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Racism and the Stuart Murder Case



To the Editors of The Crimson:

The conclusion of the tragic Stuart case has produced in us, as well as in so many others, extremely intense feelings. Foremost among these is relief. Relief that it was Charles Stuart, instead of an African American, who murdered Carol Stuart. Obviously, this was a heinous crime, regardless of the identity and race of the murderer. Yet, had the killer been an African American, we fear that white society would have sanctioned an equally odorous crime, the scope of which could not be measured. Boston seemed to be on the verge of rescinding fundamental civil rights of Black males with its policies of random search and seizure.

The warped brilliance of Charles Stuart is that he exploited the latent prejudice of middle-class white society. He wisely tapped the deepest well of racial and class bias of middle-class America. He animated the gravest fear of white America: a crazed, degenerate Black man kills an innocent, pregnant lawyer and child, destroys a family which symbolizes white middle-class prosperity. It was all so believable, so real. He created a story which so much of white America wanted to believe in order to justify its own racism.

The white-controlled media and police, of course, bought the story. After all, they had the very same fears and latent prejudices. The press, jumping on the story as if the death of Carol Stuart were so much more significant than that of James Moody, or any other person killed that day, added an element of class elitism to the web of prejudice. Additionally, much of white society already perceived the Black male as a murderous, adulterous beast as a result of this historically biased media portrayal. The press exacerbated this perception by referring to the supposed killer as a Black man "lurking in the shadows of the nearby woods, poised to strike at any moment." Finally, their fear of every Black man "lurking in the shadows of the nearby woods, poised to strike at any moment." Finally, their fear of every Black man was justified and there was an excuse for ignoring their civil rights. It was true, we were not citizens, we were beasts. The response of the mayor and the police was to stop us all on the streets, detain us without probable cause. Collectively, the press, Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn, and the police promoted the mob mentality that pervaded as it conducted its witch hunt.

There has been a series of gruesome murders in the New Bedford area during the last few years. The main suspect in the case is a white male. Why don't the police feel compelled to stop and search every white man on the street? Why aren't white men suspects because of their dress or because they look "suspicious"? Why aren't their homes randomly searched because of the color of their skin? An acquaintance responded that "they should not use those policies because most whites are not capable of such violent crime."

Well, damn it, neither are most African Americans. It is time for white society to finally realize that the overwhelming of African Americans, like whites, are not crack-smoking, thieving murderers. We must end this inequality of treatment by the police. The persistent negative stereotypes of the African American community are invalid. As with whites, our civil rights must be protected regardless of the supposed acts of one or a few individuals.

In the aftermath of this case we are incensed by the persistent level of racism and ethnocentric ignorance of so many whites. Most of all, we are relieved. Relieved because white America did not receive a mandate to institutionalize its strong, latent prejudice. We can only hope that the underlying implications of Charles Stuart's skewed yet masterful ploy will be eradicated through serious self-reflection by the white community. H.W. Jerome Maddox '90   Valarie J. Allen '91

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