A Note from Joe Morton

In Brutal Imagination, a Black man is falsely accused of abducting two white children. White America easily imagines the brutality the white woman describes because of the mythology of Black criminalization that has existed in this country since Black people were brought here.

What is that mythology, and what are its roots?

White people brought Black people to “the land of the free” in chains, a symbol of dominance and criminality. White people assuaged any guilt they may have felt about slavery by imagining that they were forging savage animals into human beings. White “benevolence” was meted out through Christianity and a white god who instructed them, vis-a-vis scripture, that slavery was just, and that any attempt to escape that justice was criminal. Slavery, in America, was legal. Escape was against the law. Black freedom was criminal.

When “freedom” for Black people finally did come, Jim Crow and segregation, with all its socially and legally intrinsic elements, took the place of slavery, restraining that freedom, and making any attempt to step outside of those restraints rebellious and/or criminal. We saw how America reacted when Black Americans, during the Civil Rights Movement, strove to gain freedoms that were rightfully theirs to possess. Black men, women, and children, were mercilessly hosed, savagely put upon by dogs, brutally beaten and imprisoned.

The guise of Black criminality was so engrained into the fabric of American society, that until the injustice of that mythology was finally laid bare for all to see on national TV, much of the country felt that the pressure to embrace Black Americans as equals was unmerited, and should certainly be reined in or even punished. Many white Americans could not understand why Black people were so discontent and determined, and they feared that discontentment and determination; they needed that relentless pursuit of freedom to be incarcerated; they needed white dominance to be assured.

Given the state of American racism, its history, and its on-going, present condition, it’s no surprise, to me, that white people believe, without hesitation, another white person saying they have been victimized by a Black man. There is more comfort and safety in the myth of black criminalization, than in the inconvenient truth that Black people are not natural born criminals, and that white people must rectify their misplaced fear and own their guilt in order to be honest about their fear of Black and Brown retaliation or dominance.

The list of Black men and boys who have been falsely accused is an American embarrassment, and the sense of social impunity that engendered those falsehoods are, sadly, part of the American legacy. From Emmet Till, to Susan Smith, to Amy Cooper, the weaponization of the law against Black people deplorably continues.

Articles to follow are:

Black People Are Wrongly Convicted Of Murder More Often, Data Show
NPR

Why African Americans are blamed for the crimes they didn’t commit: Experts
ABC News

A Woman’s False Accusation Pains Many Blacks
The Undefeated

Once Again in SC, a non-existent black man is blamed for a crime
The Charlotte Observer

Black Residents Angered By Reaction To False Story
The Washington Post

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