Public Displays of Rage: What Would You Do?

A couple's race seemingly affects how people respond when witnessing abuse.

ByABC News
December 23, 2008, 3:56 PM

March 11, 2008— -- 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.

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.