Monday, November 16, 2009

What would you do if you saw racism in action

The Thunderbird House on Main Street Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Built as a centre for Indians. Many Indians sit around the building.

I watched a video on youtube called What would you do? It is a segment about a phenomenon called shopping while Black. It is an occurrence in the United States.
People are labeled because of who they are. Labeling is built into the way the modern world sees things. It is the backbone of how we make decisions or judgments.
In watching this video I felt really bad for that woman. I didn't know it was actors at the time,but it did shake me. The video shows the worst in people and the best in people. I have confronted racism but I have also missed my chance to say something in many situations.

I saw another of these shows about abuse. A young man was verbally assaulting his girlfriend in a public park, while numbers of people walked by. Even an off-duty police officer looked at the couple and left. Is it the nature of the world we live in, where we look the other way? I am sure some people were scared to get involved in both the situations; the girl in the store, and the girl in the park.

This morning I went to Tim Hortons to get my wife a coffee. As I was leaving the coffee shop a fellow was driving by with his coffee on the roof of his Jeep. I yelled at him, "hey your coffee is on top". He stopped and thanked me, said he won't have an angry ex-wife at home. It was a small gesture on my part, but it made me feel good. Can you imagine how damn good you would feel if you actually intervened in a situation that really needed you?

I am hopeful of the world. Although I do tend to speak of negative things, that's because I am in that world right now. I can see the light at the top of the hole. I will climb out. It may not be soon, but working on it.

One of the things I tell my relatives and friends is that they will never really know what label has been put on them because of their look. I pass easily for white and so I can mingle and people will speak without inhibition. It is when you are in the mix that you see how people can really be. But when you stick out of the mix, people will tend to watch how they behave. In the shopping while Black incident the fellow who said, "I bet she played the Black card right?", thought his was talking inside the circle of his mix. Unfortunately for him and his girlfriend they were exposed.

The What would you do show has done some more candid camera experiments. Check these out.


  1. I have a shaved head. Does that make me a "skin-head"? No, but that is how I get treated. I shaved my hair when my little brother went to Iraq, he had to have his hair super short in basic and such, so I shaved mine as solidarity. Even after he came home, I have kept my hair shaved until they all come home. Not much of a "sacrifice", but his Army buddies thought it was cool, and that was good enough for me. My family has been denied service at restaurants/stores because of my "hair". My "kind" isn't welcome there. Now, I have spent 20 years as a Retail Manager, I know for a fact that they aren't supposed to deny us service based solely on my hair, and the Management in those establishments were terminated after I complained to there respective corporate offices. If people simply speak up, things will change.

  2. They must have been portraying behavior from way down south like Arkansas, Tennessee(we were told "our kind" didn't belong there, my wife is Hispanic, I am white) Alabama, for example. As far as people being trained to target ethnic groups is wrong, especially in my stores, everyone is treated the same, regardless of looks, money, whatever. I have always said, I don't care if you have antlers on your head, you get treated the same as if my mother came in and shopped. The people I find steal the most is elderly white people. I can count on one hand the number of "Minorities" we have caught shop-lifting, whereas I can't count that high in the instances of the elderly white people. And no, they weren't poor either. Very affluent, and now you know why.

    As far as speaking up about things, that is my curse. If I see people being harassed, abused, or treated poorly, I speak up. I tend to get a lot of grief from both "victim" and "attacker", but I was taught to stand up for people, and so I do.

  3. I read an encouraging article in the "Oregonian" just last week. A teen girl saw a man violating his six year old daughter at a movie theater. She wasn't sure what she'd seen but she alerted several of the other movie goers and long story short he was arrested and the little girl taken to protective custody. She said that her daddy had been hurting her like that for a long time...I'm so blessed to know that our youth understand the importance of standing up for someone who can't stand up for themselves!!

  4. however this post was about "what would you do if you saw racisim in action" and here's the sad thing. I see it every day and the most I can do is work hard at empowering those around me to stand!

  5. Racism is a tough thing to combat. It is encouraging that people are willing to stand up when someone is being wronged.

    I think a lot of people feel helpless in situations.