a possibly impolite, ignorant guess with no one to there to disparage you. The game is enjoyable and can serve a higher purpose by drawing people into discussions about race. Now if that’s not fun, I don’t know what is.

But “Guess My Race” does have some problems. It occasionally gives you the choice of countries of origin for a possible answer, rather than race. This, according to its inventor, is by design.

“Those are the answers people often give when you ask them ‘What race are you?’ There is no clear consensus on what ‘race’ even means. That is one of the fascinating findings of this research.”

Still, it makes the game a little frustrating. I’m sorry, but if the photo of a white person comes up, and I choose white, I’m gonna get a little miffed when the answer is "Polish."

But I think some of the choices are also designed to clue you into some of the ways people classify race: Muslim, middle class, even East Coast. (East Coast? At least Biggie would be proud.)

So how did I do when I played the game myself? I was proud of my six correct out of 10, which, according to Baran, is “really good.”

But as much fun as this game may be for yourself and sharing with your friends - Yesss! I beat my coworkers! – a little warning: This is still not a game to be tried in real life. To all my curious white people out there who might want to walk up to one of their racially ambiguous coworkers or neighbors and ask, “What are you?” please, save yourself the faux pas - just try the app instead. The people of post-racial America will thank you.

Posted by
Filed under: Black in America • Ethnicity • How we look • Race • Technology
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Guillermo

    MistyXoXo Posted on Thanks for the post, Clarice. My doctor first secpestud that I might have arthritis, but the hand x-rays came back normal and that's when he considered Lupus. I hope you get through the winter without too much pain!

    April 17, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. Senora Gringa

    My kids are half-Irish, half-Hispanic, all white. Also known as leprechanos.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lost

    Kittens ♥

    January 18, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Matisse3165

    Why can't we all be just HUMANS? Does race have to be a factor at all? We are all the same anyway.

    January 11, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Willl

      Why do people keep insisting having a segregated nation? You're black, latino, asian, native america? So what? good for you. I. Don't. care. You. Are. Not. Special.

      January 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Christopher Clark

    Race was never about genetics. It was a concept meant to easily justify the exploitation of foreign peoples.(The people that look different are inferior, so we take from them) The primary uses of that are gone and now it's impossible to hold on to those definitions since they were so imprecise you could be a iranian/ethopian/irish/chinese/cherokee and still get called black by everyone you meet.

    January 8, 2012 at 4:40 am | Report abuse |
  6. Steve, New York City

    In many instances, what a person's ancestry actually is, what that person considers himself/herself and what others perceive that person to be can be THREE DIFFERENT THINGS!!!

    Tiger Woods had a mixed African American dad and an Asian mom. Derk Jeter has a dad (not dissimilar to Tiger's) and a white mom. Yet many consider these guys to be "black" and nothing else. Really?

    People who are half White and half Asian have a FAR EASIER TIME assimilating in either/both sides – and society (sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly) associates such people with "beauty."

    Conversely, when an African-American person of mixed descent declares or discusses the non-African part of his/her ancestry, they are FAR more likely to be on the receiving end of hostile jokes (and sometimes this hostility comes from OTHER African-Americans). At the end of the day, STUPIDITY exists among all colors/races/shades/religons (w/o exception) – let's just hope that the above "double standards" continue to wane.

    December 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. KADAMS

    Some of these posts are really pathetic. Like JOSE's comment about "acting white". What exactly is "acting white"? Is that when someone is educated, speaks proper English, and dresses neatly? NEWSFLASH... in this world, there are many white people who are uneducated, don't know proper English, and have poor hygiene and appearance. So that is a completely invalid comment. The percentage of whites to blacks on welfare is almost neck in neck. Is a black doctor who has had many years of difficult training to be so "acting white" when he chooses that profession? You can tell that the people who make those types of comments are completely provincial, and VERY unworldly, not to mention overwhelmingy STUPID. There are igorant people of ALL races, and there are intelligent, well-spoken people of ALL races. Are there blacks who wish they could be white? Absolutely. But are there whites who wish they could be black? Absolutely. So again my question is what exactly is "acting white"? I would never post anything that I wouldn't say with other people actually around. I wonder how many of these people with the racist posts would proudly do the same. Morons.

    December 26, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve, New York City

      KADAMS – well said!

      December 27, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Marie

    White Tiger :
    White Tiger has been created by coupling a male Albino Tiger and a female Albino Tiger.IIt is a fact;Now we have a lot of babies and adult Albinos Tigers called White tigers.A new race is born since a few years only.
    If Africe is the birth place of humanity it means that we are all brothers ,and maybe the White race has been created also like....

    December 26, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Marie

      White tigers

      December 27, 2011 at 4:20 am | Report abuse |
      • Szasz

        For sometime I have had conecrns over the subject of international law and child abduction within both the Hague Countries and out of them. Is there every going to be a way to make this a much happier situation as the problem increases with relationships becoming more international? Kind regards, Helen Dudden.

        October 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JOSE0311USMC

    MY POINT ?? THERE ARE MANY BLACKS WHO WISH THAT THEY COULD BE WHITE. MICHEL JACKSON IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE.

    December 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Angel

    100 years from now we will all be one race. So chill on the topic.

    December 25, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Well, which is it?...

      December 27, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
      • Greg

        Dude, 100 years passed in like a second according to this guy/girl named Angel!!! Look at his/her post immediately below promising 200 years!!! At this rate...OMG...it's already happened! hahaha

        January 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Angel

    200 years from now there will be no races. We will all blend together. So chill on the topic.

