Racial profiling – really, really a thing. (Video. Watch the video. Please watch the video).

UPDATE: Please also watch the video that socioprof left in comments.

I am more than a little appalled at how stunned I was by the following piece of footage. I know that white society profiles black Americans, that we in particular expect black boys and men to be up to no good, no matter what they’re doing. I know that. I thought I knew that.

But I guess that not ever having had to actually live with it, what with being white and all, I kinda-sorta didn’t know it. Because the following was gobsmacking to me. I rather suspect it will not be to any black viewers.

Watch it, and wait for the 1:51 mark.


I think that the only unrealistic thing here is the idea that any black kid would actually do this in a park full of white people. I’d be interested to see the experiment repeated, but have the black kid wearing a dress shirt and khakis, explaining to anyone who asks that yes, this is his bike.

h/t Upworthy and Chris Hayes



  1. I found the clothing interesting, too—I also wondered what would happen if he wasn’t wearing the backwards hat and saggy pants. NOT that either of those things excuses the profiling. I was also appalled by the video—especially by how readily people wanted to help the “hot” girl—although I certainly wasn’t surprised by it.

  2. Neocortex

     /  July 18, 2013

    I’d definitely be interested in seeing how it changed things if the actors were all playing kids trying to retrieve their own bike, instead of playing thieves. Or how it changed if the white guy was still playing a thief but the black guy was playing a legit bike owner.

    I don’t care as much about the dress shirt/khaki thing – I’d rather see them dressed (as, in fact, they were) like people that age are actually likely to dress from day to day. What teenager, or twentysomething for that matter, who’s not working a job that requires it, goes about their day-to-day business in dress clothes?

  3. socioprof

     /  July 19, 2013

    I like this series for the most part. Here is one that shows White passersby 1. largely bypassing White kids vandalizing a car 2. calling in Black kids doing the same and 3. calling 911 on Black nonactors who were also in the park, sleeping in their car while waiting for one of the actors at the time while the White kids were actively vandalizing a car.

    • That last bit – harassing black kids in their car while white kids actively vandalize a different car – is A) HOLY SHIT ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS and apparently entirely unsurprising and B) why I’d like to see the “What you would do” experiment rejiggered in the way I described, just because I’m pretty sure that checking off all the “non-threatening” boxes would not be of much help. God oh God oh God.

  4. Tina White

     /  July 19, 2013

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve stolen the link and have already pasted it elsewhere. It’s a perfect response to some people……

  5. I have to say–I just don’t know what to do anymore. I would have been exactly like everyone else.

  6. TG Chicago

     /  July 23, 2013

    While I don’t doubt that racism and profiling are clearly real, I think this could have been done better. I agree that the dress should have been the same for all — even putting the black kid in a red shirt as opposed to a blue one could have an effect. And I wish that the actors had been portraying a legal act. In this case, the real problem is that the white actors were not being harassed, not that the black actor was being harassed.

  7. Jon

     /  July 28, 2013

    Thanks for these two videos. I’m always on the look out for selective editing, manipulation of some sort, so I’m glad they reported the actually number of 911 calls (10 to 1!!) in each case, and the calls reporting the sleeping black guys is really unbelievable…

    The only “wild card” is interviewee’s saying it’s a “white neighborhood”–it would help to have more context. Is it the type of place where you just never, ever ever see a black person (in which case, I don’t know, maybe “sleeping while black” is kind of weird….)

    How anyone can not call in a white guy stealing a bike or white kids vandalizing a car is just beyond me in any case. Assisting the hot blonde stealing a bike is just sort of laughably pathetic (and maybe speaks more to widespread sexual frustration than racism.)

  8. I don’t think I would have said anything to either of them, cause I don’t want to be a witness. And they could have hurt me, but I might have called from a distance. I wouldn’t have asked are you stealing/vandalizing. That’s crazy but if someone told me they said they were stealing/vandalizing I would have called. But I work in a store I’ve been robbed by whites ad blacks and spanish so… I treat them all the same.

  9. Now see if you can catch teachers in a classroom treating the kids differently. You don’t have to fire them just straighten them and others out.