In old westerns the good guys typically wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats. There are a lot of articles on this phenomenon that you can read here, there or even over thataway if you are really interested. (The last of those links discusses instances when the opposite is true and presents a theory about outfit/hat color and a character’s self perception.) In the image below, a digital composite of mine titled Hunter or Hunted, the white man is wearing a black hat while the color of the other man’s hat and skin are hidden but the target placement blatantly identifies him as the hunted. Also, if you are a fan of Spaghetti Westerns you might also recognize the silhouette as Clint Eastwood from the 1966 movie The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
The idea that white is good and black is bad has continued to effect the sartorial choices of generations of film heroes and villains. Unfortunately, this cognitive shortcut that the entertainment industry employs also reinforces racism. White people, in this instance grouped together as a huge monolithic group which I know is not truly indicative of ALL white people (ie. calm your indignant white self down), seem to become confused when presented with good, black men or bad, white men. In fact, the white/good, black/bad association is so ingrained, and so subconscious, that it effects the perceptions of all races to some degree.
If you are interested in exploring your own racial bias check out Project Implicit’s bias test called Race IAT (Race Implicit Association Test). Project Implicit is a collaborative project run by 3 scientists who teach Psychology at different universities in the United States. There are also bias tests for gender and sexual orientation online through Project Implicit as well.
And for a not-so-funny funny video from Rogue Kite Productions of good guys vs. black guys and gun control click here.