ABC Again Searches for Secret Racism of Everyday Americans

January 6th, 2009 3:46 PM

On Tuesday's "Good Morning America," an ABC reporter once again attempted to probe and examine the secret racism of American citizens. Correspondent John Quinones, the host of a series of ABC hidden camera specials designed to test how people react to ethical situations, appeared to preview a new edition that featured a cashier in a New Jersey deli yelling at a Hispanic customer.

The ABC crew had the pretend employee scream at a confused day laborer, saying things such as "We're building walls to keep you guys out of the country! You don't speak English, you don't get service! We don't serve your kind here!" Quinones then theatrically lectured, "...On this day, the only thing they [the customers] are being served is prejudice." He later observed that the experiment "uncovered some of the dark impulses many of us share."

The "What Would You Do?" host also used the segment to sympathetically report the plight of illegal Mexican day laborers and seemingly lump those who oppose illegal immigration with racists. Speaking of Mario, a person involved in the test, he explained, "You know, he's like 120,000 other day laborers who wakes [sic] up at 5:00 in the morning. Walks four miles to this little corner town."

Although the special did feature some Americans who protested the tirades of the pretend cashier, the segment mostly reinforced the idea of inherent racism in America, a subject GMA appears to be obsessed with. On October 29, 2008, reporter Claire Shipman investigated supposedly unconscious bigoted views in a group of undecided American voters.

She suspiciously asked the men and women if any of them "have a sense" that Barack Obama is "arrogant" or "uppity." (Despite the fact that America elected the African American candidate less than a week later, the ABC program failed to do a follow-up story about whether GMA might be wrong in its assessment of the voters.)

News anchor Chris Cuomo sounded a similar theme on the December 20, 2007 show. He queried Obama, then running in the Democratic primaries, "What do you think the bigger obstacle is for you in becoming president, the Clinton campaign machine or America's inherent racists, racism?"

A partial transcript of the January 6 segment, which aired at 7:31am, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: But, first, let's turn now to a provocative ABC News series, of course, in primetime, "What Would You Do." It is back. And we use hidden cameras to capture how people really react when faced with ethical dilemmas. The scenarios are dramatic, eye opening and ABC's John Quinones is here with one this morning, a group of Americans reacting. And it's prejudice you're taking a look at now.

JOHN QUINONES: Yeah, Diane. This time, we design an experiment in a deli, in a working-class, town about 15 miles outside of New York. We want to see how customers would react in the face of blatant discrimination, when two Hispanic day laborers were denied service at that deli. It's 6:30 on a Friday morning in downtown Linden, New Jersey. And these two men have stopped into a deli for coffee and a bite to eat.

CASHIER: Get back in your pickup with the rest of your family and go. Please.

QUINONES: But on this day, the only thing they're being served is prejudice.

CASHIER: We're building walls to keep you guys out of the country. You don't speak English, you don't get service. We don't serve your kind here.

QUINONES: The targets of his prejudice are Latino day labors.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He don't speak English, man.

QUINONES: Watch this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We don't speak Mexican. They don't want you in here, so leave. Leave, man. Before they call the cops.

CASHIER: Yeah, we don't speak Mexican.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Leave, man. Leave, yo, leave. They're going to call the cops. Leave! Leave!

QUINONES: Our day laborer pleads with him. He has the money.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You just don't understand. He's going to call the cops on you. If you don't leave, he's going to call the [bleep] cops on you. If you want me to make you leave, I'll make you leave. So, leave. That's all I got to say. Leave.


QUINONES: It's tough to watch. Especially for Mario, the real day laborer, who has been with us all morning. When we were inside, how did it make you feel?

MARIO [through translator]: It made me feel horrible. I don't know. I wanted to cry. Because they discriminate against us. I don't know why. We don't do anything. [Mario starts to cry.] Why do they discriminate against us? We're humans, the same as them. We have the same flesh. So, I don't know. I'm sorry.

QUINONES: Pretty tough.

SAWYER: It is tough. Tell me about Mario.

QUINONES: You know, he's like 120,000 other day laborers who wakes [sic] up at 5:00 in the morning. Walks four miles to this little corner town.

SAWYER: Walks four miles.

QUINONES: Freehold, New Jersey. And he waits to be picked up by these- anyone who wants to employ him and his buddies. The good news, Diane, of course, we should point out that the African-American later thought about what he had said, in trying to throw them out. And he came around. After watching our experiment for about 20 minutes, he said, "You know what? I'm sorry. I understand. I'm a victim of racism myself." And it tells you how, in the moment, we can all call feel that way. But once we stop and think-

SAWYER: And he expressed regret. Now, not everybody, of course, reacted in the moment that way. And you have another tape of someone else. Let's watch that.

QUINONES: Yes. While our experiment uncovered some of the dark impulses many of us share, we're about to discover that there are plenty of tolerant people, too.

CASHIER: Don't speak English.

SECOND UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah, yeah. Take it easy. You must be new here. 'Cause we don't treat people like that here.

CASHIER: We're in America, right?

SECOND UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah. That's great. Listen, if you can't deal with this country and how we accept other people, you don't belong working here. Certainly not in Linden, New Jersey. Understand me?

CASHIER: They don't speak a word of English.

SECOND UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, you know what? You sit down in the back. What would you like, my friend?

QUINONES: People like this man speak up. Compassionate and tough.

SECOND UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hurry up. Stop talking. Start cooking

QUINONES: And now, watch this woman. She bites her lip until she just cannot take it anymore.

CASHIER: I can't serve this.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Okay, well, you know what? I'm ready to cancel my food because of the way you're treating this woman. It's not right. Okay, I got what you're saying. It's not right and I don't want to hear it anymore.