Would you ignore a child in need?
Of course, you’d probably want to say “no” when asked this question, but we’ve all been caught off guard in situations before where we acted differently than we’d wished. Given all of life’s many variables, sometimes it’s hard to make the best decision in the spur of the moment. This often leaves us with regret, contemplating our past actions and vowing to never do it again. But what have we done to change?
Life is hectic, hard and unfair. These are facts we are sometimes taught when still very young, or otherwise truths we come to learn–and accept–in time. Yet the greatest victims in this world are the many nameless poor whom we may see and pity or even see and ignore in our day to day lives.
Homelessness is a global crisis, and there are an estimated 150 million homeless children living in the world today. Billions more live in housing that is either unsafe, crowded, filthy, or otherwise inadequate for human use.
Though many of us like to think we’d go out of our way to help a child in need, the facts say otherwise. When confronted with a lost little girl in public, whether or not people chose to help all came down to the way she looked.
Here’s the disturbing proof.
What Would You Do?
For it’s 2016 State of the World’s Children report, UNICEF put together an eye-opening social experiment as a part of its #ForEveryChild campaign.
They started with a simple question: “What would you do if you saw a six-year-old alone in a public place?”
Most of us probably know the answer: we’d ask her if she was okay, where her parents were, if she knew their phone number. And then we’d probably contact the police. That is, if we didn’t flat-out ignore her. Awful as it sounds, if you live in a crowded city like New York, think about all the potentially-dangerous things you see and ignore each day, assuming that it’s not your business or that someone else will take care of it. Safe as it may be, it’s a sad approach to life and community.
UNICEF hired a young actress named Anano, and then put her into the same, helpless scenarios as two very different characters. First, they did her hair and dressed her up nicely before leaving her on a street or in a restaurant by herself, much to the chagrin of passersby. Second, they made her look dirty and dressed her in mismatched, shabby clothing and put her in the same locations. What the cameras captured next was truly disconcerting.
Would it surprise you if we said that Anano’s appearance dramatically affected how people treated her? Or that her dirty clothes made her virtually invisible to people on the street and a nuisance to people in a café? Watch the reactions to this startling social experiment for yourself below.