By Leroy Douresseaux
June 7, 2009 - 11:57
Some will recognize the title of this opinion piece as a reference to the infamous Australian true crime case of Mindy Chamberlain. She was the Australian woman who claimed that her infant daughter was taken by a dingo. In director Fred Schepisi’s 1988 docudrama about the case, A Cry in the Dark, actress Meryl Streep, portraying Mindy, uttered the line, “A dingo took my baby!” which became a punch line – even being mocked in an episode of Seinfeld.
Bonnie Sweeten of Philadelphia, PA recently cried dingo, or is that cried “Jigaboo!” The 38-year-old wife and mother called 911 Tuesday afternoon, May 26, 2009 to report that she and her 9-year-old daughter were kidnapped after two BLACK MEN in a Cadillac that rear-ended her sport-utility vehicle in Upper Southampton, north of Philadelphia. Calling on her cell phone, Sweeten told authorities that she and her daughter were being held in the trunk of the Cadillac, while the two were really on their way to Florida.
Sweeten, who is white, was arrested the following day at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando, Florida. She was extradited back to Pennsylvania where she had already been charged with making a false report and identity theft. There are, of course, a number of theories as to why she told her lurid story of being kidnapped by BLACK MEN. After all, she was taking only one of her three children to Disney World, so there might be some domestic issues involved. Sweeten also stole a friend’s identity in order to obtain a driver’s license, which she used to buy airline tickets under another name.
Sweeten isn’t the first white woman to cry black male wolf. I can’t imagine that anyone in the Black community has forgotten Susan Smith. On October 25, 1994, the mother of two initially reported to police that she had been carjacked by a black man, who then drove away with her young sons still in the car. Eventually, Smith confessed to letting her car roll into a nearby lake, in order to drown her two children who were sleeping inside the car.
The Bonnie Sweeten debacle, however, is most reminiscent of the case of Charles Stuart, a resident of Boston, MA. In October of 1989, Stuart murdered his pregnant wife in the Boston neighborhood of Mission Hill, and said that a black man was the perpetrator. Over the following two months, the BLACK MEN of Mission Hill were victims of outrageous and tremendous persecution, all of it perpetrated by the local police. There were reports of black men being strip searched, taken into custody, and generally humiliated in front of their families. Stuart’s story unraveled and he later killed himself.
|A photo of the slain officer Omar Edwards, courtesy of the New York Police Department.|
For years, both black and white entertainers have spun much comedy out of the fact that many Americans, of all skin colors including black, and also law enforcement have viewed BLACK MEN as… criminally inclined. But jokes aside, Bonnie Sweeten’s case is a summons to BLACK MEN back to reality. After Barack Obama became the first BLACK MAN (or first man who self-identifies as Black/African-American) elected President of the United States, much of Washington D.C.’s political punditry and much of the American media commentariat class declared that the United States was now a “post-racial” society, in which race no longer mattered. Republicans and conservatives, who act as if racism and bigotry against black people no longer exists, if it ever did, saw that declaring a post-racial society could serve their ideological interests and perhaps, allow them to salvage something from two disastrous election cycles.
In a blog for AOL’s “Black Voices” (http://www.bvblackspin.com/2009/05/28/woman-says-black-men-kidnapped-her-she-really-went-to-disneylan/), Dr. Boyce Watkins ponders three questions coming out of the Bonnie Sweeten incident: 1)Why is the public so quick to believe it when black men are blamed for violent crimes? 2) Why does the media zoom in on such cases more frequently than when black families are victimized? 3) Perhaps we should not go overboard in our discussion of the racism inherent in this case?
Thanks, Doc, but while we ask questions and ponder ramifications, we already see that the definition of BLACK MEN not only as criminals, but also as perpetually suspect leads to abuse of the both human rights and U.S. Constitutional rights of BLACK MEN. A sad example of this is the use of “stop and frisk” against BLACK MEN, most infamously by the New York City Police Department.
This is where it all leads: On the night of May 28th of this year, 25-year-old New York City police officer Omar Edwards, a BLACK MAN, was in street clothes as he walked to his car and found a man rummaging through his vehicle in Manhattan’s East Harlem neighborhood. Edwards grabbed the man, Miguel Goitia, who managed to slip out of his sweater and escape Edwards’ grip. Gun drawn, Edwards gave chase.
According to NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, at the same time, three plainclothes officers in an unmarked car saw Edwards running down the street. The car made a U-turn, and one of the officers, a white cop with more than four years on the job, got out and fired six shots - hitting Edwards twice, once in the left arm and once in the chest. Edwards died an hour after the shooting at Harlem Hospital Center.
Officer Omar Edwards was murdered by a fellow police officer, a white NYPD officer named Andrew Dunton. Ultimately, it will be white men that decide that this is a tragic accident or a tragic case of “friendly fire,” and Andrew Dunton will get away with murder. Some may even say that this really is just a reality of the difficulties of police work. But where there’s smoke, there’s usually a BLACK MAN being burnt by an angry Southern mob.
No, I won’t be marching with Rev. Al Sharpton in protest over Edwards’ death. What I will say is that Bonnie Sweeten and Andrew Dunton are the cruel bounty of our American culture, a culture all too accepting of the racial profiling and portrayal of BLACK MEN as criminals. I don’t have any answers, but I do have a warning. At the end of the 1951 film, The Thing from Another World, the reporter character named Scotty implores his listeners to “Watch the skies!”
BLACK MEN, watch your backs!