Thursday, October 7, 2010

Black folks always handy for white folks in need

There was the recent story about a white woman named Bethany Storro, who was just sitting around in a park in Vancouver, Washington when some anonymous black woman walked up to her and splashed acid in her face, and ran off. It was all over the news. People were appalled at this racist act. Black woman envious of white woman’s beauty; well ha-ha, not beautiful anymore. People sent in donations to help buy Storro a new face; probably racist whites who live by such stories. Just like the story told by a woman who claimed that she had been raped by a local homeless man while her child was playing a few feet away (she needed rent money from her parents). Turns out that Storro had accidently washed her face with drain cleaner she found in the park restroom. And she had just had a face peel two weeks before the “attack.” $620 down the drain! What to do? Blame a black person; it works every time. Everyone will believe it. Black people all look the same, and the cops will never find the “right” person anyways, so no harm done. Her face only hurt a little anyways, and in fact she wasn't so beautiful in the before (in fact rather pudgy), so why not buy a new face? With all this money that people are sending her, why not? Or go on a shopping spree at Target, and buy lots of new clothes.

But not anymore, for the moment; Storro, having been exposed, is currently awaiting charges for second-degree theft for accepting donations based on making a false charge.

Naturally, people remember the original accusation, but probably missed the follow-up. When I first heard the accusation, my first reaction incredulity. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this tale. Dating at least back to the Scottsboro Boys case, white people seeking to explain shocking behavior (in the Scottsboro case, two white women riding in the same rail car with black men) have found it convenient to accuse blacks of heinous crimes that they assume everyone will believe, due to the prevailing stereotypes. In 1989 there was the infamous Charles Stuart case, whose pregnant wife was shot in a Boston neighborhood, and himself wounded. Stuart called police, claimed that a black man had carjacked them, drove them to a seedy neighborhood, robbed and shot them. Stuart even went so far as to identify the killer from a mugshot book. The killer was quickly apprehended, and the country was aflame from the heinous deed; even William Raspberry, an African-American columnist for the Boston Globe, felt guilt and shame that another black man could be capable of such an act.

It turned out, of course, that Stuart had shot his own wife, because he was afraid that there would be financial hardship in the household if she quit her job to care for the child (as if killing her would put her back to work). Stuart then shot himself, called his brother to fetch the gun and a few personal items to make it look like a robbery. The brother, panged by guilt, turned himself over to the police and confessed what really happened. Charles Stuart, realizing the game was up, drowned himself. And then there was poor Susan Smith, a South Carolina woman who was forced out of her car by another evil black man, who for no apparent reason decided he wanted to kidnap two white boys. It was instant national news. Outpourings of grief, outrage and sympathy everywhere. But an intensive hunt for the car turned-up nothing, and there was a good reason for that: Smith had allowed the vehicle to roll into a lake with her sons still inside, where they drowned. Smith confessed that she was infatuated with a local man with money who wasn’t interested in having kids. Although the media quickly jumped on the usual psychological “syndromes” that women peculiarly suffer from to explain her actions, Smith is not due for parole until 2024.

Many people felt “betrayed” by the alleged victims after the truth came out. Why “betrayed?” It is as if they actually wanted to believe these heinous stories. Why? Because these stories about blacks (and Latinos as well) committing such crimes “confirms” their own beliefs and prejudices? It justifies their bigotry? It eases their minds when segregation and discrimination is the order of the day?

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