The Imaginary Black Man Did It... Or Not!

In late October, 1994 my mom called me up and told me about a white woman from South Carolina named Susan Smith who'd claimed that a black man had carjacked her and driven away with her two small boys. Susan was all over the TV crying and pleading for the big, scary black man to return her sons.

I was in China, having my first adult experience living outside of the American racial system and, as much as I was homesick, Susan Smith's story made me feel grateful to be gone from the United States. After all, she was making her accusations only a few months after OJ Simpson had made his infamous drive down the 405 Freeway, and it was nice to be away from the mindset that if one black person does something crazy, all the rest are guilty by association.

Indeed, the whole, "A black man took my car and kids" story sounded incredibly fishy from the get-go. It sounded like To Kill A Mockingbird's white character, Mayelle Ewell, accusing black character Tom Robinson of rape when all he was trying to do was, "Bust up this chiffarobe," for her.

And, sadly enough, but to undoubted relief of all big black American men who were automatically suspects if they fit the description, nine days later, Susan Smith fessed up and admitted she'd lied. No scary black man had ever existed. Instead, Susan had drowned her own children by leaving them strapped in their car seats and letting her car roll into a lake.

Now, almost fourteen years later to the day, McCain campaign volunteer Ashley Todd, a woman from Texas who was volunteering in Pennsylvania, claimed that a big, scary, 6'4" black man robbed her, sexually assaulted her by fondling her... and then carved the letter B into her face, all while yelling, "You are going to be a Barack supporter!"

And why did he do this? Because after robbing her, the scary black man got pissed when he saw a McCain sticker on her car. (I'll admit, I'm sort of surprised she didn't also throw in that he had a ten foot long blue black penis with an Obama button pinned to the end, but maybe she thought that would be overkill.)

McCain's Pennsylvania spokesperson ran with the story and allegedly told the press that the B carved onto Todd's face stood for Barack.

Not "Biden" or "Bono" or "Bill O'Reilly". Nope, it stood for Barack.

To make things even worse, a Fox News VP, John Moody, decided to more fully connect Ashley Todd's miserable story with Barack Obama by saying:
"This incident could become a watershed event in the 11 days before the election. 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."
Hmm... I have a few questions:
1) Why exactly would this make "some voters" feel like they don't know enough about Barack Obama?
2) Is the phrase "some voters" code language for "white people"?
3) Does this guy think
Obama's calling up black men and telling them to jump white women? "I'm Barack Obama and I approve that letter B on her cheek!"

The implications of Ashley's story, and the way the McCain spokesperson and Fox News VP responded, were a clear representation of the story we've all heard before. It's the animalistic black man brutally deflowering the innocence of a saintly white woman. Yeah, it's the same racial dog-whistle that reaches back to the days when black men were first sold on these shores.

White people are supposed to hear Ashley's story, the comments of the McCain spokesperson and Fox News, and then call each other up and say, "If a black man could carve a B into the cheek of an innocent, fresh-faced 20 year-old, what else might they people do if Barack Obama actually gets elected? OMG! We better vote McCain!"

Yup, vote McCain because black men might feel so empowered if Obama gets in office that they might try to escape from slavery attack any and all white people if they so much as clutch their purse when walking by.

But, thankfully, we now know that little Ashley Todd is a crazy, lying beeyotch. Her story about the scary, 6'4" black man who felt her up and carved the letter B into her cheek is completely false. Just like the lies of her Southern sisters, Susan Smith and Mayelle Ewell, her story is not true.

Ashley's dumb, psychotic self was sooo stupid that she carved the B into her cheek backwards, like if you're doing it while looking in a mirror. Thankfully, the days when the police would blindly take the word of a white woman as veritas, and then go string up the innocent black man, are over. The police thought Ashley's story was shady and had major inconsistencies, so they told her they needed her to come back in to help them sketch a picture of the "suspect". What they really did instead when she returned was grill her and make her take a lie-detector test... which she failed.

But of course, before the truth came out, the McCain's called her to express their deepest sympathies and the press ran with the story like it was, at last, the thing that would destroy Barack Obama's candidacy once and for all.

