The Black Student Union staged experiments modeled after the popular TV show “What Would You Do?” by creating a scenario where actors of different genders and races argued in a public place about race.
“We wanted to uncover the hidden racism ... It is not in your face. We are trying to unpack natural, hidden racism that actually happens every day but most people don’t realize that they do it,” BSU President Jacklyn Asamoah said.
Asamoah and another member of the group argued on campus about the number of African-Americans arrested nationwide, the importance of Black History Month and the reasons racism exists.
The reactions from witnesses of the confrontations were not what the group expected, she said.
Many of the witnesses acknowledged the confrontation by staring at the actors, but after a while turned their heads and ignored the argument. Some people came up to Asamoah after the experiment and voiced their opinion on the issue.
John Grant, one of the actors and a BSU member, said he prepared for the experiments by remembering ignorant arguments made during other conversation he has had about race.
During the experiments he mentioned the possibility of a white history month, and expressed the belief that African-Americans should stop committing crimes so the police would stop arresting them.
“I was expecting somebody would come up and start arguing with me or come up and punch me in the face. I was saying some mean things. I expected people to be a lot more confrontational,” Grant said.
Grant, who is also a student intern for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said he decided to participate in the social experiment because the BSU and the fellowship both value culture.
“If we try talking about these things and stop thinking that racism is over we can know how to give people more opportunities and how to pursue justice for all and really just learn how to love people better,” Grant said.
Dante Morningstar, a sophomore dance major, said he did not realize it was staged, but felt like he should say something while he was witnessing the confrontation.
“Of course I wanted to step in, I wanted to say something. I was sitting there wanting to (but) at the same time I was holding myself back because it’s hard to be that one person to speak up,” he said.
Racism is definitely present in society but in subtle ways, he said.
“I think it brings it into a bigger perspective because not many people acknowledge or like to acknowledge or think about it, but in this kind of form it does bring it as a blatant example that racism still exists,” Morningstar said.
Jaylee Caruso, a senior nutrition and Spanish major, said she was relieved to know the tension portrayed was fictitious.
“It was pretty interesting. It is nothing I wouldn’t expect on UNM campus. There is a lot of controversial stuff that seems to happen” Caruso said.
Asamoah said the experiments were recorded and will be presented during a panel discussion Thursday at noon to 1 p.m. in the SUB Atrium. The panel will discuss the difficulties of living in a society where racism exists.
Lauren Marvin is the culture editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LaurenMarvin.