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
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
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
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
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.
October 31, 2002