A Black teenager says he was at a mall conducting a psychology experiment about race when he was grabbed by two white men wrongly accusing him of stealing a woman’s wallet.
Channing Cowan, along with three of his classmates from Centaurus High School in Lafayette, Colorado, went to the Cherry Creek Mall in Denver for a project for their psychology class. The idea behind the experiment was that they would ask strangers to borrow their cellphones, then record responses to see if and how people reacted differently based on the student’s skin color.
Cowan, who is Black, told local station KDVR he received 10 no’s in a row when asking strangers if he could borrow their cellphones. While that is depressing, it’s nothing compared to what was caught on video when he approached two white men asking to borrow their phone. They accused Cowan of stealing a woman’s wallet, and both men grabbed onto him by the arm and shirt, not allowing him to leave. Cowan said to KDVR that the man “threatened to whoop my you know what if I didn’t give his wallet back.”
In the video, a white teenager in a cast can be seen rushing to intervene to try to de-escalate the situation, while other bystanders do nothing. Not a single adult intervenes as two adult men in plain clothes manhandle a teenager.
Cowan did not have the missing wallet. In fact, the waller hadn’t been stolen; it turns out the woman had left it in a store. The woman apologized to Cowan for the misunderstanding, but according to Cowan, the two men who grabbed him refused to apologize and simply walked away.
Cowan’s parents, Alice and Michael Cowan, say that the men were absolutely motivated by their son’s skin color. “My heart didn’t break because I know it happens all the time, but it was so scary for me because I wasn’t there,” Alice told KDVR.
His father, Michael, said he’d like to know how the men would feel if the roles were reversed, and it was him grabbing their innocent child. They hope that the video serves as a lesson to people, not only that racism is alive, but that when you see it, you need to intervene.
H/T Daily Mail