my jaw dropped

I study racial disparities in criminal justice, but this still completely blew me away. I started clicking around and have ended up collecting links to a large number of quite amazing videos of racial interactions that would be great discussion-starters in class. The two segments that just make my jaw drop were broadcast last February on ABC 20-20’s “What Would You Do?” series last February. They are a little over six minutes each after a 15 second commercial*. The setup is a parking lot in a public park in a White suburb. In part 1, for several hours three White boys overtly vandalize a car. Dozens of White people walk by, looking but doing nothing. Only one ever calls the police; a few say something to the boys. It’s quite amazing to see. In part 2, three Black boys do the same thing: lots of people call the police, many more people intervene.   On balance, a clear demonstration that failure to sanction overt White crime is part of a racial disparity pattern, not just response to Black crime. But the real shocker: while the White kids are vandalizing the car, the police DO get TWO 911 calls from the same parking lot. What they call about is Black people SLEEPING in a nearby car: they phone it in as “possible robbery!”

Vandals 1 (white)
Vandals 2 (black)
(*I found these originally on Youtube but link to ABC despite the commercial opening in the interest of supporting copyright holders where possible.)

There are also some really chilling Driving While Black segments available.

This 10-minute segment was produced by a New York news station about Nassau County. It is really quite incredible, the tester ends up handcuffed and held for thirty minutes after making a U-turn on a residential street and refusing to explain what he is doing in the area. No response to White testers who duplicate the action, although the Blacks in the trailing news car are stopped and hassled.

This ABC Primetime episode on Driving While Black is also very good, but the YouTube versions are all scratched and vertically stretched. I cannot find an on-line version of the original. The first segment is 10 minutes, the second is about 2 minutes of wrap-up
10 minute main segment
2 minute wrap up

A Fox news video shows a black customer being surrounded and beaten by whites but the black man is the only one arrested

The ABC Primetime What Would You Do? series also has a number of great segments (generally 8-10 minutes long) about bystander intervention into overt cases of racial/ethnic discrimination. Actors play the part of store clerks or real estate sales people who overtly insult and harass Black or Muslim or Spanish-speaking lower class (day laborer) shoppers (also actors). Bystander responses are videotaped. Each segment shows lots of people either standing by without intervening or in some cases approving the discrimination, but also highlights people who do intervene. John Dovidio (a psychologist known for work on bystander intervention) provides commentary that praises those who do intervene. Again, these seem like great discussion-starters. I linked to YouTube when I could not find the segment on the ABC site.

Real estate agent insulting Black and Muslim couples looking at a home.

Black shopper in a upscale clothing boutique gets insulted and even frisked

Muslim woman trying to buy an apple Danish (quite a few shoppers join in on the discrimination, while a White man who says is son is fighting in Iraq challenges it)

Spanish-speaking guys in work clothes trying to buy coffee (quite a few shoppers again join in on the discrimination, few seem to speak against it)

H/T to which pointed me to the Muslim shopper video on YouTube, from which I found the rest through YouTube searches, ABC News searches, and Google.

Author: olderwoman

I'm a sociology professor but not only a sociology professor. I keep my name out of this blog because I don't want my name associated with it in a Google search. Although I never write anything in a public forum like a blog that I'd be ashamed to have associated with my name (and you shouldn't either), it is illegal for me to use my position as a public employee to advance my religious or political views, and the pseudonym helps to preserve the distinction between my public and private identities. The pseudonym also helps to protect the people I may write about in describing public or semi-public events I've been involved with. You can read about my academic work on my academic blog --Pam Oliver

6 thoughts on “my jaw dropped”

  1. But the real shocker: while the White kids are vandalizing the car, the police DO get TWO 911 calls from the same parking lot. What they call about is Black people SLEEPING in a nearby car: they phone it in as “possible robbery!”

    Unbelievable. A friend of mine in my same town (which has a strong self-image as being incredibly progressive), who is white and disabled, hires two Black high school boys to work in her yard and similar physical chores. Last week the cops came to her house about it while they were there — literally, “Do you know the boys raking and mowing your front lawn?”

    Apparently a neighbor was so concerned by this wanton display of lawn care that he had called the police. Ten minutes after my friend had told the cop that no, this was not an act of vandalism by raking, she noticed that the police car was still parked outside her house. She went to ask the cop if there was a problem and was told that the boys fit the description of a suspect in some local robberies, so the neighbors were “just spooked.” He finally drove off after my friend pointed out that one of the boys was 5’7″ and stocky and the other is 6’2″ and lanky, and asked what was the description of the suspect?


  2. I saw this show once where the 2 confederates were on a blind date sitting at a bar. When the woman went to the bathroom, the man-blind-date looked around suspiciously and then poured white powder in her drink and stirred it with a swizzle stick in full view of other people at the bar. Woman comes back, starts to drink, indicates she feels dizzy, the man says, “here, I will help you to my car.” ONE PERSON warned the woman. They interviewed some men in the parking lot who said it was none of their business. Nice.

    My non-academic husband said, “you should do research like this!” and I said, “IRB won’t let us anymore — now we leave it to the oh-so-ethical tv entertainment industry.”


  3. I show many of these in my classes. While they have flaws, they’re telling and the students seem to respond well to them.

    There is also an interesting one about gender and violence (and race) with couples arguing in a park. Only one person, after a day of shooting, intervenes when it’s a black man who is getting violent with a black woman.

    Another one that my students really seemed to latch onto is about someone falling down on the street (illustrating helping/altruism). They change attributes of the person in need – man, woman, well-dressed, shabbily-dressed, with a beer in hand. It’s so powerful when it’s a homeless woman who stops to help the shabbily-dressed man with a beer can. When no one seems to be responding to her pleas for help, she picks up the beer can from the ground and throws it away, continuing her pleas.


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