Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Senseless Death of a Good Stereotype

Nice going, Asshole!

Yesterday, John Allen Muhammad, the wack job who tricked out a Buick and convinced a kid to join him while he drove around D.C. and shot people, was found guilty of six counts of first-degree murder in the state of Maryland. A few months ago, he was sentenced to death in Virginia. I’ll be honest with you. Normally, I’m not a proponent of the death penalty. But in this case, I’m happy to make an exception.

At the time of Muhammad’s killing spree, my wife and I were living in Alexandria, VA, a suburb of Washington, D.C. I really can’t convey to those who weren’t there what it felt like to think that you might be in the crosshairs of a psycho. It seemed like every other day another sniper murder would be reported on the news. People discussed the killings and joked nervously about drawing straws to see who would go pick up lunch. Not many individuals were willing to stop and chat with one another outside. And EVERYBODY was avoiding white vans (initially thought to be the vehicle of the snipers) like the plague. It was surreal. Technically, considering the size of the area, the chances that you would be the next victim were miniscule. But it was a lottery that not many wanted to play and even fewer wanted to win.

When I revisit this period I feel angry that this madman literally terrorized an entire region of the country and murdered over a dozen people. I’m angry that every time I went to get gas I quickly attached the pump to my tank and jumped my ass back in the car. I’m angry that dude had grown folks walking zig zag from the parking lot to the front door of the grocery store, looking like they escaped from an asylum. I’m angry that most outdoor activities in the region were cancelled because we were blanketed in fear and confusion. But I’m pissed even more because he destroyed one of the only stereotypical assumptions that worked in black folks’ favor. Namely: We Ain’t Serial Killers. Until this cat messed it up for us, randomly killing folks for kicks fell squarely into the realm of Crazy White Folks. John Wayne Gacy. Jeffrey Dahmer. The Green River Killer. All white. All crazy.

Not that we don’t have our own murderous foibles. Blowing somebody’s brains out because they scuffed up your Jordans isn’t exactly noble. It’s just that, generally, if a black person wants to kill you, you actually had to do some shit to him. Or, at least, he has to think you did something to him - whether the slight was real or imagined is immaterial.

Undoubtedly, we’ve got a few positive stereotypes left. Black men are thought to possess larger than average sexual equipment. We also, apparently, can dance and sing and we’re superior athletes. But the W.A.S.K. stereotype wasn’t bogged down by any negative connotations or tied to any racist marginalization whatsoever. Too bad Muhammad’s death won’t bring W.A.S.K. back to life.



At 8:19 AM , Anonymous Dr. Renz_1914 said...

Though I too, while living in VA, had the "crosshairs" anxiety, I must correct the misnomer that there were no Black serial killers prior to the DC Snipers. While John Allan Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo have to be the best-known BLACK serial Killers to date, they were not the first. Just by-way-of definition, so we are all on the same page, according to Jack Levin and James Fox (Northeastern University, Boston), Serial Killers are killers who murder a number of people over a period of weeks, months or years but in between live realtively normal lives. The DC Snipers could more aptly be defined as “Spree Killers”: which take the lives of several victims over a short period of time with out a “cooling off” period. Not withstanding the semantics, there were others before them. Do we not remember Wayne Williams who killed 33 young Black (mostly) males in the ATL From October 1979 to May 1981? Just to add others to the list there were also a number of others before then. The following are other Black serial Killers (to name a few), with the number of victims in parentheses.

-Daniel Andrew Bowler (3), Richmond, VA

-George Russell (3 women), WA state

-Timothy W. Spencer (5), Arlington, VA and Richmond, VA

-Elton M. Jackson (12), Norfolk, VA area

-Carlton Gray (3), Columbus, GA

-Kendall Francois (8 women), Poughkeepsie, NY and surrounding areas.

-Terry A. Blair (8), Kansas City area

-Zebra Killers (78), San Francisco
Wayne Williams (33), Atlanta, GA

At 6:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Renz provides an enlightening point about Muhammad and Malvo being the "first" serial killers. However, looking at it from the vantage point of the original post, I have to agree with the author in the sense that Muhammad and Malvo "broke" the stereotype. Due to media sensationalism today, especially when it comes to portraying black people, the sniper killings are now indelible in the minds of white people. That is the point I believe the author was elating to in his post. As for remembering the black serial killers that were named in Dr. Renz's comments, I have to state that I have never heard about a single one of them or their crimes. When the news stories about the sniper killings were airing and the articles written everyone was shocked that the killers were black. Including myself. Also, if you couple that with the fact that one of the prominent killers on the list provided by Dr. Renz killed young black males. Well, that just doesn't make the news like a black man killing an white female FBI agent. When has the media ever cared about blacks killing blacks? I haven't seen it in my lifetime.

At 12:32 AM , Anonymous Martial Law said...

Several points:

First, if the writer who chooses to remain Anonymous would venture out of his/her seemingly “MTV generation” induced coma and take a quick peek at a book, or at the very least, the History Channel, perhaps s/he would have heard of many of the Black serial killers listed.

Second, if you do not know who Wayne Williams in, then CLEARLY you may be too young to comment on this post to begin with. The media dubbed the ATL killing of 33 of our mostly young, Black, males in the early 80’s “THE ATLANTA CHILD MURDERS”. Perhaps “Anonymous” was too young to realize this was going on as s/he was perhaps still safely suckling at the time. But THIS case was at least as big as the DC sniper case (if not bigger at the time). Perhaps the fault does not lie with the lack of knowledge of “Anonymous”, but rather the lack of memory of the American populace.

