Observation and Data:
For the purposes of the experiment, two homeless men were observed near the same vicinity. I was able to observe their comings, goings, and interactions with other individuals at the same time. Their socioeconomic status put them at a decided disadvantage compared to other individuals passing by both on foot and by vehicle. However, to understand if there were other social inequalities or privileges at work, one man was Caucasian, and the other was African American. The goal was to observe if one was treated differently than the other, or helped more than the other. They were dressed similarly, and held similar signs. The only social inequality separating them from others was economic, while the only inequality separating them from each other was race.
Over the course of two hours, there was a noticeable difference in the way the two individuals were treated, but it was primarily based on who was driving past them. I observed African Americans were more apt to help the African American man while Caucasians were more apt to help the Caucasian man. Young individuals, roughly between the ages of 20-30 were more likely to help than individuals who appeared to be over the age of fifty. Individuals between the ages of thirty and fifty only offered monetary help to the individuals 30% of the time while younger individuals did so 60% of the time.
While the two men appeared to be helped equally monetarily, and it was dependent on the race and age of the individual driving past them, it was clear they were treated differently concerning who spoke to them, and how kindly they were treated. The African American often received money without a word, or any kind gestures. The Caucasian male, on several occasions, received a hello, offerings of good luck, a “god bless you,” and various versions of, “I hope this helps.” The African American individual was told once to take care of himself. In another instance, a driver yelled to get his attention in order to hand him a few dollars, but said nothing when he took it.
No clear discrimination took place, as it was clear both men received help despite their being at a severe socioeconomic disadvantage. However, when I analyzed the way in which they were treated socially, the discrimination was evident. The Caucasian male had been treated with kindness and sincerity. Drivers offered him good look and hope. It was clear they assumed his poor luck was not his fault, and they were happy to help. In contrast, the African American male received no kindness with his monetary compensation. There were few verbal exchanges at all. The body language and facial expression of many drivers suggested it was a burden to help him, but they felt obligated to help him because he was there. It is discriminatory to see two individuals, both on the same socioeconomic level, but to treat them differently based on their race. We do not know their stories. Perhaps it is not the Caucasian’s fault he is homeless. It may not be the African American’s fault he is homeless either. They may both have a gambling problem, be drug dealers, or have lost their homes in tragic fires. There is no way to know from a simple passing glance, but it is discriminatory behavior for them to be treated in such a way and shows social inequality at its lowest point. Even with nothing, a Caucasian may still garner more kindness than a minority.