Sunday, October 26, 2008

The B Hoax

Apparently, 'B' is for big black boogie man.

You've heard the story of Ashley Todd, the young woman who cut a backwards 'B' into her cheek and claimed an angry black Obama supporter did it to her. Before the facts were established, while the police were justifiably skeptical, bloggers and the mainstream media enthusiastically pushed the story. Fox News salivated, and the network's executive vice president, John Moody, commented on the demented scandal:

If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.

I'm baffled why any voter would have reconsidered their support for Obama because of the actions of one person reported to be the same race as Obama. I was equally confused why revelations of a hoax would reflect on McCain.

However, the evidence that McCain's communication director pushed an incendiary version of the story to reporters does indeed reflect on McCain and his campaign. At worst, their eagerness reaffirms my fears that they are intentionally fanning the flames of racism. At best, it merely adds to the campaign's stench of desperation.

One reason why I get upset over these stories is because I've seen it all before, and it plays out the same damn way every time. In 1989, Charles Stuart claimed a black man shot his wife after jumping into their car while stopped at a traffic light. In 1994, Susan Smith claimed a black man stole her car with her two sons still strapped in their car seats. In both cases, reporters were slow to ask critical questions, but police eventually uncovered the true stories of murder and deception. I must say that the Pittsburgh Police Department was remarkably quick in getting a confession from Todd.

But there is a sinister history in this country that is too distant to be remembered by the living but too near to to be called ancient. This most horrible part of American history is documented on the once common postal card souvenir.

These images remind me that there always emerges a segment of the population who believe that their own anger and revulsion justifies denying due process to the accused.

That is why I get very afraid when people fan the flames of racism and then think it's not "such a big deal."

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