Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What Would You Do?

The following segment was on The Oprah Show, orginally from PRIMETIME ABC.

I got tears in my eyes as I watched, especially the part when the people are helping the victim:

"What would you do if an act of racism took place in front of you?

For the next scenario, the What Would You Do? crew heads to a roadside bakery in Texas for an experiment on prejudice and patriotism. Both workers behind the counter are actors. When a Muslim actress comes into the store, the male clerk verbally assaults her. "You've got to take your business elsewhere. We don't serve your kind here," he says. "Get back on the camel and go back wherever you came from." While the Muslim woman continues to be assaulted with blatant bigotry, several customers in the bakery barely look up.

When no one will speak up for her, the Muslim woman asks another customer if he will order an apple strudel for her. The man stumbles over his words, reluctant to help. After leaving the bakery, John approaches the customer to see why he wouldn't step in. "Me, speak up for her?" he says. "Well, if he would try to do some harm to her or something, then I would have."

Other customers in the bakery not only ignore the Muslim woman, but they actually applaud the racist clerk. "Hooray for you," one man says. "I think that's the first time I've ever seen that. Good job. Appreciate it."

The experiment continues over the next five hours, and many other customers ignore the racism going on in front of them—but a few refuse to stay silent. When one offended man threatens to leave the store, the actor behind the counter tells him he's a bad American. "I believe I am a good American," he says. "My son just came back from serving in the army for over a year in Iraq, and that has nothing to do with her rights."

Of all of the customers who speak up, the most persistent are two women named Alison and Jasmeen. "You're really offensive and disgusting," Alison says. Jasmeen is not dressed in traditional clothes but points out that she is also Muslim. "She is my culture," she says. "So you're ready to serve me, but you're not ready to serve her?" Instead of leaving in anger, the women stand their ground and ask to speak with a manager.

By the end of this experiment, six people side with the bigoted clerk and 13 people stand up for the Muslim woman. The other 22 bystanders say absolutely nothing.

Although Alison wasn't afraid to speak up, she's shocked that other customers refused to come to the woman's aid. "Some of my closest friends are Middle Eastern, and it's horrible to see the kind of discrimination they experience on a regular basis," she says. "I think this country can do better than that."

John says this experiment also struck a nerve with him. After approaching one of the men who supported the racist clerk, John says the man told him, "John QuiƱones, you are not an American."

"My family's been in Texas for six generations, and it reminded me of what my Mexican father used to tell me," John says. "He used to pick cotton in South Texas. He said there used to be signs in some of the restaurants [saying,] 'No Mexicans or dogs allowed inside.' Unfortunately, some of those remnants are still there."

The hateful words were so hurtful, as if the person was saying it to me. And it reminded me of when I wore the scarf in high school and people were so rude to me. And then when the people were telling off the racist guy, it was really touching to see them being so honorable and kind and intelligent.


Anonymous said...

Assalamu alaykom,
I didn't watch this, and video runs sooo slow on my computer, so thanks for giving us a rundown on it! You know, I hate to say it, but I'm not at all surprised that the majority did not become involved (in any manner). I am one of those people who would not stand by idly and I can proudly say I learned that trait from my mother.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in a small town, had my scarf grabbed and torn, been called murderer, taliban, terrorist, and been taunted sexually by some ignorant hicks but there are good people still, subhanallah, but if even if there weren't, I know what is right, and trust in Allah to protect me. Hijab girls rock on! Wear your abayas proud. Keep on rollarblading and eating ice cream in your niqabs, and changing hearts and minds by refusing to judge, and by lookin' fierce as you all do, and being patient by Allah's grace, to to teach wherever you can. My thoughts and mind are with you, love, love....

Scarf Ace said...

eyes serene--thanks for your comment. i admire those people like you who speak up.

Scarf Ace said...

anonymous--i can relate to your experience. thanks for your comment--rock on.

Hafez said...

Very nice blog, I ll visite you more

Anonymous said...

Thanks! There is a feminist quote, and I can't recall offhand who said it, but it goes like this: "Speak up, even if your voice shakes." Great advice, I think!

Muslima Maria said...


Thats so sad to hear, I didn't know people could or would take it that far! my class did a secret shopper assignment and I went out in hijab, I was ignored in the shop but nothing that bad...thank you for sharing and opening more eyes, I can't believe so many people would stand by and do nothing, to me that is unfathomable! such a sad state of things when racism is high

Cupcake.Shortage said...

Do you have a link for the vid.?
Please post if possible.
A random sister x

Scarf Ace said...

i can never get the -hyper-link to work, hopefully if u cut and paste the link in the post then it should take u to the page. the clip was on u can also type in "primetime ABC" on to get to video :-)