Picture the scene; a black man and his white girlfriend enter a barbershop in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. While nobody bats an eyelid for the first few minutes, the white woman soon calls over to her boyfriend, saying “Hey, baby.” A few heads turn in curiosity.
One head turns in particular.
There’s a female barber, a young, black woman. She takes umbrage with the idea that this white woman is dating a black customer. Her customer, in fact. And evidently, she can’t keep her mouth shut as she quickly makes it known how she feels about this interracial relationship.
What would you do if you heard an interracial couple being shamed in a public place? Would you mind your own business, or would you step up and speak out against discrimination? ABC presenter John Quiñones, with his hit show What Would You Do?, was curious to find out how the customers of Denny Moe’s barbershop would deal with this conundrum.
Disclaimer: Rachael, the angry female barber, is an actress! Gabriel and Kristin, the interracial couple, enter stage left and quickly put on a thoroughly convincing performance for Denny Moe’s numerous customers. The result is sobering, eye-opening, and in some cases, pretty spectacular.
As soon as Gabriel walks in, Rachael begins flirting with him but is stopped in her tracks as soon as Kristin walks into the shop. Her rapid-fire comments start there. “Say what?” she starts out, directing her incredulity toward Gabriel. “You with a white girl?”
“You couldn’t find a strong, black woman for you?” she asks abrasively, turning a few heads in the process. Kristin, who hears everything, chimes in with an “Excuse me?” but Rachael is not deterred.
Kristin suggests out loud that Rachael’s opinion is “crazy,” but Rachael’s comeback is lightning-fast: “The only thing crazy is you being in here,” she says. Another black female customer’s jaw drops to the floor; her name is Denise, and she quickly becomes our first hero of the hour. “I’m not bothered by you,” she tells Kristin gently. “Nobody over here is bothered by you.”
“Why are you defending a white woman though?” Rachael asks. “I don’t care what she is,” Denise retorts. “She could be purple, I’m defending a woman. Period. Point blank.” Perhaps inspiring other people to come forward in Kristin’s defense, somebody else challenges Rachael’s bigotry next.
“You can’t disrespect customers like that,” says Nicholas, a customer from across the other side of the shop. “You should be ashamed of yourself for doing that […] Hate doesn’t do anything but beget more hate.” The hidden camera show’s host, Quiñones, later praises Nicholas’s words to Rachael as an “eloquent condemnation of racism,” and he’s right.
But Nicholas isn’t the last person to speak up. Marsha is next, and her words are possibly the most impactful of all. She’s a professional diversity trainer, but no amount of training could have prepared Marsha for Rachael’s hateful words. However, she combats Rachael’s vitriol with the very best medicine: kindness.
“I hear you,” Marsha says with a smile, “but we embrace. Where’s your caring and loving heart? Let’s try to rise together,” the inspirational woman adds, pleading with Rachael to apologize to Kristin. Her words eventually bring Rachael to tears.
When quizzed by Quiñones about why she spoke so candidly to Rachael, Marsha explains: “Sometimes you have to step up so that you don’t fall back.” When other customers are asked by Quiñones why they didn’t speak up, they are visibly humbled. One customer even admits, “Well, hindsight is 20/20.”
Denny Moe and John Quiñones himself! Pick up his new book "What would you do? – words of wisdom about doing the right thing " which mentions the episode featuring Denny Moe's
Emotions ran high in Denny Moe’s that day! Hateful words were met with silence, reasoned arguments, and even loving kindness. But what would you do in the same situation?
Step forward against hatred and bigotry. We’ve all got it in us to do the right thing.