These Viral Photos Make An Incredible Statement About Race

by Erika W. Smith

Three photos showing white women and women of color in recognizable situations – but with their places swapped – are going viral on social media for all the right reasons. The photos – which show white women giving Asian women pedicures at a salon; a white girl gazing at a shelf full of black dolls; and a white woman in a maid’s outfit pouring a cup of tea for a Latina woman chatting on the phone – are from O, The Oprah Magazine’s May 2017 issue.

Photographer Chris Buck shot the photographs for a feature called “Let’s Talk About Race.” The feature was curated by O editor-in-chief Lucy Kaylin, who told Mic the main concept came out of a meeting with Oprah.


“It was a topic on all of our minds and [Winfrey] was eager for us to tackle it,” Kaylin told Mic. “The main thing we wanted to do was deal with the elephant in the room—that race is a thorny issue in our culture, and tensions are on the rise. So let’s do our part to get an honest, compassionate conversation going, in which people feel heard and we all learn something—especially how we can all do better and move forward.”

A Filipina-Chinese American named Judy Gerlade shared the images on Twitter earlier this week and they quickly went viral, currently clocking in at 122,000 retweets and counting. The images have also been written about in widely-shared posts by Mic and Afropunk.


An article about why we need to talk about race from the same issue also brings up powerful points, reading:

You’re a white woman standing with a black colleague, about to hail a cab. She half laughs and says, “You do it—that way, they’ll stop.” You grope for the right thing to say. You have no idea what that might be. 

Your son’s preschool teacher calls you Bianca by mistake. She’s confused you with the other Latina mom in the class. “I’m going to have to give you two name tags!” she says. 

Someone asks you whether all Chinese people are good at math. You don’t know. You are Korean. Your smiling white neighbor says, “I don’t see color! Doesn’t matter to me whether you’re blue, purple, or green!” Since such people don’t exist, you’re not quite sure what point she’s making. 


This post was originally published May 18, 2017


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