Saturday, October 25, 2008

Black Like Him

Remember Susan Smith, the young South Carolina mother carjacked by a black man who drove off with her two sons still in the car? Remember Charles Stuart, the Boston man robbed by a black man with a “raspy voice,” who also killed his pregnant wife? Now Ashley Todd has joined their ranks as creator of yet another lurid tale involving a fictitious black male criminal. Todd doesn’t need remembering, since she has starred in several recent news cycles.

The young, white McCain volunteer decided to stage her very own dirty trick. She would fake an attack on herself by a black man, purportedly enraged that she was working for the Republican campaign. She turned up at a police station in North Carolina with a black eye and the letter “B” scratched in her cheek -- which, a McCain flack helpfully pointed out to a reporter, stood for “Barack.”

You might think that this story would have excited suspicion right from the start, especially since the “B” was scratched backwards, Todd apparently not having figured out to reverse the image in the mirror. In the photographs her stage-makeup black eye looked like it would have yielded to a damp handkerchief, and apparently did, since it had disappeared by the time of her perp walk.

Todd’s story finally unraveled when no record of her was found on the security camera at the ATM where she claimed to have been withdrawing money at the time of the attack. Before she confessed, however, Todd reportedly received sympathetic phone calls from both McCain and Palin, and a concerned note from the Obama campaign expressing the hope that the perpetrator would soon be brought to justice.

Ashley Todd is a disturbed young woman and obviously not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Certainly her failed hoax wasn’t orchestrated by the campaign. Republicans are the party of Karl Rove, after all; they can do better. But it’s horribly depressing to witness the return appearance of this pernicious fabrication. The predatory Black Man. Him, again. He’s 6’4” and is wearing a track suit. Maybe a knit hat. He has a raspy voice. And a gun or possibly a knife. The details vary, but not by much, since the perpetrators of this particular falsehood tend to be imaginatively challenged. So it’s pretty much the same old story.

Our best hope is that the audience for it is dwindling. That would be a change I could believe in.

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