If I wasn’t so lazy (stereotype! stereotype!) I could take it back even further than the Scottsboro Boys.
But since that was the case that caused this particular historical trend to first catch my attention, it’s probably fair to start there.
In 1931, nine Black teenagers traveling on a freight car between Chattanooga and Memphis, Tennessee were charged with raping two young white women.
Despite the lack of medical evidence consistent with rape, any other evidence, and the fact that one of the girls later recanted her story, the courts chose to omit the logic and convict the boys.
Skipping a gang of other incidents, we’ll fast-forward to 1989 in Boston where Charles Stuart would blame the murder of his wife and unborn child on a Black man. Never mind that once it would be discovered that the Stuart story was all a scam made up as an insurance money-grab that good old Charles would (thankfully) off himself, I’ve heard that during the time that the Boston PD were on the hunt for the imaginary Black murderer, hoods were being terrorized like Poland during Nazism.
Skipping now to South Carolina, we remember how in 1994 Susan Smith drove her car into a lake killing her two children then immediately accused a phantom Black man of carjacking and murder.
Of course, the most famous case of what I like to call “Blaming the Negro”, was the fictional situation depicted in the book and movie To Kill a Mockingbird, during which a Black man is accused of raping a white women despite logic, motive and evidence to the contrary.
Leave it to fiction written by a white woman to bring credence to even the possibility of a phenomenon in which Blacks are improperly villainized.
Now we’re left giving Peyton Manning the side-eye, not only for allegedly sexually assaulting esteemed trainer Dr. Jaime Naughright, who was on-staff during Manning’s college days as a star quarterback for the University of Tennessee, but then also being involved in a cover-up that would have placed the blame for the attack on one of Manning’s Black teammates.
The fact that Peyton and his father Archie also alleged that Dr. Naughright had various affairs with different Black athletes on the football team is by no means incidental.
Lord knows that in certain circles, white women who willingly sleep with Black men are considered a “type”, and that type is not among the ones that are highly esteemed.
I mean, the sexual assault accusations are no small thing in and of themselves, but when you factor in that race, which is always a dog whistle, can usually be effectively played for distraction, then you’re getting into something as fundamental and American as the 3/5th clause of the Constitution.
America needs to have Black boogeymen.
America needs to have monsters because monsters do exist and if you can’t project your worst attributes externally, America’s non-Blacks would have to do something they absolutely refuse to do: accept responsibility.
When I was a kid, I used to think the term “Frankenstein” used in the movies and the books of the same name was applied to describe the murderous undead creation that stalked the earth and not the mad scientist that created him.
Turns out I was right.