WATCH: Black teen accosted by white man who accused him of theft during class project on racism
Channing Cowan (KDVR)

A black teenager was violently confronted by a man who wrongly accused him of stealing a wallet as he and some classmates took part in a school project on racism.

Channing Cowan had gone with three classmates to Cherry Creek Mall in Denver for a psychology class study when the man grabbed the 17-year-old by the arm, reported KDVR-TV.

The teens asked passersby to ask to borrow their cell phones to see whether skin color influenced their reactions -- and they captured the violent confrontation on video.

"He actually grabbed me and threatened to whoop my you-know-what if I didn't give his wallet back," Cowan said.

A woman with the white man eventually realized she had left the wallet in a store, and she apologized to the teen, but Cowan said the man and another friend walked away without saying anything.

"My heart didn't break, because I know it happens all the time," said the boy's mother, Alice Cowan. "But it was so scary for me because I wasn't there. I know he's a senior, but at the same time he's my baby."

She and her husband believe the man accused their son of stealing the wallet because he's black, and they don't think the man should have laid his hands on their son.

"What if the roles were reversed and I was putting my hands on your child?" Michael Cowan said. "How would you feel?"

Alice Cowan said the incident was a disturbing reminder.

"Lately it just seems like things have gone so far back," she said. "We've gone backward instead of forward. People just feel like they can say and do whatever they want to do."