That Fox VP also said, "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 not so sure that's true. I don't believe McCain called Ashley up and told her to do this. Not even Karl Rove would stoop that low. (I think.)

It's not very charitable of me, but I really hope that B scars Ashley's face for life. At the very least, I hope she gets prosecuted to the full extent of the law for her race baiting false accusations against an imaginary black man. Oh, and for lying about sexual assault too. She's done a great disservice to all the women in this country who are genuinely victims of sexual assault.

Future generations will look back on these kinds of sick, twisted stories and wonder what sort of society could spawn the kind of people who actually think that carving a B on your own face, and then saying a black man did it is a good idea. So civilized and brilliant, and yet drowning in a racial cess pool of our own making. We need to come up for air.


Shiona said…
If it scars it would be like a "Scarlet Letter" reminding everyone she came in contact with of what she did. I automatically thought of the Susan Smith incident. Thank goodness the police actually looked into the story. This is pretty sad I heard she had a history of mental issues but that does not make you say a black man did it. Sorry honey, not a good justification.
Liz Dwyer said…
I was thinking "Scarlet Letter" too. And as far as mental illness, I feel for her if that's true, but I still think she should go to jail or get locked up. Or SOMETHING! I'm with you on that not being a justification. Whatever.
Anonymous said…
She's clearly nuts and needs professional help. The people who disgust me here are all those desperate and twisted McCain supporters who tried to turn the story to electoral advantage. Moody's comments slurring Obama on the basis of an obviously outlandish story are particularly despicable.
Yah - I'm not surprised that there is a crazy person who would hurt themselves and try to blame it on the imaginary race enemy.... but to see the press and the politicians try to take advantage of it and push it to us as "news"... thinking it could be another scare tactic to manipulate the American people...that is truly disheartening and frightening. One thing about seeing something this obvious - it might open some eyes to the racism we breath like a house full of a carbon monoxide from a rigged up space heater.
Jen said…
Whether she's mentally ill or not, I also feel the news media is sick for having made this into such a huge story in the first place.

I read an interesting... something, my stupid over-40 brain forgot it again, and it may ahve been off my local Obama list, but they listed all these things about McCain's personal life and then asked if America would be even considering McCain if these things had been in Obama's life, ie. his reputation for rage, his experiences as a POW (because, you know, in Obama's case that would have made him a "forever-scarred, crazy Black man"), his divorce, especially leaving his ill first wife, his adopting a Bangladeshi daughter (what, an American wasn't good enough for him?), etc., etc.

So sad. So disgusting. And so probably true.

I'm truly praying that this race will open up true dialogue on this issue and that hopefully EIGHT years with Mr. Obama leading us will help this sick country of ours finally begin to move forward.
Too pissed to write a longer comment.

I can't believe the campaign jumped all over the story. they could have waited to see what the police said. It's clear they really wanted it to be true.

I hope she's not mentally ill. If she isn't I hope that B leaves a scar for a long time.
Ian Lidster said…
Powerful blog, Liz. Well-stated observations (what else, from you?) about the illness of society -- at least at certain levels.
Also shows the desperation of some in the McCain camp. That is pathetic.
Jennifer said…
That this 'event' became news at all (thank you Fox News, for your unbiased reporting) shows us yet again how divided we are. I think Colin Powell summed it up nicely when he said Barack Obama was the candidate who could best bring us together as a nation, not John McCain. The McCain supporters (fringe ones, true) are still trying to divide us along racial lines.

I hope this woman is scarred, as uncharitable as that sounds. She tried to leave a scar on this nation and she deserves to be punished for that.
the joy said…
I was shocked when I first heard this story. It seemed really far fetched though because Obama really doesn't have violent supporters, at least not in comparison to the ones who yell "kill him" at campaign stops...I do feel sorry for her, as I feel sorry for all mentally ill people. And she's got a self inflicted wound to carry around. Mmm.
I thought of Susan Smith too when I heard about it...and my next thought was thank God for cameras! See what people like her have forgotten is that there is a camera embedded in something everywhere in cities in America...the ATM machine would have automatically taken a picture of the big black man when he approached the ATM...and the camera has a pretty wide range now. Then there was the camera on top of the traffic signal, on one of the office buildings nearby and at the next ATM down the block! Those cameras make it hard for the imaginary black man to be everywhere nowadays!

