Dear Jeanne Doucette,
While others organize in protest of the Cville weekly’s racist, sensationalist faux-journalism in reporting your story, I find that my upset lies primarily with you. For while there are two very different sides of the story of what happened on the downtown mall on December 20th, what is clear based on medical evidence collected in the course of the legal investigation is that your story was wildly exaggerated. In a most dangerous and racist way.
You played on your white female privilege and deeply entrenched white fear of the black man. We–white women–are the archetype of innocence; we are the ones who will be believed. And you exploited that to condemn three unknown black men, your archetypal enemy. You played it all out, you took up the mantel of Carolyn Bryant (accuser of Emmett Till) and cried your white woman’s tears and wrote your indignant indictment of the local police. You spread a fictionalized version of events, grossly exaggerating the violence of your “attackers” pretending that it all happened unprovoked by you and your white knight of a boyfriend. You used every element of a mythology that relies on white supremacist hatred to make your case: the savage violence of the black man, the pure innocence of the white woman and the valiant efforts of the white man to defend the white woman’s honor. And then you posted blurry photos of these young black men and closed your dramatic telling with the blazing conclusion that they were “animals that need[ed] to be caged.” Your words. And yours was a rallying cry for white supremacists and garden variety racists–by which i mean most white people everywhere who would be moved by a story out of our worst white people nightmares–alike.
In a culture that sees the murder of innocent men and women of color at the hands of killer cops and racist vigilantes every 28 hours, you brought all those fears to a fever pitch and then asked people on social media sites to help you identify your “attackers.” In a country where institutional racism translates into the school to prison pipeline phenomenon, where 30% of African American men between the ages of 20 and 29 are “under correctional supervision,” what effect could you have possibly hoped your fictional account would have? What other than blatant racism and a desire to avert responsibility for your actions that night could have inspired you to write your woeful facebook account of that night?
Your words have power and you used them very deliberately. I cannot believe you were entirely ignorant of that fact. In fact I’m inclined to believe you knew exactly what you were doing. None of it makes much sense otherwise: the dramatic appeal to the world of facebook, the wide discrepancies in your story and that of the other men involved coupled with interviews of witnesses and medical evidence that undermines your account, your choice choice of language.
You didn’t only endanger the three men you claimed as your “attackers” that night but every other young black man that anyone who read your words sees. You have done your part to entrench the unjustified fear that leads white women to cross to the other side of the road when black men are approaching and the dangerous protective instinct of white men who believe the racist hype.
And now the men you asked for help finding are the only ones facing charges, despite police reports that indicate they may have been provoked and attacked themselves. The age old story carries on with your help. And you will almost certainly never be held accountable for your role in upholding the deadly, racist environment in which young black men try to survive daily.
PS. Even the NYPD, notorious for their racial profiling and abhorrent stop and frisk practices, seems to believe that the idea that a “knockout game” is spreading is nothing but an urban myth. So bonus points to bulwarking that as well.