IN 2009, the ABC show “What Would you Do?’’ hired actors to pretend to steal a bike in an upscale public park to see how onlookers would react.
About 100 people walked past the first actor — a white teenager in jeans - as he hacked away at a chain. Many — including three black women — assumed he was a park official. But when he was replaced by a black actor, an angry crowd converged. So certain were they that he was up to no good that one woman snapped a picture of him and yelled, “Gotcha.’’ One man called the police, while another tried to take his tools. The more people gathered, the more certain they grew that he had to be stopped.