Friday, May 17, 2024

Murder propagates stereotypes…

March 21, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( Fayetteville, North Carolina – As the Daily Tar Heel breaking news message came across my computer screen, I remember feeling numbness as I read it. The message indicated that the white female whose unidentified body had been found in Chapel Hill had now been identified as that of Eve Carson, the UNC-Chapel Hill student body president.

I remember immediately picking up the telephone and calling our vice chancellor for student affairs. As you can imagine, colleges and universities across our nation are on a heightened sense of alert because of the acts of violence that have occurred recently on college campuses.

I wanted to notify the vice chancellor that the body found was a student and ask her to inform FSU’s student body president so that our students could express their sympathy. We share in the grief of any institution when tragedy strikes its campus, but we share a greater sense of loss when such violence occurs at one of our sister institutions in the UNC system.

After talking with her a few moments, I hung up the telephone and immediately thought to myself, “I sure hope it was not a black man who killed her.” I repeated this several times to my co-workers and family as the search for the killer began. They, too, expressed the same sentiment.

As I began to hear more about the wonderful person Carson was and the amazing life she led in such a short period of time, I hoped more and more that a black man was not involved in her murder.

Finally, when news came that the police had a photo of a man who tried to use her ATM card and the man was described as an “African-American in his late teens or early twenties,” my heart sank.

It is not the point of this column to debate the innocence or guilt of the young black men charged with Carson’s murder. Only our criminal justice system can decide that. My point is to share the distress that many blacks feel when a black man is charged or convicted of a violent act, particularly a violent act against someone of another race.

When that happens, we take it personally because we know that non-blacks are apt to judge an entire race of people on the action of one black man.

We take it personally even though we know that more blacks are the victims of violent crimes by black men than are non-blacks.

We take it personally because we know the stereotype of black men as being violent will become more deeply engrained in the minds of people of other races.

We take it personally because we know that it will be more difficult for non-blacks to recognize that a large majority of our men are devoted fathers, loving sons, caring brothers, intelligent students and hard-working employees.

There is also a sense that non-blacks believe blacks are inclined to be sympathetic to blacks who commit violent crimes against non-blacks. As an example, my legal assistant told me that he visited a local restaurant late last week and overheard a group of white men stating that they would like to kick the (explicative) of the young men accused of killing Miss Carson. The men did not see him when the statement was originally made, but when they noticed that he could have possibly overheard their comment, they became quiet. It was obvious that they thought that he might have been offended by their comment even though the comment was not tinged with racist language.

The only conclusion I could reach was that they thought he may have been sympathetic to the accusers, as opposed to being sympathetic to the victim. If they thought that he could have been sympathetic to the victim, I don’t believe they would have become quiet when they noticed him.

Consider that black people are not unlike any other racial group who detests violent and brutal acts of crimes committed against innocent people, whether the perpetrator is black or not or whether the victim is white or not. We feel the same anger, disdain, disgust and frustration that non-blacks feel.

My detestation of capital punishment is sometimes tested by an individual (of any race) who commits a brutal and senseless act of violence. The death of Eve Carson is one of those cases, no matter who is found to have killed her.

Written By Wanda Jenkins

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