The Treatment of White Youth Vandals vs. Black Youth Vandals

An original version posted on 4/13/2009 as "White Guy Tough Talk: White Vandalism, Black Vandalism, 'Other Vandalism'" @ AMMMO

Highly fascinating candid camera via the Everyday Sociology Blog via ABC's 20-20. "Fascinating" meaning I'm extremely surprised that network TV actually does this kind of thing anymore.

In the first video, three white kids are smashing a car in a park. People's reactions? Numerous confrontations and suspicious eyes, but only one phone call to the police.

Incidentally, there was one phone call to the police from that same park, but it was about black kids sleeping in a Lexus. Apparently, they were planning to rob somebody.

In the second video, three black kids are smashing a car in the same park. People's reactions? Healthy distances and 10 calls to the police.

Ain't nothing we don't already know, except it was produced for a mass audience.

Observations on the experiment and one note about how the media handled the story:

1. Look out how far they were: When passersby went by the black vandals, seems like they were more likely to keep their distance, but take more action. Taking from Ruth Benedict, if I were to ascribe a personality to that context and pervading culture in that park in Ridgewood, NJ it seems to be that of passive-aggression.

Black kids weren't people to talk with. They were objects to be thrown at to the police system.

The passersby don't want to deal with it, but they "know" its wrong and want to outsource the engagements and handling to the police. Seems like the popular way in a highly outsourced, specialized society to deal with cultural, ethnic, and racial difference. Let somebody else handle it.

2. The Demographics of the people who did the confronting: There seemed to be a gender and racial divide within the people who actually chose to confront the kids. It's interesting how in the first video with the white kids, it was a bunch of white males that did the calling out, barking out tough guy police talk back at them. They didn't appear to be afraid to walk right up at them.

Meanwhile, in the second video with the black kids, its one white woman, a Latina woman, and an Asian lady jogger who actually confront the boys.

3. The newscast gave no credit to the Asian Lady. Also interesting within the broadcast itself is how the resident sociologist highlights the extreme courage of one of the white guys who confronted the white vandals with the assistance of his wife, but doesn't care to talk about the Asian lady who right went up to the black kids by herself and actually struck up a 4-minute conversation with them. Both pretty dangerous situations, but I guess the white guy tough talk is the only stuff worth showing on television and commenting on TV. Maybe if that Asian lady did it in a Geisha costume, she'd a gotten more air time.

No doubt that this is a pretty good popular revelation, but I wonder what the reaction is to Latino, Arab/Indian, and Asian kids doing the same.

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