Over the course of ten hours, Hollaback recorded over one hundred instances of verbal street harassment. They note that the harassment spanned a number of neighborhoods and people of all backgrounds.
If you've not seen this video yet, you really should.
But don't stop there. Take the basic premise - observing behaviour in public spaces, looking for patterns - and apply it in your own day. You'll be very, very surprised at what you see.
The Objectivists/libertarians out there like to say that there is no such thing as society, just rational actors transacting for personal gain. The more freedom they have - from the state, from taxation, of speech, etc. - the more able they are to be rational.
It's a confabulated notion that works in the movies but not so much in real life. In real-world scenarios, people aren't rational - they're rarely conscious of much of what they do. Little glances, conversations about private topics held in public spaces, cutting in front of others because of a failure to recognize them/an impulsive need to get ahead, even at the inconvenience of others - the list goes on.
Stigmatization plays a big part of this behaviour. We look at the world in terms of what it means to us, and react accordingly. You can tell a lot about people by what they fear, what they show interest in, what they ignore. Does a certain character not notice a homeless person, while another might see them and react with discomfort, or disgust, or with empathy?
What about a black kid on the subway?
We make rapid-fire judgments because that's what we're genetically programmed to do. We're animals, like any other, led by forces not consciously in our control. Thought comes later, if at all. This isn't a judgment - just an observation.
Just remember - you're not a species apart, whether you feel superior or inferior or completely disconnected from others. We're all the same, all with variations on the same limitations.
When we're conscious of this - and when we consciously seek to build and exercise discipline - then we can start to gain control.