On October 23, it was reported that a McCain volunteer was robbed and assaulted by a black man. She claimed that after robbing her, her assailant noticed a McCain/Palin bumper sticker on her car, chased her down, and carved a backwards B into her face. At one point, she even alleged a sexual assault.
The police spent many hours investigating this case attempting to prove the veracity of her claims, only to have her admit today that she made the entire story up
McCain, for his part, his been quick to point out that she is an unpaid volunteer, and as such has no deep involvement with the campaign. Yet had McCain not unleashed such clearly racist rhetoric throughout this election cycle, would a woman like Todd have believed that her behaviour was appropriate?
Though I firmly believe McCain’s dirty campaign tactics did indeed play a factor here, what should also be recognized is the history that white women have of blaming innocent black men of assaults. From Susan Smith, to Carroll Donham, white women have been either complicit in false accusations against black men, or else have been used as props in justifying murdering black men.
In the case of Carroll Donham, whistling at her was enough to warrant a death sentence for Emmett Till. It has been over 50 years since his death and the images of his body [please note: content is disturbing] at his funeral have been seared into the psyche of African Americans. When Smith killed her children she originally blamed a black man of stealing her car with her children inside.
The black man is the convenient scapegoat, because he has been constructed as a violent savage by society. As the mother of two black sons, the degree to which this social construction has been used to uphold the purity of white women, while resulting in the death of black men, enrages me.
Some will say that we should not judge Todd too harshly and that perhaps she is suffering from a mental disability, but the fact remains that what she did was purposeful and it was racist. Disability aside, her choice in creating a tale of a vicious black male attacker was not accidental.
News agencies were quick to report this story, behaving like sharks in a feeding frenzy. When Neil Boortz dared to question the veracity of Todd’s statement before her retraction, he reportedly received hate mail.
The black male rapist is exactly what society expects, and the idea that a black man is not born naturally desiring to possess the white female is viewed as fantastical by some. The fact that Todd thought that adding sexual assault to her complaint would increase her believability proves the degree to which this construction has been accepted.
The black male savage stereotype was created to maintain the race/gender hierarchy. Painting black men as a legitimate threat to white women forestalls partnerships that could potential lead to the emancipation of both parties from white male hegemony.
The black male rapist further serves to reduce competition for what is deemed the true mate of white men, white women. Black men have also been encouraged to engage in sexism, thus using a gender privilege as a weapon with which to retaliate against an attack.
White males have carefully played these two groups against each other to maintain its advantage. When black men were given the right to vote before white women, it was because in this instance white men chose to act in gender solidarity; knowing that they could still use race to bar black men from suffrage.
When white women were placed on a pedestal and restricted to the home to protect them from the black male rapist, it reinforced the idea that while males must rule the world, and further legitimized economic dependency. In trade, the white woman was not subject to the drudgery that women of color were forced to live with.
The separation between black men and white women continues to this day. In the Democratic primary the vitriol that was exchanged between Hillary and Barack supporters made it clear that there is still an oppositional stance between these two groups.
Neither side seems cognizant of the fact that by continuing to battle against each other rather than working in tandem they are ensuring that they will forever be beholden to the white male patriarchy.
White women continue to cross the street grabbing their purses and clutching their pearls in the presence of black men.
The anger that this behaviour causes continues to widen the rift between two groups that should conceivably be allied.
Whatever mental health issues Todd may or may not have, she was successful in initially being believed because of the social expectations that have been attached to both to white women and black men.
November 4th is fast approaching, but the open wound that has been aggravated by the racial politicking is sure to add to the continued divide between black and white in the United States. These problems won’t simply go away once the election is over.