Open Thread – Ashley Todd

by Latoya Peterson

This is Ashley Todd.

According to the Smoking Gun:

OCTOBER 23–Shortly before a John McCain campaign volunteer was reportedly robbed at knifepoint and had a “B” carved in her face after her assailant noticed that her car carried a McCain bumper sticker, the woman blogged last night that she was “Stubbornly searching for a bank of america to avoid ATM fees” and had somehow ended up “on the wrong side of pittsburgh.” Ashley Todd, a 20-year-old Texas college student, told cops that she was robbed of $60 by a 6′ 4″ black man who weighed about 200 pounds. Todd claimed that when her assailant noticed the McCain sticker on her vehicle, he punched her in the head and carved the letter on her right cheek (a battered Todd can be seen at right).

TMZ reports that she added sexual assault to the story, later stating the assailant had fondled her breast.

After the police investigated, and voiced their suspicions about her injuries being self-inflicted, she recanted the story.

Some thoughts:

1. Interesting that a McCain supporter went through the trouble of making up an elaborate hoax, when another man was shot for wearing a Barack Obama tee shirt, and an Obama volunteer was actually attacked during canvassing:

As Eugenia posted earlier this week, a Barack Obama volunteer, 58-year-old Nancy Takehara of Chicago, was physically assaulted on Saturday by a homeowner while canvassing in Caledonia, Wisconsin. Takehara told a local television station that the man “grabbed me by the back of the neck” and “was pounding on my head and screaming.” According to Takehara, the man yelled, among other things, that “we’re not his people, we’re probably with ACORN.”

The attacker has now been identified as 71-year-old Ronald Goetsch, a McCain supporter and Marine veteran who has donated to the McCain campaign. In a local television interview, Goetsch admits that he attacked Takehara after engaging her in a verbal dispute. Goetsch claims that Takehara was “being loud” but acknowledges that she did not physically threaten him in any way.

The local Republican party released a loathsome statement that expressed no regret or sympathy over the attack. Instead, it actually seemed to justify Goetsch’s statements to Takehara by again raising the phony specter of ACORN: “As we read press accounts of alleged violence against an Obama campaign worker and accounts of ACORN registration fraud, coupled with daily complaints from both parties of stolen or vandalized yard signs, the Racine County Republican Party would like to encourage supporters of both sides to take a deep breath…” Talk about blaming the victim.

(Thanks jmn for the tip.)

2. I am also finding it interesting how this woman is able to immediately turn around an claim mental issues (See links, where she describes how she suddenly doesn’t remember how she got a backwards B on her face or how she sustained her injuries.) She may very well have them – but that does not excuse racist behavior. I also find it interesting that her twitter feed proves that most of this was premeditated, so even though she is being charged with a false report, it probably won’t stick.

3. I understand all the arguments that women should be believed when they report a sexual assault. And I advocate for this whole heartedly – way too many women feel as though they won’t be believed, which leads them to shy away from reporting sexual assault or rape. Yet, I notice there is no similar concern for the black men who are often targeted in these kinds of vague cases (and have already have to live with the big black boogeyman specter looming over them, as ?uestlove’s post on Okayplayer noted.) When will we talk about the toll on black men, knowing that they somehow always fit the description? But no, I’m sure this will be yet another “isolated incident.”

4. Message to the GOP: When someone shows up with that kind of story with a backwards B on her face, do us all a favor: wait and get the bank security tapes first before you alert the media. Would have saved you all a bunch of embarrassment.

5. Props to the Jezebel commenters who brought up To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s not like we haven’t seen this script before.

6. Props to the Pittsburgh police department:


UPDATED
: Melissa Harris Lacewell weighs in:

Todd’s story resonates with this historic script, but it is critically important to point out how the end of the story radically deviates from lynching narratives. In this case the police were immediately suspicious of Todd. They did not initiate a manhunt in black communities surrounding Pittsburgh. Instead they subjected Todd to a lie detector test. When she failed they pressed her for a confession. Yolanda, this ending makes all the difference because it points to the fact that black people are not totally outside the protection of the law. It points to the reality that our citizenship status today is different than it was in 1900. It points to the reality of change across time.

Is racism still alive in America? Yes. Is racial inequality still deep, pervasive, and meaningful in the lives of black Americans. Yes. Did the police believe Ashley Todd? No. Was anyone lynched as a result of her lies? No. That matters to me.

I am utterly exhausted with having to defend my brothers, father, uncles, lovers, friends, and students against the racist assumption that black men are uniquely prone to violence. So many of the black men that I know and love are gentle, funny, smart and cool. I am disgusted with the reality that as we stand on the precipice of electing the first black president we are still haunted by the lie of the violent, black madman.