To the Editors of The Crimson:
In their letter to The Crimson (Jan. 10), H.W. Jerome Maddox and Valarie Allen use the current Stuart murder case as a condemnation of American society, which they feel was all too eager to accept Charles Stuart's story. "Had the killer been African-American," they state, "we fear white society would have sanctioned an equally odorous [sic] crime..." It is Maddox and Allen who fulfill their own dismal prophecy.
Maddox and Allen write that Stuart "animated the gravest fear of white America; a crazed, degenerate Black man kills an innocent, pregnant lawyer and child, destroys a family which symbolizes middle-class prosperity." I would first reject the notion of a homogenous "white America." The social, economic and ethnic diversity of the 200 million or so whites in America is too great to justify such terminology. I doubt that Donald Trump, Johnny Carson and a Kansas farmer wake up every morning with much in common on their minds. Second, even if one were to assume that all of "white America" thought and believed as one, there is no basis for saying Stuart's story struck their "gravest fear." I would think people fear a crazed, degenerate white man, or a falling brick from a construction site, or a banana peel on the sidewalk. All of these scenarios are as plausible as they are unlikely; Maddox and Allen's rash generalization that "white America" goes through each day fearing Black men is absurd.
Maddox and Allen continue, "The white-controlled media and police, of course, bought [Stuart's] story." Yes, the media bought the story. The police bought the story. Whites bought the story. Blacks bought the story. The story of a random abduction and murder by an assailant, white or Black, is far more believable than the truth in this case, that a man premeditatedly shot both his seven-month pregnant wife and himself to collect insurance money and open a restaurant. To back up their theory, the authors point out that "white society already perceived the Black male as a murderous, adulterous beast as a result of... historically biased media portrayal." Please. Aside from the KKK, did Maddox and Allen find a single white person (did they even ask one at all?) who replied that s/he considered Black men "murderous, adulterous beast[s]"? A single shred of evidence might begin to justify making that statement. Their subsequent anonymous quotation about a Black man "lurking in...the woods, poised to strike...", attributed merely to "the press," does not constitute such evidence.
In their conclusion, Maddox and Allen reiterate their frustration at "the persistent level of racism and ethnocentric ignorance of so many whites." Racism and ethnocentric ignorance? This is after the authors have lumped 200 million people into "white America," stated that this white America's gravest fear is of being attacked by a crazed, degenerate Black man, and legitimized this "fear" by saying that "white society" perceives Black men as murderous, adulterous beasts. If we define racism as attributing individual characteristics and beliefs to a race as a whole, Maddox and Allen have all the "racism and ethnocentric ignorance" that they believe "white America" has, and are hypocrites as well.
"Most of all," however, Maddox and Allen "are relieved. Relieved because white America did not receive a mandate to institutionalize its strong, latent prejudice." The assumption that a crime by a Black person would have indeed been a mandate for institutionalizing racism is a curious one. More than that, however, Maddox and Allen seem to have ignored the trend of U.S. history since 1865. America is moving away from its institutionalized prejudice, not toward it. The pace may vary, obstacles may still be in place, but the direction is unmistakeable. Progress can only be hampered, though, by the blind, irresponsible hypocrisy demonstrated by Maddox and Allen. Allen R. Barton '90