For most Americans not actually involved in the manhunt for him, the racial identity of the Washington sniper (or both snipers) was entirely irrelevant. But to American blacks, according to the Washington Post, the race of the serial killer who for three weeks was the most hated and feared man in the nation was obvious enough: He had to be white.
When the sniper turned out to be not one but two blacks, the reaction of those who for years have groused about the unfairness and bigotry of "racial profiling" was one of disbelief. [Blacks Express Shock At Suspects' Identity Darryl Fears and Avis Thomas-Lester, Washington Post, Oct 26, 2002]
"Many black people in Washington stumbled backward in shock" when they first saw the glum mug shot of John Allen Muhammad on the television screen last week, the Post reported.
The response was not confined to professional race-baiters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. It extended even to merely amateur race-baiters as well, whose number seems to include most of the black population of the nation's capital. "All day long we've been saying, 'Can you believe it?'" the black principal of a Maryland elementary school told the Post.
In fact, there's some reason to share this reaction. I myself assumed the sniper was white, in so far as I thought about it, though it was perfectly believable to me that he wasn't. That most serial killers are white has almost become a cliché. Nevertheless, a good many serial rapists are black, and the New York Times reports (October 28) that studies show that some 13 to 22 percent of American serial killers are black also.
Yet it's doubtful that the black people who were stumbling backward in shock when they learned the race of the killer last week was due to any disturbance of their vast erudition in criminology. More likely it was due to what, quite simply, is known as "racism."
Alvin Poussaint, a black Harvard psychologist who has carved a profitable career out of painting "white racism" in fancy psychiatric colors, was trotted out by the Post to comment on the phenomenon of blacks harboring negative stereotypes of white people.
To his credit, Dr. Poussaint didn't hesitate to call it what it was. "A lot of the students around here were saying, 'Oh no, he can't be black,'" he told the Post. "This is the crazy thing we get hung up on because of the nature of racism."
It's refreshing to learn at last that non-whites can be "racist" as well as whites.
Indeed, no one as yet seems to have considered the possibility of racial motives on the part of the killers themselves. One or both of them seems to have sympathized with the Sept. 11 attacks, harbored anti-American passions and was a committed Black Muslim, but the multiracial cast of the snipers' victims appeared from the first to prove that racial hate was not one of their motives.
Maybe so, but at least five of the 10 publicly known slain victims of the snipers were white, and two others were not blacks. Could the snipers have mistaken the race of the three wounded victims through their telescopic sights, or did they perhaps miss a nearby non-black person at whom they were aiming and shoot a black by accident?
Maybe not, but the point is that no one seems to care.
The Post story about the black reaction to the snipers' race also notes that when David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam" killer in New York, was arrested in 1977, "some Jews recoiled" and couldn't believe he was really Jewish. The story also quotes various Hispanics and Arabs in the D.C. area who expressed relief the snipers weren't of their particular ethnic persuasion.
Oddly, it says absolutely nothing about what whites think about any of it. It never occurred to the Post's reporters to find out whether white people felt surprised or relieved that the snipers weren't of their race.
I know of no one who asked whites what they thought about such serial murderers as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, or John Wayne Gacy being white. I know of no white person who ever even thought about it.
Does this mean that whites are less "racist" than non-whites? Maybe, but what it suggests more than that is that for whites, race—at least their own race—doesn't even exist.
For non-whites or distinctive Caucasian subgroups—blacks, Hispanics, Arabs, or Jews, to mention only a few—race or at least ethnicity does exist, and it's an important source of identity.
What the racial meaning of the Washington sniper case tells us is that, at least for non-whites, race exists, while for whites it doesn't.
COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
October 31, 2002