View Full Version : Do Black People Think That White People 'Smell'?

03-19-2003, 10:09 AM
Is it true that many black people believe that most white people have a distinct odor? If so, what do they think we smell *like*??

I've heard that different races have different amounts of odor-producing apocrine glands, which might account for the perceived difference in smell. I suppose that diet could also play some role in this as well. Do people of other races also think that white people smell?


03-19-2003, 11:07 AM
Some white people think that while people "smell!"
I've been around all types of people, and the only ones that truly "smell" are people like bums who infrequently bathe.

03-19-2003, 11:09 AM
I would think that 'odor' is more related to what a person eats, as opposed to their race.

For example: I've heard meat-eaters in general have a distinct odor. I don't have a cite for this, it's just something I've heard in casual conversation.

03-19-2003, 11:12 AM
Dunno how common it is, but I've heard that they think we smell like a wet dog.

03-19-2003, 11:18 AM
I'm a lovely shade of brown and I couldn't, say, detect which person was white if I were blindfolded and asked to sniff two people, one of which was white.

I don't think white people have a distinct odor.

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
03-19-2003, 11:37 AM
Yes, indeed, they can. The proof:

In episode "Edith Writes a Song" from All in the Family, two burglars (Cleavon Little and Demond Wilson) break into the Bunker home. Little starts wrinkling his nose as he sniffs, saying "All white people's houses got that same funny smell."

More proof:

In an episode of Richard Pryor's variety program from the late 70s (or early 80s), one sketch is a courtroom scene with a blind Richard Pryor, who sits down. He immediately starts wrinkling his nose as he sniffs, the reaches out and starts feeling the hair texture of the person sitting beside him. When he "sees" that it's not frizzy, his face really turns sour and he taps his way to another seat.

03-19-2003, 11:43 AM
Well, since the silly line has already been crossed, I'll add that in an episode of Sanford & Son, Fred says something along the lines of "Don't you hate it, when you go in white people's houses, and it don't smell like nothin'?"

03-19-2003, 12:06 PM
It's hard for me to believe that we actually smell as bad as a wet dog.

Of course, I'm white, I grew up in a white household, and most of my acquaintances are white, so I guess I could be 'immune' to the smell.

03-19-2003, 12:13 PM
To tweak this thread a little, I haven't met an African-American who did not smell like coconut. A cosmetic or hair thing of some sort?

I'm white, FWIW.


auntie em
03-19-2003, 12:14 PM
As a Black person, I've been told the opposite; I don't know if it applied to ME as well, but I was told once by a White guy that Black people have a distinct (and, to him, unpleasant) odor. And since we continued to hang out on a regular basis for the next several weeks, I can only guess that I didn't have it.

I am inclined to go with Meatros's theory about diet; even people I've been around forever can sometimes smell differently if, say, they go on a Burger King binge for three weeks or, conversely, undergo a drastic change in diet in order to become healthier.

In addition (and I hope I don't get flamed for this) I discovered, while living in San Francisco, that sometimes Asians had a distinct odor to me. I could be sitting on the BART (train) with my eyes closed, waiting for it to take off, and could sometimes tell instantly if an Asian person had seated him/herself in my vicinity.

Ditto for airplanes.

My friend John's theory, since my olfactory phenomenon did not apply to all Asians, was that perhaps it applied only to Koreans who regularly eat Kim Chi (sp?) because there's a distinct odor for you!


Deadly Nightlight
03-19-2003, 12:59 PM
I have had guys tell me that kissing a black girl is different from kissing a white girl becuase we taste different- both of them described kissing black girls is tastes peppery- go figure

03-19-2003, 01:38 PM
Aside from applied scents, like soap, perfume, fabric softener, etc., I think diet accounts for a person's "odor". Eat a lot of curry, whether you're Indian or not, and you'll smell like curry. Drink a lot of coffee, and you'll smell like it .

If you take a varied sampling of people who all eat the same food and don't use anything scented, I think they'd all smell the same after a month or so.

As for the differences between kissing black women and white women, I can't say, but I'll volunteer to be a taste tester. All in the name of science, of course. :p

03-19-2003, 02:01 PM
hrhomer: I'm glad you said it first because I was thinking the same thing - for both men and women. I noticed once, though, that the section of hair-care products for blacks smelled similar. So I imagine that's it.

Anyway, back to the OP.

03-19-2003, 02:10 PM
Sweat glands? I've noticed that white and black people tend to produce more of an odor when they sweat.

It's really distinct when I pass an asian person and a white or black person at the gym. Asians just don't smell to me. Whereas the musty odor a white guy/black guy gives off can drive me to tears.

03-19-2003, 02:23 PM
hrh, that's more than likely 'black' hair care products. No matter what the brand, they all smell like coconut. I'd like to meet the genius who thought that the only smell that would work on us is coconut - don't seem to recall many of those growing in Africa.

