What Would You Do If You Saw a Black Father With a White Child Being Harassed?

Hidden cameras roll as café patrons defend a black father and white daughter.

January 25, 2011, 1:52 PM

Jan. 28, 2011 — -- What would you think if you saw a black man walking down the street with a white child, or a white man with a black child?

President Barack Obama, Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter all share a common bond: each is the child of an interracial marriage. Through most of U.S. history, such unions were taboo, but more recently, interracial marriages have become more popular -- up 20 percent in the last decade -- and the number of mixed-race families in America is steadily increasing.

Nevertheless, all too often assumptions are made and suspicions are raised when a parent does not look like his or her child.

What would you do if you heard a black father and his white daughter being harassed by a waiter who didn't believe that they were in fact father and daughter? To find out, we set up a "What Would You Do?" scenario and rigged cameras in a popular cafe in the New York suburbs, Rock 'n' Joe in Millburn, N.J. We hired actors to play a racist waiter, a black father and his white daughter. Would anyone stand up to our waiter as he berated our father-and-daughter pair?

Customers are already enjoying their morning cup of Joe when we send in our father and daughter. They have a seat next to two male customers and, as soon as they sit down, our waiter comes to take their order. Our waiter doesn't miss a beat as he begins to question our father.

"What's the story here? What's the relationship?" he asks.

"What are you talking about?" our father answers. "That's my daughter!"

The two male customers are trying to ignore the confrontation. One even puts his headphones on. Still unconvinced, our waiter continues to probe, this time asking the daughter if she is okay. The father tells him that she is fine. But our waiter still doesn't believe it.

'I See a Scared White Girl'

"I see a scared white girl with a black guy," he says.

Then these two men, unable to tune out the exchange, offer our father support.

"You know that's your daughter. You don't have to explain," one man says.

We caught up with these men later. One of them, who said he has lived in Dallas his whole life, couldn't believe that racism existed here in the Northeast.

"I've been in Dallas for 44 years. I moved here a year ago. So I'm like, man, don't tell me it's here too!"

His friend said that it didn't seem strange or unusual to see a black dad and his white daughter.

"I mean, you see that every day!" he exclaims.

Later in the day, our relentless waiter escalates his attacks.

"You're as black as black can be, this is a little white kid and you're father-daughter?" he says.

Finally, a man who has been listening with his wife breaks his silence and challenges our waiter.

"I can't believe that happened! Are you kidding me? In this country?" he says.

The man, who says he's a member of the military, tells our waiter to cut it out and quickly storms off.

When John Quinones asks why he defended our family, he answers, "You look through history and you look at anybody who has been persecuted -- it's because too many good people stayed quiet. It's your duty as an American citizen to stand up to injustices regardless of who you are and where you're from."

Though our "racist" waiter was just acting, some are all too serious in their objections to multiracial families. In 2008, an Arkansas white woman and her three biracial children woke up to find a four-foot cross burning outside their home. Days later, their home was burned to the ground.

Just last year, a Louisiana justice of the peace refused to give a marriage license to an interracial couple on the grounds of "concern for the couple's future children." The justice later resigned under pressure from public officials and civil rights advocates.

Back at Rock 'n' Joe cafe, we decide to change the scenario: This time, we bring in actors to play a white father and his black daughter.

The young daughter is clearly enjoying time with her father when our waiter begins to harass him. This time the waiter even asks for identification and proof that he is the girl's dad.

One woman watching the scene is obviously concerned by what she hears. She shares her concerns with another customer. It is unclear what they are saying, but as she pulls out her phone and dials 911, it soon becomes clear.

Will she call the police to help our white dad and his black daughter, or does she have doubts about their relationship?

Watch the scenario unfold on "What Would You Do?", Friday at 9 p.m. ET.