Monday, October 27, 2008

The Racialization of False Accusations

As the echo of Ashley Todd's false claim of being assaulted by a Black Obama supporter fades into the political background, I found in interesting to observe how the incident was racialized. There did not seem to be any doubt amongst the commentariat that this was an effort to spark a racial response in the electorate. But Ms. Todd's actions were not seen as a signifier or example of White character as a whole. Her accusation was not something "they" (White people) do. It was a "callback" to a bygone era, or it was an aberration from general White practice.

Contrast that to how, for example, the fictive claims in the Duke Lacrosse case, or Tawana Brawley, were treated. They were racialized as well, but unlike Ms. Todd they were used to make broad, sweeping statements about what "they" (Black people) do with regards to putative racism -- namely, just make stuff up. It was not seen as exceptional, or aberrational. It was a valid measuring stick from which to look at all claims of racialized White-on-Black violence.

The instinct, I feel, in Ms. Todd's case was the proper one. Take note of how race is being used by the perpetrator of the fraud to create a certain reaction, and condemn those who exploit that sentiment without proper verification. But don't impute the event wholesale onto the entire race. White folks do not want Ms. Todd's frame-up to become the standard by which we are measured. But fair is fair -- if we want the benefit of the doubt, we have to give it when faced with parallel situations on the other side of the racial divide.


Superdestroyer said...

One of the difference is that in the Tawana Brawley episode or in the Duke Lacrosse case that black politicians lined up to support the accusers because they were black.

Even after Tawana Brawley was shown to be a liar, black politicians were still supporting her.

Please list the number of white politicaisn who showed up at press conferences with Ms. Todd at their side or admit that there are huge differences in the cases.

PG said...

Which black politicians -- and by "politician," I mean someone actually elected to office, not someone like Sharpton or Jackson -- lined up to support the Duke accuser?

Also, the white politicians who noted support for Ms. Todd? Try the McCain/Palin campaign. McCain and Palin called Ms. Todd, and McCain's Pennsylvania communications director hyped the story to reporters.

Anonymous said...

initially, the media crucified those boys. they were kicked off the team, their coach resigned, lives were ruined all because a woman lied. the prosecutor was out of control. no one cared that the boys were white. those boys were thought to be guilty and treated as such. the woman got off easy and should be doing jail time for lying. i'm a black woman and don't take lightly the symbolism.