Ever since changing my diet a bit, though, I have noticed one other smell that most of my black friend's homes have - its grease. Cooking oil, from all the frying going on. Its like smoking - once you stop doing it, you can suddenly smell it everywhere.

I've also heard the 'wet dog' thing, and I've always felt it was more of a defense mechanism for racism in general.

03-19-2003, 03:02 PM

03-19-2003, 03:04 PM
Originally posted by Deadly Nightlight
I have had guys tell me that kissing a black girl is different from kissing a white girl becuase we taste different- both of them described kissing black girls is tastes peppery- go figure

Well, according to my lips and tongue, they're fairly sure that, having kissed White, Black, Asian (Chinese and Vietnamese), Indian (both dot and feather) and Oklahoman (a race all by itself) girls, there is no discernable taste difference between the "perceived" races.

That said, I agree with both auntie em and Meatros concerning the body odor being affected by the food. That, and if the girls were close to an ethnic coterie which shared in the same types of scents and perfumes, then yeah, a certain smell was associated with a certain race.

Allllll that kissin'... good times. Good times. :p

Hermann Cheruscan
03-19-2003, 04:29 PM
I have heard from a few Black people that to them, White people have a "burnt milk" smell, or a cheesy smell.

While I don't usually detect odors on anyone, I have known quite a few Blacks who have a "musty" odor. In fact, years ago, I would occasionally give a Black coworker a ride to work. My wife, if she got into my car for any reason, could tell if I had given him a ride to work that day, just from the smell.

And I have known Asians who have somewhat of a garlicky smell, although it seems to be on their breath and not really a body odor. Probably due to diet.

Once again, these are just the minority of people. Most people I come into contact with have no discernable odor.

03-19-2003, 07:07 PM
I'd go with the diet rather than the race theory. I've met people from the far east (eg Japan and China) who said that westerners smell odd to them because of the dairy products in the western diet (they don't eat anything made from milk in the far east) - but that they get used to it. But they don't say that white westerners smell any different from any other western ethnic group.
People in Britain used to say that "foreigners" (meaning other Europeans) smelt of garlic. Now that garlic, thank goodness, is no longer considered weird, you never hear that any more.
What you eat is bound to affect how you smell - it comes out in the sweat.

03-19-2003, 08:21 PM
I had this very conversation with my former coworkers (all black), who all agreed that many white women smell like wet dog. They figured it was a hair thing. I mentioned that many black women smell like petroleum jelly and they said it was probably because of their hair products as well.

Tony Montana
03-19-2003, 09:46 PM
My friend sez that white people smell of bologna (I wonder if he meant baloney, as in BS)

03-19-2003, 11:25 PM
(white American here, fyi)

When I was a little kid, my mom was a teacher, and I remember reading one of her professional development handbooks. This would have been in the early 1970s. The concept that black people had a particular body odor was actually included in this handbook -- teachers were cautioned that this odor was a result of differences in diet (MrMyth, the book cited greasy, fried foods as the particular cause!) and that they (the teachers) should be sensitive to this in the classroom, should black students be teased by their white peers about this.

I think it's extremely interesting (in an eye-rolling sort of way) that 1. this notion was widespread enough to appear in a classroom guide, and 2. the assumption that the problem (or potential problem) was with the white people's perception of the odor of black people, and neglected to consider that if two groups of people have different body odors, that the black students no doubt think the white students smell as well (and probably not like roses). For some reason, this always stuck with me, and I was almost gratified to learn (on these boards, no less!) that I might smell like a wet dog (although I asked Biggirl and she told me I do not).

On a somewhat related note, the memoirs of many Native Americans include stories of the particularly nasty "spoiled milk" odor of white people. They were dismayed when their children were sent to government-run boarding schools to be educated and came back smelling like white people (well, they were dismayed for a lot of reasons, but not germane to this topic), because they were fed cheese and other dairy products at school -- not typically found in their diet.

03-19-2003, 11:35 PM
I think it's a combination of both diet and DNA---and, just maybe, how sensitive your nose is. There are several people I've known all my life that I can identify by scent, even though they're all white people and eat largely the same diet. People from other dietary backgrounds I think smell differently than "my" group does, and the difference in the various smells seems to be diet-related.

03-20-2003, 02:05 AM
Paul Mitchell sculpting foam has a coconut smell. A lot of white people use it.

03-20-2003, 02:52 AM
Not many black people around here, but I can tell you that East Indian and Asian people have very distinct scents (which is downright pugnent when they obviously haven't bathed). It's probably due to diet, but there's no mistaking the difference, and even with heavy perfumes and colognes, I can detect it with 99% of all the East Indians and Asians I'm in close quarters with. Based on that, I can only assume white people have a general smell too.

MSU 1978
03-20-2003, 07:23 AM
I think if we all bathe and wash our hair regularly, we're going to smell somewhat of the products we use. To the extent there are cultural differences in marketing and buying, these smells will vary.

Regarding kissing, my grandfather used to tell me that black girls tasted like chocolate and redheads like strawberries. Alas, I was taken out of circulation before I could test his theory.