When I first read about the case of Sharmeka Moffitt, 20, of Winnsboro, Louisiana, the young woman who alleged that she was attacked and set on fire by three men wearing “white hoodies,” my first instinct was not to discount her violent tale, as did some of my more cynical – or observant – colleagues in media.

True, it was horrifically extreme, but in a region known for racism, in the midst of a socio-political climate seething with rage and thinly suppressed bigotry, it was believable. In the era of James Craig Anderson and movie signs being vandalized to announce the showing of ‘N**gers 3D: Dark Black Men,I did not find her story as far-fetched as those people not born in the Deep South, but I still reserved my anger for when the facts emerged.

When it was discovered that Moffitt had created the entire, twisted story, the residual tremors continued to rock social media. There were those who immediately defended their advocacy to get Sharpton and Jackson on the phone, because, after all, “if it weren’t for racist ass white folk doing shit like that, we wouldn’t have believed it,” as one Facebook post so eloquently stated.

So, we know what that says about them, but what does that say about us?  Of course such broad terms as us and them cannot be universally applied, but flow with me for a moment.

We could use this space to discuss the quickness with which some people immediately label a black woman a liar and what that says about victim blaming in the African-American community – but I’d rather not, this one time, in favor of examining the flip-side of that reaction. Many black people, without any confirmation, prepared to fight for Sharmeka Moffitt until there was no fight left. And while that is admirable on the surface, there remains a huge, Black elephant in the room:

There are thousands upon thousands of cases of black people being victimized by black people, and the tsk-tsks don’t last past the next headline.

Where was this outrage when Latonya Bowman, 22, was abducted, set on fire, and then shot in an ambush set by her ex-boyfriend? If her attackers had been white, there would have been t-shirts and protests. The fund created for her would have been heavily publicized, and she would have definitely been invited to share her story on television.

Let’s be clear: This is not to mitigate the very real fear that comes with “Walking While Black,” as Moffitt was doing on the night that she alleged that she was attacked, nor the excessive nature of the alleged crime. It is merely to address this racial demagoguery that compels us to channel our collective energy into fighting “The Man,” even in phantom acts of racism, while rarely holding the people that look like us accountable – even with tangible evidence staring us in the face.

What are we so afraid of?

We jump on issues such as these as if to say: “See, this is what we face in this country. Look at what we have to go through at the hands of white America.” But we spray air-freshener on our own sh*t and blame the stench on racism.  Whatever emotional and/or psychological issues Moffitt faces, in the same class as Tawana Brawley, she was still able to grasp the fears and prejudices of black America, and many of us fell right in line, picket signs at the ready.

Hopefully, this case makes us examine our triggers a little more closely and determine why we don’t have that same passion when real vicious crimes are done to us, by us. Men in white hoods are not the boogeymen nor kryptonite of black America, and we owe it to ourselves to care just as much when the national narrative is not centered on race.

Maybe it’s taken the lie of a 20-year-old girl to introduce us to that truth.


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  • Shirl

    This!!! This is why I love Clutch..intelligent debate without name calling. We can respectfully agree to disagree without taking it as a personal attack. I attempted a discussion on another site that shall remain nameless (Bossip), was told to go find my out of wedlock baby daddy, was called fat, ugly, a welfare queen and every other deragatory name for a black woman you can think of. Needless to say i no longer waste my time visiting that site. I know I’m off topic but needed to get that off my chest.

  • I’m in favor of the spirit of this essay, but I hate the fact that community activism that IS going on seems to always be overlooked.

    I’m from the South Side of Chicago, and awareness of the violence in our communities and looking for ways to stop it IS going on. Usually church groups facilitate this process. They are marching in the streets and holding rallies when a member of the community is killed in black on black crime.

    If discussions like these began with research into what communities are already doing, I would find them credible. But they start from invalid assumptions, like that black people don’t care about crime when the perpetrator is black, THEY DO, and reach invalid conclusions, like a call for community activism that is already happening.

    People act as thought they can’t remember what happened the last time people of color got together, en masse to demand and enact social/economic changes int heir communities. There are barriers within and without.

    The Black Panthers were a big on positive social change, but they were demonized, called communist agitators and disbanded and dispossessed using the most horrible violation of civil liberties and illegal surveillance.

    Can’t have the darkies getting organized, they might actually be a threat to our power structure.You might say the Panthers were too vocal in their criticisms of white supremacy but.white supremacy goes hand in hand with many ills that plague the black community. Let’s not delude ourselves. We didn’t walk across Africa, build a boat, sail it here and then enslave/ disenfranchise/ and oppress ourselves.

    I’ve seen the discrimination from city authorites first hand, and whenever an Alderman got in the cities face about not maintaining buildings or even streets they got excuses and the runaround before something was finally done.

    Community activism alone won’t stop the unemployment problem, that plagues many low income high crime areas. But since we wanna act like it will can we at least acknowledge that it is happening.

    And why is it that places like Lowell Massachusetts, majority working class and white, if you’ve ever seen the movie “The Fighter” that’s where the story takes place, that experienced a major crack epidemic after the factory that employed most of the town got shut down are never brought up as an example of how “White people need to get their shit together, they don’t care when a white man kills a white man but they get all up in arms when a black man does it. White people need to get their communities in check.”?

    Maybe because white crime is considered a side effect of poverty, no one ever insinuates that white’s have a pathological problem linked to their race, and also whites are judged as individuals. And lets not get it twisted, white people get their panties in a bunch when the perpetrator is white and the victim is black too! It damn sure goes both ways and I even go so far as to say it goes more one way than the other.

    When has a corrupt policemen that shot a black person unfairly, been lynched?

    The reason we overreact when we hear about stuff like this is because for so long we haven’t been able to do anything about it when it happens, or it’s handled poorly. Not the case for white people with that one exception that they won’t let go.

    L.A. spent 10 million trying O.J. and white people are still mad about that. BUT those same people will in the same breath make excuses for the equally guilty and equally acquitted Casey Anthony bitch, or they just shut the hell up.

    Somehow when the perpetrator of a brutal murder, of a child, is an adorable white woman who just wants to party then all of the sudden they want to talk about “circumstancial evidence” “no physical evidence” and “bad childhood”.

    And finally, people who perpetrate these kind of crimes, like the Duke University strippers, and Bethany Storro “the black lady threw acid in my face” are opportunists with serious issues. They don’t change the fact that hate crimes happen more often than fake hate crimes.

    I see it as a separate discussion. It’s like men who insist that false rape somehow is more prevalent than rape, and that people should take it easy, in order to justify the fact that sexual assault is not taken seriously enough and is often a discussion of what the the victim did to provoke it or didn’t do to prevent it.

    False crimes are a separate issue from real crimes. And they make up a small percentage of cases.

  • Personally I think it’s the shame of knowing another black person committed the crime that keeps us from going up in arms the way we do when the instigator is white. Black on Black crime is an embarrassment, almost every negative news story involves black-on-black or black-on-white so when these things happen it’s validating the fears and racist beliefs of others. So we sweep it under the rug and try not to draw more attention to it.

    That’s my own little theory.

  • Shaun

    A coworker and I lived in the same building – her apt faces the street. We are both black. A black man outside was breaking into cars, and she witnessed it, but didn’t want to call the police “on a brother”. I told her she was wrong, and to consider that the victim of the crime might be a brother or a sister. Many black people have the mindset of “no snitching”. This helps crime to flourish in our communities; remember, the criminal you protect today might come after you and yours tomorrow.