Another day. Another crime. Another white victim. Another black suspect.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story of Anne Pressly, here’s the crash course. She was an Arkansas news reporter and actress (I heard she played Ann Coulter in “W”, but I didn’t see her in the flick) who was recently killed in her home. A little over a month ago Pressly’s mother found her in bed bloodied and unconscious from a brutal attack. She died from injuries a few days later. Reports later showed that she was sexually assaulted and severely beaten by the assailant. It was a tragic story indeed.
When I first heard this story, I remember having several thoughts: one, I was scared for some of the women I know who live alone. Granted, this particular incident was in Arkansas. But heinous crimes like this involving young, attractive women are not exclusive to one area. While I tend to think that many so-called crimes have their share of falsehoods (“crying” rape, for instance), I can’t dismiss the fact that crimes against women do happen. All the time.
Then as I watched a clip from Pressly’s co-workers at the news station, I felt a certain level of hurt for those whose lives were touched by this woman. Her family, friends, and co-workers are all left to mourn over her brutal murder. Truthfully, I didn’t know much about her or her life until the story first broke, but I can at least imagine that she did not deserve the inhumane treatment she received.
But also (and I hate to admit this, but I have to keep it real) I remember thinking “Please God, don’t let the suspect be one of us. Not one of us. Not one of us…” I tried doing the numbers in my head. With a 16% black population in the state of Arkansas, it should’ve be less likely for a brotha to have been the culprit. Then, the reality of race and crime hit me like a ton of bricks:
During the now infamous DC sniper shootings, I recalled thinking that – while tragic – at least it’s not “one of us” doing the shooting. But imagine the shame and – yes – the embarassment that came when I found out who the shooters were. Fast forward to 2008 when Lauren Burk and Eve Carson; two young and attractive white women both went missing and were later found murdered (and we all know how the greater society just lives to fawn over certain people). Once again, I hoped that it wasn’t “one of us” involved in the murders. Once again, I was wrong in both cases. And now yet again, the prime suspect in the Pressly case is – you guessed it – one of us. Arkansas officials made an arrest on Curtis L. Vance; a black resident of nearby Marianna based on DNA evidence found at the scene. A warrant is also out for Vance in connection with a rape case in Marianna.
**As a side note, just as a charge of robbery was attached to Vance for his actions, his girlfriend was similarly charged. She reportedly attempted to pawn off items believed to have been stolen from Pressly’s household. If that’s the case (I’m not quite conceding that it is; given than none of Pressly’s possessions have been identified as missing), I’m left to wonder to what extent race, class, and crime are all connected. If robbery was the motivation behind this crime and others like it, is it safe to assume that white victims like Burk, Carson, and Pressly are generally targeted because of a presumption of social affluence and importance? If Vance was simply looking for a quick score, were there no black people or other people of color whom he could target? I’m certainly not implying that I’d like to see crimes commited by an equal opportunity offender. I’m just wondering if black-on-white crime has any hint of racial motivation; whether it’s malevolence against whites or an assumption that whites provide a bigger prize.**
Back to the main point: Hearing stories of vicious crimes are sorrowful in and of themselves. But I can’t help but feel additional fear, sadness, and anger when discovering that there’s a racialized component to the crime. Even more harrowing than all of this is the troubling fact that black men who commit violent crimes against white people (women in particular) are far more likely to generate heated and visceral responses than had the opposite happened. The black man has become somewhat of a meanacing boogeyman lurking in the shadows. However, I am starting to see a graduated level of thinking in response to the presumption of guilt hovering over the heads of black men. No longer are people just afraid of getting their purses stolen. Now, they are fearing for their lives if a black man comes around. My homegirl Carmen over at “All About Race” weighed in by saying “Cross racial crime is tough terrain in the discussion of race relations in America.” I could not agree more.
Though I hate giving idiots like this a forum on my blog, racist groups are coming out in droves using the Pressly story as the ultimate impetus to incite their bigotry. This further illustrates the far-reaching social consequences that come from black-on-white crime in a world that is no where close to being “post racial.” Even though claims that black men are vicious monsters preying on ‘their’ women is no more veritable than their notion of genetic and intellectual superiority, these groups are quick to use this and similar incidents to further their cause. It is my prayer that racial backlash like this will be at a minimum (or that it won’t incur at all). But quite frankly, I’m not holding my breath. Enrollment in hate groups has risen significantly this year; due largely to Obama’s election (for that matter, so have the number of death threats Obama has received. All this even before the brotha has been sworn in. But I digress). It’s not likely to stop, especially in lue of unfortunate incidents like the Pressly story.
Putting issues of race aside for a moment, we shouldn’t lose site of the fact that another person; probably an amazing and beautiful soul, has been senselessly stolen. I can’t begin to imagine how hard this must be on Pressly’s family; especially around the holidays. That said, I hope they are able to find peace if/when Anne’s killer is brought to justice (of course, I’m trying to stay committed to due process. But it’s not lookin’ too good for Mr. Vance). But another part of me is fearful for us. She was not the only casuality in this situation. Also continuing to die a slow death is the human decency preventing crimes like this from happening in the first place. These same crimes continue to feed the racism that will have people believing that black men like Vance are the norm rather than the exception.