July 29, 2013

ABC experiment exposes everyday racial profiling

In the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin, some have portrayed the killer as an outlier. But although most people aren't running around shooting down young Black men wearing hoodies, an experiment produced by ABC TV's "What Would You Do?" suggests that racial profiling is more the rule than the exception when it comes to perceptions of crime. 

In the experiment, three people armed with burglary tools sequentially stage the theft of a bicycle chained up in a public park. First, a white teenager. Then, a black one. Finally, a young blond girl tries her luck. Does anyone try to stop them?

Watch the video and be amazed. Then, pass it along.

The discrepancies in public perceptions graphically depicted in this video may help to explain the disproportionate outcomes under Florida's "stand your ground" law, under which it is legal to kill if one believes one is in imminent peril. Since Floridians enacted the controversial law eight years ago, those invoking it have been more likely to succeed if their victim was Black rather than white, according to an analysis by the Tampa Bay Times. About three in four of those who killed African Americans faced no penalty, compared with 6 out of 10 who killed whites.

In a case at least as egregious as Zimmerman's, a white man named Michael David Dunn is awaiting trial for shooting to death an African American teenager, Jordan Davis, at a gas station. Dunn had initiated a confrontation with Davis and his friends over the volume of the youths' music. Rolling Stone ran a moving profile of the case as an exemplar of the racial animus underlying stand-your-ground laws.

An American Psychological Association essay, "After the acquittal: The need for honest dialogue about racial prejudice and stereotyping," provides further resources on this important topic.

This post comes to you from Waikiki, where I arrived this morning from Queensland, Australia in advance of Tropical Storm (now downgraded to Tropical Depression) Flossie. I hope the storm doesn't stop anyone from attending this week's APA convention.

1 comment:

AEA said...

My only complaint is that the black man was not dressed in clothing similar to the white man. They should have given him the exact same outfit instead of baggy pants and a longer t-shirt. I think the clothing the black man was wearing is also stereotyped, adding another variable into the mix.