    December 25, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  12. MKULTRA CHIPMAN

    NEW – NOT LIABILITIES OR DISCRIMINATION, BUT INSTEAD ASSASSINATIONS !!!

    LEARN TRUTH ABOUT EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, UNITED NATIONS, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AS WELL AS NEW WORLD ORDER(MULTICULTURALISM = TERRORISM) GOVERNMENTS !!! NOT THERE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, BUT TO DENY YOUR RIGHT TO EXISTENCE !!! http://myshortbiography.blogspot.com

    ABDUCTIONS / RENDITIONS / BRAIN CHIP IMPLANTS / BLACKLISTING / BLACKBALLING / FORCEFUL UNEMPLOYMENT / MK-ULTRA BRAINWASHING against civilian population TODAY ACROSS THE EUROPE AND NORTHERN AMERICA / ASSASSINATIONS and much more per WHO, WHY, AND HOW !!! http://myshortbiography.blogspot.com/

    WHY TO ACCEPT LIABILITIES FOR CRIMES COMMITTED WHEN WE CAN SIMPLY ASSASSINATE OUR VICTIMS(YOU) THANKS TO HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND FREE PRESS/MEDIA(most severe censorship ever !!!) !!

    This news is related to WHITES AREN’T WELCOME IN AMERICA ANY LONGER !!! OUT OF AMERICA WITH WHITES NOW !!!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xGfYOAydjw&w=640&h=360]

    December 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kelly

    The game sounds interesting, but could have done without the authors bias. His comment at the end "To all my curious white people out there" demonstrates his ignorance. I have never been asked by a White person what my race was, but have been asked several times by non-whites what ethic background or nationality I was. Mr. Mathews, ignorance knows no race...

    December 23, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. TheKraken

    This is interesting. People don't like when they can't tell the race, because they cannot judge. It's true everywhere. Ever wonder why people like Jessica Alba and The Rock get very weird, odd, unconvential roles? Their race is ambiguous so we can't stereotype. When you can't guess a race, you can't make judgements.

    December 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      JESSICA ALBA, HISPANIC PR...THE ROCK , BLACK. SOME BLACKS DO NOT WANT TO BE BLACK A FACT.. THEY WANT TO BE WHITE, WHY IS THAT ?? TAKE MICHEL JORDAN–THE ROCK-OBAMA–OJ SIMPSON THEY GIVE THE IMPRESSION THAT THEY WANT TO BE WHITE..THEY ACT LIKE WHITE PEOPLE. JORDAN, HAVE YOU SEEN HIM HANGING OUT WITH MANY BLACKS ?? OBAMA GIVES THE IMPRESSION THAT HE LIKES BEING AROUND WHITE PEOPLE MORE THAN BLACK PEOPLE.

      December 24, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
      • Blondie

        JOSE – were you dropped on your head as a baby? You make no sense. President Obama was raised in a "white" family (his mother/grandpafrents), therefore he would be at least half oriented to the white way of thinking, but he has also been married to a black woman for about 20 years. I think he has a worldly view of the world and its problems.

        December 24, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
      • aboveitall

        To JOSE0311USMC: You are speaking like a real idiot.

        December 27, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. twang

    Ni gger lover should be its own seperate race

    December 23, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • asda

      Wheres the like button when you need one?

      December 23, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
      • John

        along with your brain; in your ass.

        December 23, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blondie

      Twang: If you are so uncomfortable with the way thinogs are here, why don't you go back to your family's "old country" and see how you like it there.

      December 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
      • twang

        blondie,you have no idea whats going on ,so shut up

        December 24, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marie

      YOU ALBINO

      December 26, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
      • Karoline

        SarahsFabChannel Posted on I love your videos They make me happy even hutogh I'm not getting married anytime soon. Your brides should check out my channel for help losing the weight for the big day hutogh

        April 18, 2012 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Ab TX

      IDIOT !!!!!!!!!!!!

      December 27, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  16. MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE

    DOESNT TAKE A RACE GAME TO HAVE AN 1 ETHNIC SAVE A LIFE IN TRAMATIC SITUATION. 2 GIVE A HELPING HAND 3 SAVE A DROWNDING VICTIM 4 RESCUE A PERSON FROM A FIRE 5 SAVE A INJURED PET 6 OPEN A DOOR! ARE WE GETTING THE PICTURE PEOPLE WE ARE HERE TO GET ALONG! ENJOY THE JOURNEY.

    December 23, 2011 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
  17. ten

    How about guessing if someone is stupid or not. Much more fun.

    December 22, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      THE FIRST THING THAT COMES TO MY MIND WHEN THE STUPID WORD COMES UP IS ? A BLOND. LIKE THE ONE THAT WALKED INTO THE PLANE PROPELLERS.

      December 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  18. ten

    We are Americans. The ethnicity of someone is interesting but if you don't believe your American then you are already behind..

    December 22, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  19. ilovefarts

    I better idea for a racial guessing game would be "Would I trust leaving my wallet/purse at my table while I go to the bathroom with this person sitting nearby", or a 1-10 scale of "How uncomfortable would I feel crossing paths on the street with this person at night."

    December 22, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • American

      ...yeah I guess others would be asking..."Should we trust little children with this person?", or "Does this person look like a serial killer?"...leading us down the path of stereotyping...yet again...and counteracting the intention of the genius inventors, who are smart enough to figure out a way to unravel the threads of bigotry that are still interwoven in our small minds.

      December 23, 2011 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Tunji

      cupcake8million Posted on congrats- your lvinig my dream since you won't see your family/ friends for a long tie you could go cheesy- wish you were here or on the trail again or Where in the world is (your name)? Best of luck!

      April 18, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |