'What Would You Do?': Shopping While Black

What Would You Do?: Shopping While Black

There is nothing more pleasant than an afternoon out shopping -- unless you happen to go into the wrong place and are considered the wrong ethnicity.

It's a common form of racial profiling, so common it even has a name: "Shopping While Black."

Last year, ABC News' "What Would You Do?" ran its largest social experiment to date to see what would happen if it set up a situation where a black shopper was targeted in an upscale New York City boutique. The results were so stunning that we decided to try the experiment again with a group that is singled out for discrimination even more than black shoppers overall: black teens.

VIDEO: Shoppers Get Racially Profiled
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Watch the full story on "What Would You Do?" Friday at 9 p.m. ET

The experiment was inspired by a real-life situation. In a recent survey, more than 60 percent of black shoppers say it happened to them.

"I went to a store that I had gone to quite a bit in the past. I'm walking around and there's a salesperson next to me and as I move around the store, I notice that she is always next to me," said Denise, a victim of racial profiling.

"I suppose I cared enough to test her by walking around the store to see if she would follow me and I think every time I realized she was following me, the more upset I got, and that's when I turned around and said, 'You don't have to follow me.'

"There's just no other reason that she would have been following me and only me around that I can think of, except for the fact that I look the way that I do."

Malikah Sherman recounted a similar experience she had while shopping at a drugstore in Manhattan with her sister.

"While we were shopping, we noticed that the security guard had moved from the upper lever to the lower level, where we were too, which we found a little odd since there weren't a lot of people in the store."

Sherman said that the guard "basically broke his neck" trying to look into the plastic bag she was carrying, which consisted of takeout because they had just eaten dinner. The women made their purchases and when they were leaving the store, the guard demanded to see their receipts.

"It was a very disturbing experience," Sherman said. "You just become tired of experiencing the same type of behavior over and over again, when you know that you would be the very last person to ever steal."

For our latest experiment with teenagers, "WWYD" went back to Soho, considered by some to be the shopping capital of the world.

A chic women's boutique called Unpomela was transformed into an elaborate hidden camera laboratory. Actors were hired to portray the sales clerk, the store's security guard and the three teenage girls. The experiment was designed to see if customers in the store would come to the defense of teenagers targeted by the sales clerk.

Shopping While Black: 'You People'

When the teens walked into the store, the sales clerk -- and remember the sales clerk, security guard and teens are all actors -- followed them around and made disparaging comments loud enough for other customers to hear.

The show carefully scripted the scenario to make it clear that the teens had not actually shoplifted but were being harassed simply because they were black.

"I don't need any problems with you people," said the sales clerk, a woman.

"It's always the same thing," added the security guard.

"But we're not trying to cause problems," the teen replied. "All we want to do is shop."

"Yeah, shoplift, not shop," answered the security guard.

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