Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blame it on a black man – or woman

Earlier this week, I read a story about Bethany Storro, a 28-year old white woman who was allegedly attacked and whose face was doused with acid during the attack. The now-disfigured Ms. Storro alleged her attacker was a "black woman with a ponytail." As it turns out, this obviously disturbed young woman made up the entire story; she doused herself with the acid. This is yet another incident of "blaming it on a black person," except in this case, instead of the usual black man (using the infamous sketch of the fake black man), the alleged attacker was a black woman. Same story, same lie, different gender. It seems in this country there are many who believe that blaming a black person instantly makes his/her story believable. It's a two-fold racist mindset, the mindset of the person who makes up the story and the mindset of those (usually non-black) who automatically believe the story. Many, if not most, black people usually just sigh when we hear yet another of these stories. I remember when I first saw Susan Smith on the news report relating her tale of being car-jacked by a black man who kidnapped her children. I intuitively knew she was lying. Fake tears or not, there was something about her story I found unbelievable. Of course, as we all later discovered, her story was completely fabricated; she murdered her sons.

What's sad to me is how often these stories, lies, occur and what's even sadder is that even in 2010, many people still believe their lies will be believed, and are believed by many. This has occurred so often that there is now a website that has chronicled these stores. About ten years ago in San Antonio, a middle-aged white woman was allegedly kidnapped from the parking lot of an Albertson's grocery store. She was then taken to a remote hilltop, doused with gasoline and set afire. As she lay dying from her injuries, she described the black man who was her kidnapper and assaulter. Police later discovered the woman was about to be indicted for embezzlement from her employer and – wait for it, THERE WAS NO BLACK KIDNAPPER/ASSAULTER. She doused herself with gasoline and set herself afire. Police discovered a video of her purchasing the gas can at a nearby Wal-Mart and another video of her filling the gas can with gas at a nearby Valero gas station.

Lest we think this kind of lie is a recent phenomenon, I must remind you of the infamous Rosewood Massacre. In January, 1923, nearly the entire population of the black town of Rosewood, Florida was massacred and property destroyed. Why? A married white woman had been beaten by her white lover. Needing to explain her injuries to her husband, she, blamed it on a black man. A murderous mob quickly gathered and went on a rampage, killing black men, women and children. Today, Rosewood is classified as a ghost town. The State of Florida didn't even acknowledge the incident until 1986, 63 years later. Even then, the state minimized the number of blacks who were killed. Survivors of Rosewood still alive today, are loathe to talk about it. The movie, Rosewood, depicted this massacre but sadly, Booty Call was released the same weekend and drew the larger crowds.

I could relate numerous stories such as the one described above, but the point is that the black person is a convenient and believable culprit/scapegoat to many. What is it about the black race that demonizes it so much that people can easily and readily create these stores, these lies? What lies in the minds of those who readily and easily believe these lies? Is the legacy of racism in this country still so strong that even in the 21st century, these stories, these lies occur so often that many of us barely even click our teeth or shakes our heads in dismay? Is the stain of slavery still so deeply embedded in our culture that the black person will forever be a handy scapegoat for the maniacal ravings of a lunatic mind?

One bright spot in all of this, at least for me, the police in many areas have what appears to be a heightened awareness of the blame it on a black man lie. Unlike the Charles Stuart case in Boston in 1989 where the police went on a find the black man rampage, it seems the police are more aware of the possibility that the alleged black man criminal may not exist.

I still have hope.