Acid Attack Hoax Prompts Theft Charges, Race Discussion

Acid Attack Hoax Prompts Theft Charges, Race Discussion

Bethany Storro now faces theft charges in connection with her fake acid attack — and one writer says there was far more than individual racism at work in her false accusation.

According to CBS, Storro has been charged with three counts of theft in connection with the $28,000 in donations she received after claiming a black woman attacked her with acid. She has apparently spent about $1500 on such expenses as dinner with her family and, somewhat ironically, the bill for a laser facial peel (which she received prior to burning herself). Storro's parents say all the donations will be returned, and her mom adds that her daughter is "obviously dealing with some deep internal emotional and psychological problems." Says Commander Marla Schuman of the Vancouver, Washington police department, "In many ways this is something that just got bigger than what she expected."

According to Dr. Jeff Gardere of Black Voices, this story was bigger than Storro the moment she told her lie. He lists other people who have blamed their crimes on imaginary black perpetrators (such as Susan Smith), and argues that these accusations aren't just the result of individual racist beliefs. Rather, he explains, "Many of us are still afraid or threatened by the image of the angry black person who wants to exact revenge for the years of perceived mistreatment. I call it the Black Bogeyman phenomenon." So Storro and others weren't just trying to get black people in trouble out of individual malice — instead, they "thought they could make their stories more believable and get more sympathy by tapping in to the collective unconscious fear that harbors the Black Bogeyman phenomenon."

The distinction is relevant because many are already filing away Storro's case as a kind of fluke. Her parents aren't the first to say she has psychological problems — many have reacted to her story by assuming she must be disturbed. This may well be true, but as Gardere points out, many of us who aren't mentally ill still harbor unconscious racism — and this racism may have helped Storro's initial story of an attack by a black woman gain the traction it did. It's easy to say that white people blame crimes on black people because they are crazy racists, and harder to admit they might do so because society is racist, and because pinning the blame on a black person makes them more likely to be believed. Once we admit this, we can no longer see Storro's crime as the desperate act of a single unhinged person — we have to acknowledge as part of something much bigger and much worse.

Acid Attack Hoax Woman Charged With Theft [CBS]
In The Wake Of The Acid Attack Hoax: The Black Bogeyman Phenomenon [Black Voices, via The Grio]

Earlier: Acid-Attack Woman Admits It Was A Hoax
Acid-Attack Woman And Female Fakers Want More Than Just Attention