Cheap Rent and Racism: The Lie Guys Social Experiment

Competitive rental markets mean that tenants can put up with some seriously strange requests from landlords and potential roommates in order to score a decent place. No cooking, no dogs, no shoes in the house are all standard requests – but what would happen if the stated policy was “no black people?”

The Lie Guys set up a ad for a room on Craigslist, then Skype recorded the responses.

Transcript and follow up bellow the jump.

Ben Bizuneh: Me and my friend Aristotle were on YouTube and we realized something. Pretty much every single YouTube comment contains the n-word.

[Montage of comment pages]

Ben: Not every single one, but a lot of them do. Maybe like 8 percent.

[On screen: Not a real statistic, that was a joke.]

Ben: And it’s weird because no one ever calls me the n-word in real life. At least not to my face. And I’ve been wondering – are people ok with racism toward black people as long as there are no black people around to hear it?

I guess I wouldn’t know. I’m always around. Let’s test it out.

[Title: Skype Racism]

Ben: So I asked Aristole to put an ad on Craigslist, saying he was looking for someone to rent a room in his fully furnished Hollywood apartment for only $400 a month. We got an overwhelming response.

[Shows Craigslist responses]

Ben: Then Aristotle scheduled Skype calls with potential renters by saying that he’d like to give each person a virtual tour of the apartment before meeting face to face.

He’s going to say some racist stuff about black people and give each person an ultimatum. Let’s see if people are willing to tolerate racism for cheap rent.

[The Skype calls are then shown. These are captioned with Aristotle’s conversations and the caller’s responses. Aristotle basically makes quiet racial inferences. He references people getting their “dirty black feet” on the floors, talks about watching movies “with my white friends,” “having parties with my white friends,” recites rules like “no cats, no dogs, no black people”, once he says no “n*****s,” and mimes a hanging in response to affirmation by another white respondent. Most respondents don’t address the statements and proceed with trying to rent the apartment.]

There was also a black person who responded to the ads, so they upped the ante:

While YouTube commenters immediately began calls for a reverse version of the series (“tell black people they can’t invite whites over”) the video is interesting because it looks at very subtle ways people can tacitly agree with racism. Most commenters did not go out of their way to address what Stotle was saying – they just glossed over that part in their responses.

But when the Lie Guys attempted the same joke on a black person, it’s interesting to note that there isn’t any anti-racist grand gestures. The black respondent doesn’t lose his cool – or even raise his voice. He fought subtle racism with subtle disapproval, which is a tactic that isn’t highlighted enough.

The Lie Guys are comedians using social commentary in their craft, and on cue, YouTube commenters manage to bring the experiment home:

Samatar Nur

This is so stupid its not racism i would even say fuck black people for some cheap rent and im black

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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