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Ashley Todd: An Image Of Intolerance, Illness Or Both?

Illustration for article titled Ashley Todd: An Image Of Intolerance, Illness Or Both?

With the confession today that she made the whole thing up, Ashley Todd joins the ranks of Susan Smith, Tawana Brawley and - if you believe the prosecutors and not her new memoir - Crystal Mangum as another disturbed woman willing to exploit race for some sort of personal gain. In this case, it seems likely that Todd intended her report of a being robbed, beaten and mutilated by a "6' 4" black Barack Obama supporter to play into people's deepest fears in order to affect the presidential campaign. It was as well thought-out as her plan to carve a B into her own face in the mirror. But her actions do say something about how people like Todd, Smith, Brawley and Mangum think that their stories will be enhanced by playing the race card.Obviously, Todd has some rather specific ideas about race, from her Twitterfeed about being on the "wrong" side of Pittsburgh to this disturbing "mean janitor" video that Wonkette unearthed.

The janitor, who was probably just doing his job by cleaning up after her, locking the bathrooms on an urban college campus and removing signs that she may or may not have put up in violation of the rules, is called "mean" and "amusing." It's probably not really a coincidence that the janitor — who likely didn't appreciate the mockery from a 20-year-old from Texas — resembles the specter she tried to pin her assault on. Like too many people before her who are inspired to this sort of action, she made her personal boogeyman the one she thinks we all share. That she did so in a season when her candidate's own campaign has been accused of making Barack Obama the unacceptable Other to try to win the presidency probably allowed her to convince herself that her actions were valid and helpful. Of course a black man would be enraged by a McCain sticker, of course she later added that he tried to grope her, of course he was an Obama supporter. Aren't all African-American men violent felons with bad tempers and an inability to keep their hands off of white girls who support Barack Obama? Aren't all douchey frat boys rapists with no respect for women who view black women as sexual objects? Aren't all white guys in upstate New York violent, racist rapists? Who else but a black man would steal a car with children in it and drown them? Why wouldn't their stories be believed? Too many people in this country have self-segregated themselves — racially, politically, educationally, religiously — to a point where their stereotypes and fears are all they are ever exposed to and so they seem not like illegitimate stereotypes but like Greater Truths — when the truth couldn't be further from their grasp. The shadows on the wall become their reality because it's easier than stepping back and turning around to see what's making them, and less disturbing than having to admit that it's you. Police: Campaign Worker Admits Making Up Story [KDKA] Joe The Mugger? [The Smoking Gun] North Carolina: Attack Claim Repeated [New York Times] Could ‘The Mean Janitor' Have Attacked This McCain Lady, Again? [Wonkette] Pittsburgh PD Smells a Rat [TMZ]


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So much of the reaction here sounds like an angry mob, ready to light the torches and burn the witch. I have seen so much kindness and compassion from commentors on this site. Where did it go?

If you believe in justice and tolerance, if you think we should be ruled by laws and not lynch mobs, if you think a woman's claim that she was attacked should ALWAYS be taken seriously even if it seems "convenient," or "mighty suspicious," now is the time to show it.

We are better than this.