A social experiment by YouTube channel Simple Misfits has used a phony car break-in to show America it might not be as post-racism as it would like to think it is.
In “Black Guy Breaks Into a Car,“ two actors separately staged two attempted vehicle thefts, jimmying the lock on a Mazda6 parked curbside in downtown Los Angeles while the car alarm blared.
The difference between the two phony theft attempts? One of the actors stealing the car was white, and the other black. Oh, yeah, and the reaction they got from passersby and police was a little different, too.
According to Simple Misfits, the white actor got by fiddling with the car lock for a half-hour, horn honking, while no one – including a police officer driving by – batted an eye. Two minutes into the black actor’s theft attempt, people on the street get suspicious and call the police, who almost immediately draw their guns on the actor and pin him to the wall.
A clear-cut case of societal racism caught on film? Not according to some YouTube commenters, who, as you should probably expect, are debating details like the change in location between the two faux thefts, as well as the actors’ wardrobe.
Several commenters on Gawker have linked to similar pranks organized by folks with bigger budgets and fewer variables in their experiment, and the results are the same: white guy has little trouble getting away with breaking into car, while black guy is almost always immediately confronted with suspicion.
The statistics Gawker cites add a little irony to the whole situation: apparently 64 percent of car thefts were committed by white people in the U.S. in 2011; 34 percent were committed by black people.
Would the actors similarly be treated differently if this social experiment was conducted here in Canada? The per-capita car theft rate is roughly 50 percent higher here than it is south of the border, so there’s a chance we might be less vigilant against car break-ins generally (maybe we should brush up on keeping our cars safe). Plus we’re not that racist here in Canada, right? —Are we?