As for the McCain campaign - desperation is the key word...astonishment is another...or let's try unbelief that the black man with the funny name is whopping his azz!

I truly wish that I lived in a state where I could vote early...because I am so ready to vote and for this farce to be over...Americans have spoken...we want CHANGE!!!!
Toni Campbell said…
What's funny to me is that in both the Susan Smith case and the Ashley Todd case, the minute I heard the description of the "attacker", I knew they were lying. Smith described her assailant as wearing a black skullcap. It was pretty warm still here in the southeastern US that October and brothers hadn't pulled out their skullcaps yet! And Todd described a man wearing black shiny shoes. Not many "thugs" out here assaulting people with their church shoes on! LOL
Liz Dwyer said…
Yes, the way some of the media jumped on this story like it was gonna be the magic wand that destroyed Obama is truly despicable. I wonder what'll happen to Ashley now. Even if she is unstable mentally, I think she should have to do time. (I'm so mean, aren't I?)

The whole thing seems incredibly premeditated. I think she knew what the impact might be and maybe was hoping to feel important because of it. Good analogy about the space hearter/carbon monoxide too.

The media's behavior in this has been totally unethical. Absolutely unethical. I think I also read what you'd read and found myself thinking about the "Black Tax" idea and how it still plays out.

I feel you. AND the media jumped all over it and the campaign did too, all without true confirmation from the police. Ridiculousness.

Fox "News" -- someone put them out of their misery, please. The sort of disunity that's being vomited up on the national stage sadly enough reminds me of the final days of Hillary's campaign. The problem is that most people want to be unified, whether they'll admit it or not.

The Joy,
Exactly! Except folks think that if you're black you're already violent. I feel for her if she's mentally ill. But there has to be some consequence for her other than just medicating her.

LOL!!! I loved your comment. Desperation, astonishment and disbelief! Love it! And you are so right about there being cameras everywhere. So true.

Of course there's now a story that Ashley's really an Obama plant designed to drum up sympathy. Sicking.

Exactly! The minute they said that mess about the shiny shoes I was like, oh, this heffa's lying. Whatever. But see, folks in the media don't know us like that and don't understand that you don't go commit a mugging in your church shoes! And if they do know, they don't care because they just want to create drama to drive ratings.
Anonymous said…
As a large scary black man, I cringed when I heard this story. Not because I was surprised, mindy... I live the "oh-look-out-it's-a-big-scary-black-man" existence every day.

I cringed because I saw this fictitious black mugger story as this campaign's answer to Willie Horton.

Things change. They haven't changed that much, yet.
This was the hoax heard around the world. And I hope she rots in jail.
1969 said…
This was so well written, I don't even need to comment. LOL

You said everything that was in my head. Thanks Liz!
Liz Dwyer said…
Totally Willie Horton. My mom keeps asking me, "Why are you surprised?" and it's a good question. I guess I'd hoped such a low point wouldn't be reached. I'm disappointed in how the very media outlets that jumped all over this story are now silent about it. If it had actually been true we'd be hearing about it 24/7.

Or, if she's genuinely mentally ill, I hope she gets committed.

Thanks for saying that...but you know I wish it didn't need writing at all all.
Jameil said…
I laughed about her carving a perfect backwards b in her face. what kinda criminal spends all that time carving a perfect backwards letter? LMAO!! stupid. can you at least ASK a criminal or maybe even a college student, dang, a HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT about the foolishness in your faux crime before you attempt it? dummy. but the part abt a black guy and sexual assault? i was PISSED. like black men don't have enough of a target on them and sexual assault victims don't have to practically be violated on tape to get a conviction. and this chick makes it up? OFF WITH HER B-SCARRED HEAD! the news guy? is he serious? someone sent me a job for fox and i was like yeah right, never in your life, not even if you paid me (which they obviously would). i cannot work for a "news" organization which incessantly flouts all journalistic principles. as the head of a news corp. you should not insinuate your opinions EVER. leave it to the political analysts. complete and utter crap. journalistic integrity? what's that. ARGGGGHHH!!

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