WATCH: Bike Thief Experiment Shows Racial Profiling In Action

by
Owen Poindexter
Racial profiling: is it still an issue? Is it overblown? Are we only talking about it because George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin?

Racial profiling: is it still an issue? Is it overblown? Are we only talking about it because George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin? To that last question, maybe, but this video will make any doubters realize that racial profiling is real and isn’t limited to isolated moments that make the news. Racial profiling happens all the time, and mostly in subtle ways.

In the video, we see three different people, similarly dressed, doing the same thing: trying to steal a bike. The theft is not subtle: each thief uses a hammer, then a saw, then metal clippers. Of course none of the three are actual thieves, they are actors in a social experiment: one is a white male, one a black male, one a white girl.

The results? All too obvious. A lot of people asked the white boy if it was his bike. “Technically no,” he would reply (the specific words changed, but he never really tried to hide what he was doing). The standard response that most gave was to look concerned and keep walking. The makers of the movie corralled some of them to ask why they didn’t do anything. Some claimed that they were going to call the police later which seems unlikely, to be charitable. One couple actually did reach for their phones to call the cops.

Alright, so that’s the white male, what about the black male? He comes in at 1:42 of the video. It doesn’t take long for an angry crowd to form. A man yells at him and starts to dial the police. The camera crew emerges and explains what’s going on. Once everyone has left, the experiment restarts and the same thing happens. A crowd forms, people argue with him, threaten to call the cops.

It should be noted that this social experiment is not especially rigorous in a scientific sense. They would need a larger sample size and an objectively analyzed data set to be scientific. Still, is anyone surprised? Does anyone really want to argue that these results are anomalous? Things are a lot easier for white people like me in ways that we don’t even realize.

Oh, and the white girl? People helped her steal the bike.

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