To quote Flavor-Flav:
“Read a book, read about yourself, learn your culture, you’re blind from the facts of who you are because you watch that garbage”
(Public Enemy – “She watch Channel Zero”)

At 9:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Martial Law, you state that I am in an "MTV induced coma" just because I am not old enough to remember killings that occured over 25 years ago? Your insults and direct attacks show your maturity level. Perhaps you should take a look at youself before you go pointing fingers.

As for the statement that I am too young to comment on the topic. Well, I LIVED the sniper killings nightmare. One of the killings occurred less than a mile from my home at a gas station that I had JUST visited 20 minutes earlier and another occured WHEN I was eating lunch with some coworkers less than a mile away from us. I felt the terror, worried about my family and friends, and cowered with the rest of the region. I believe that gives me all of the right in the world to comment on this topic.

As for your extremely ignorant assumption that I do not watch the History Channel or read, you are mistaken to the point of embarrassment. The History Channel is one of my favorite and I stated in my post that Dr. Renz provided some enlightening information regarding prior black serial killers. After I posted my comments, I immediately researched some of the information he provided as I was intrigued. However, my post stated that Muhammad and Malvo, in this day and time, are bigger than any of the previous cases. One cannot dispute that the media does not compare them to any other black killers before their time. That alone is why they broke the mold/stereotype. Media and connectivity today is far superior than it was back in the late 70's and early 80's. So to make the comment that Wayne Williams case was as big as or bigger than the sniper killings is ludicrous. The sniper killings are known worldwide. I don't believe the same can be said about any of the prior black killers. As I stated before, when black men kill white people, it stays in the minds minds of the American populace. Take John Brown's raid on the arsenal at Harper's Ferry in 1859. He made his mark in the history books and I know white people that recall his story quite well. It's not the memory of the American populous that's in question, it's the "selective" memory of the white populace and the media that they control as they're the ones that have the power to disseminate information and they are biased with that power.

At 10:54 AM , Anonymous Blk-Mid-Knight_1914 said...

Dr. Renz I must comment you on your accont of Black Serial Killers and must add the following points of experience. I Have been effected twice in my lifetime by what would be deemed as Black Serial Killers. {I haven't thought of this in years}


First, I was a young lad of 11 living in Atlanta in 1981 when Wayne Williams was doing his business. My parrents had just gotten divorced and I was living downtown Atlanta with my father. I must say that in the WestEnd of Atlanta there was no movement of young men 15 or younger during that period without a "KNOWN ADULT" monitor. Little descendents of "Massa" in Roswell, GA were still going to the pool, hanging out at the mall, going to the skating rink ect. This unabashed fear caused my mother to pull me back to Charlotte, NC into the safty of her careing arms.

Second, Let us not forget the little known incidental killer of 5 women in Charlotte NC Henry Lewis Wallace. I had just graduated from college and was in the process of moving when this idiot was captured in his apartment around the corner from my mothers beauty salon (he use to come into the barbershop to get his hair cut). One of the days that he came into the shop he spotted my sister and at the end of his haircut he asked my mother if he could call her and take her out. His MO was unusual, undocumented, & untraceable by the charlotte-meck police dept b/c none of the women were prostutes, on wellfare, etc. The only common characteristic is that they were Black Women...

At 10:56 PM , Anonymous Martial Law said...

"Anonymous", I owe you an apology. My intent was not to offend (well, not intentionally). But if my commentary has caused you to do some research, then I applaud that effort. I still think that you are blinded by the throws of history, but at least you are doing the research. Welcome to the “enlightenment”. (smile)

At 11:14 PM , Anonymous Dr. Renz_1914 said...

Not to belittle the newest blog by "Another conflict theorist", I must add my final commentary.

To Blk-Mid-Knight, I feel what you are saying. Thanks for bringing up other Black serial killers. You insight is timely and useful. The ATL incidents paralyzed every urban area in that country. ATL was not the only place that young black males were under siege. That was a horrifying time around the country, and to some extent the world.

To the anonymous writer, be advised that proximity does not equate to importance. I think that you feel that the DC Sniper case was the biggest ever, when in fact it was probably the biggest in YOUR lifetime. I shared your anxiety over the killings. At the time I lived in NO.VA. Though I do not know you, I am happy that your loved ones were not hurt. But I think that because you had to live through the terror (much like Blk-Mid-Knight did in ATL), but I must inform you that because you were near the action (so to speak) your feelings of level of historical significance may have been elevated a bit. NO one can EVER diminish the importance of the incident in American history, but much like the terror of the Atlanta Child Murders has waned over time, so shall the DC Snipers. In 25 years will there be something else that will make you compare the DC Sniper to something else and have to recount the story to another who did not live in close proximity to the story? History tends to paint pictures with less fervor than we may have experienced at the time. Just an observation.

To Martial Law, You certainly get significant “COOL” points for the otherwise obscure Flavor Flav reference! Good Job.

At 12:46 PM , Blogger Mahogany Elle said...

True this! I remember I had an invu during that period and was sprinting like Jackie Joyner Kersee from the car to the pump... Lol. In retrospect, it's hilarious, but def. wasn't then.

I know am I am probably in the minority, but a part of me feels really sorry for him. He's a crazy man who wasn't able to get the proper help he needed... I hope that he gets the same treatment of killer of his ilk would though (Dahmer, etc.), a very, very long time in prison.

At 12:47 PM , Blogger Mahogany Elle said...

In other lighter news, thanks so much for the advice the other day. One never knows whom God will use to lift your spirits. All best!


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