That Negro Problem

When I was a young girl, I'd burst home, breathless tales of schoolmates swinging between my pigtails. "Mom, Jeffrey, this white boy at school ..." or "Karen, this one white girl ..." I didn't make

Oct 31, 2002 at 2:06 pm

When I was a young girl, I'd burst home, breathless tales of schoolmates swinging between my pigtails. "Mom, Jeffrey, this white boy at school ..." or "Karen, this one white girl ..."

I didn't make similar distinctions for black classmates. The behavior of white kids seemed different, and I had to say so.

My mother, born and raised in segregated Appalachian West Virginia, where she stepped off sidewalks for passing whites and read from hand-me-down texts discarded from the white high school, stopped me cold at the outset of each racial description.

Exasperated by her insistence that I start the stories over, this time without the "white," I eventually stopped. Not because it was right or correct, but because it pleased my mother.

I was profiling. Even then.

See, my white classmates behaved in ways my black classmates just didn't.

Cultural? Social? Stereotypical?

I don't know. But race-specific behavior exists.

There are things whites do (coatless in winter, convertible tops down when it's sunny but cold, close talking, beer festivals as excuses to get drunk) that black folks shun. Likewise, Negroes have ways whites appropriate (sagging pants, Rap, barbecue and, well, anything else cool you can imagine) but don't dare permanently adopt.

Deeper, though, are crimes we commit.

Yes, there are "black" and "white" crimes, but mainstream media don't report this aspect because it's intangible. Negroes don't publicly cop to the relief we feel when school shooters, rapists, baby-killing mothers and serial murderers are white. Conversely, Negroes barely bat a resolved eye when gang bangers, home invaders, drive-by shooters and baby-mamma beaters are black.

Such black crimes lean to the lean. That is, we commit reactionary and passionate crimes and it's nearly, if not absolutely, a stereotype to say so. With exception, criminals of color tend to be blue-collar, low-rent offenders, whereas whites commit time-consuming crimes studied by Federal Bureau of Investigation profilers.

Negroes have been accustomed to discomfort since the Middle Passage. We violate in response to violation.

On the other hand, whites commit crimes in direct correlation to the disruption of their comfort — from Wall Street and S&L scandals to shaking and drowning needy babies. To paraphrase James Baldwin, whites have less tolerance for discomfort and therefore mean to correct it immediately and at anyone's expense.

But a black Muslim sniper? Ain't enough bean pies in the world gonna spring this brotha.

C'mon, admit it. You were surprised. Even the cops first looked elsewhere and investigated Latino leads. ¿Que?

I, too, was in that number of the Negro non-believer. I assumed the sniper to be a white, paramilitary Ruby Ridge-dwelling separatist or a fanatic Bin Laden lieutenant waging second-tier terrorism.

Why? Because, like a bag of Skittles, the victims ran the rainbow.

When the news came, I pursed my lips and raised an eyebrow. I sang a song of "hmmmmmm."

You know the drill: Maryland officials Oct. 24 arrested 42-year-old Muslim convert John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, his 17-year-old brainwashed stepson, in connection with 10 Washington, D.C.-area killings and possibly a Sept. 21 liquor store killing in Montgomery, Ala.

Now comes word the pair are suspects in the February fatal shooting of a Tacoma, Wash. woman whose aunt once worked as a bookkeeper in Muhammad's car repair business. They're also liked for a May shooting at a Tacoma synagogue.

But since the first shot rang out, investigators went looking for hate in all the wrong places. Led by the shell-shocked Montgomery County Chief Charles Moose, investigators had composites of white vans.

They told Latinos not to fear deportation if they'd come forward with information. And the media speculated, insinuating the sniper, when nabbed, would have an alphabet-soup name and sport a turban. Meanwhile, Muhammad and Malvo — M&M to you — were camped out in Muhammad's blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice maybe sharing a KFC two-piece meal with an extra biscuit.

Muhammad was pulled over a day after and 50 miles from one of the shootings but was released after he came back "clean." And this isn't the first time America's hunted the wrong man. Remember when cops looked for a brown man as Ghost Dog Timothy McVeigh drove away from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building?

Back to the middle. Where is the notion born and how is it belched up that Negroes are incapable of high-caliber, calculated evil and heinous crimes against humanity? We too suffer mental illness, hatred and fanaticism masturbated to the froth of the sociopath. Excluding ourselves says we don't live in the world or we're somehow exempt.

People, black and white, still are saying they don't think cops got the right people. Unless another gunman suns himself in the light of a confession, it's true.

Now say it loud: We black and ain't proud.

Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.