Public Displays of Rage: What Would You Do?

Interracial Fight

They are among the most compelling stories in the "What Would You Do?" series: angry boyfriends verbally abusing their girlfriends in a park.

They included black couples, white couples, one couple in which the woman was the abuser and the man the victim. All the couples were actors hired by "Primetime," and the reactions to the abuse by unsuspecting passersby were recorded by hidden cameras.

But for the most recent "fighting couple" scenario, "Primetime" added a twist. How would people react if the fighting couples were interracial? What if the abusive boyfriend was African-American and the victim white? Or the opposite: an abusive white boyfriend and an African-American victim? Would people respond and would race be an issue?


"You're scaring me. I need you to get away from me," cried a young, petite African-American woman on a park bench. Towering over her was a tall white man, his voice raised in anger.

"What do you mean I'm scaring you? Sit down, sit down!" he screamed as she tried to stand up.

Some people stopped to observe, but after a moment they walked on. Others didn't even bother to stop. When a man stopped several feet away to watch, he raised his hand as if he were about to say something.

Pre-emptively, the abusive boyfriend cut him short and told him to mind his own business. The man walked away.

'I See You Abusing Her!'

But a few moments later, a young woman walked by listening to her iPod. The boyfriend's abusive rant managed to penetrate her ear buds.

"What's going on?" she asked as she approached the couple cautiously.

"Ma'am, mind your own business. We're having a little … " But the woman unloaded before he could finish his thought.

"I'm not going to mind my own business when I see you abusing her!"

She then turned to the victim who looked scared and bewildered.

"Do you want to come with me? Seriously, come. I'll take you somewhere."

And with that, the woman reached for the hand of the weeping victim and escorted her away from the abusive boyfriend.

It was an extraordinary display of courage. Moments later, much to her relief, we explained to the gutsy heroine that the woman she rescued and the abusive boyfriend were actors hired by "Primetime."

"As a woman, I just felt angry," Katherine Underwood told us. "How dare this big guy abuse this woman?"

Underwood said the interracial makeup of the couple had no bearing on her actions.

"It did not cross my mind for a split second," she said. "What struck me most was that she was tiny, and he was really big."

Underwood was one of a number of women, alone and in groups, who came to the aid of the female victim.

"It was amazing the number of women who stepped right into the situation and took action," said Colgate University psychology professor Carrie Keating, who watched many of the scenes play out from the "Primetime" control van.

"[The women] seem to recognize that … there would have been a terrible cost for not helping and for leaving our actress in a situation that was dangerous."

Race Reversal

We then introduced a new couple to the park. Now, the abusive boyfriend was African-American. His girlfriend, the victim, was white. Would women still stop and render assistance?

As a group of women approached the couple, the abusive black boyfriend was yelling at his white girlfriend to leave the park with him.

"Let's go!" he screamed, as his girlfriend held on to the bench.

"Stop, stop! You're hurting me."

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...