A white woman who lied about a 300-pound black man raping her near Hartford's Bushnell Park carousel conjured up a very ugly stereotype of racism. Until the lie was revealed, people were afraid to go downtown because of a marauding 300-pound King Kong-type Negro who had deflowered white womanhood. The police department committed resources to the park to keep people safe and catch this culprit threatening white women.
Now police are considering whether to charge this woman for filing a false police report.
I would argue her falsehood was an assault on men of color. It has been only 50 years since the word "rape," uttered by a white woman, spelled a death sentence for a black man. That white woman made all men of color suspects in Hartford.
A similar situation when I was 15 could have ruined my life.
The police in Detroit, where I lived, swept through black enclaves that year. A report had gone out: A suburban white woman had been raped by a black man my same age, weight and height. I stood in a police lineup with other men. The faceless white woman behind the mirror picked me as her assailant.
I was innocent and completely dumbfounded - but she would not be swayed. She said that I raped her.
My mother came to the police station on Livernois and Elmhurst like a whirling dervish. She spared no words in explaining that her son would not want this middle-aged woman. After some lengthy discussions with police, I was released.
Innocent black men still go to jail in this country when white women holler "rape." The woman who did so in Hartford is still walking around. There is no doubt she broke the law in giving a false statement. Where is the punishment to fit her crime?
Black men are being asked to forgive the woman. People who are not black always ask us as men of color to show tolerance. Please, this forgiveness plea is wearing thin. It is hard enough living in a country that has never really embraced you (as evidenced by lynchings, castrations, political disenfranchisement) but used you to support a Southern-plantation economy. Sorry, forgiveness just caught the red-eye flight to Seattle.
The Rev. Cornell Lewis, a pastor at Hartford's North End Church of Christ, is a founder of the Men of Color Initiative, which protects children walking to school in the North End.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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