I’m sure everyone has seen the story about the 20 year old white girl, a McCain volunteer, who has now confessed that she made up a story about a large black man who attacked and robbed her, and scratched a “B” on her face because he saw the McCain bumper sticker on her car.
There is lots of irony to go around here, like reporters who jumped on the story before the facts could be verified. Drudge in particular trumpeted it, before backpedalling after her confession. Fox News Executive VP John Moody said if the incident were true “some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama”. Even the McCain campaign called the incident “sick and disgusting”.
Interestingly, Fox’s Moody 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.” Now that we know it is a hoax, is he sticking to that claim?
I actually hope some good can come out of all this. For a historic event like what looks to be the election of the first black president of the USA, there has been little constructive talk during the campaign about race in America, other than both sides calling the other side racist.
The problem with racism is that it is self-supporting. People were so willing to jump on the story of a young white woman attacked by a black man. I like to think that this country has lost much of its old racism, but if Ms. Todd had actually been attacked by a black man, would an isolated incident like this have been enough to have cost Obama the election? Conversely, now that we know it was a hoax perpetrated by a confused woman with mental health problems, will it hurt McCain?
If the answer to either of those questions is yes, that is a sad commentary on how little we have learned about racism in America, and how far we have yet to go. Neither Obama nor McCain are simply representatives of their respective races. If Obama wins, it is not a victory for black people (other than for its historic nature, and certainly not at the expense of white people).
I hope that rather than just being used for partisan advantage, this incident helps people talk about racial fears and how we need to overcome them.
UPDATE: My hopes might be answered! Jay Bookman at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an excellent opinion piece about the aftermath of this story.