Steffanie Rivers

*For every white person who says racism died the day they helped elect America’s first Black president, I say don’t flatter yourselves. I direct my statement to white Americans because I would be hard pressed to find a person of color who would argue that racism is dead.

Yet there are plenty of white people who say we should get over racism and ignore whatever bad experiences we’ve had because of it. But with every step forward Americans take to chip away at racial injustice, there’s somebody like Bethany Storro waiting to remind us that we never are too far removed from it.

Storro is the Vancouver, Washington woman who gained world-wide sympathy earlier this month after she claimed a black woman threw acid in her face after telling Storro that she was pretty. But under the pressure of police questioning, Storro admitted the burns to her face were self-inflicted and that she lied about a mysterious black woman being involved.

So far Storro hasn’t told why she made up such a lie and repeated it to different news outlets. But she had local police wasting time on a wild goose chase searching for a black woman with a ponytail for more than two weeks and thousands of people sending money to an account for her medical expenses.

Why did police and the news media not require more details about the alleged attack from Storro before they publicized such a vauge description of a suspect? A black woman with a pony tail!? What was the woman wearing? How tall or short was she? Eye color, weight and build? Where was the artist sketch? These are questions that needed answers before I would go public with a description. I know that much.And I’m not in law enforcement.

Even if some people don’t want to admit it, people like Storro can lie about being a victim, blame the boogieman black person and get sympathy with little to no verification of the facts because –no matter what they say to your face – most white people have accepted the erroneous stereotype that all people of color are criminals and it’s just a matter of time before they break the law.

If it weren’t true there would be no Charles Stuart. Stuart is the white Massachusetts man who shot and killed his pregnant wife in 1989 and blamed it on a black car-jacker. If it weren’t true there would be no Susan Smith. Smith is the white South Carolina woman who is serving a life sentence for murdering her two children in 1994. Smith told police a black man stole her car and kidnapped her kids. If it weren’t true there would be no Jennifer Wilbanks. She’s the white Georgia woman who ran away from home because she didn’t have the guts to tell her fiance’ that she didn’t want to marry him. Instead she lied to police about being kidnapped and raped by a Latino man. Then she added a white woman accomplice to her story to confuse people even more. It was the same lie, but with a brown boogieman.

In all three cases police combed the streets suspecting every black and brown man that crossed their paths and had white America on alert for weeks before their lies were revealed.

If police and the media would take more responsibility to investigate victim claims and not perpetuate negative stereotypes by releasing unsubstantiated information, people like the aforementioned would be less likely to throw people of color under the bus. Maybe then they could spend more time and resources searching for the thousands of black and brown children who go missing every year giving them the attention from law enforcement and news coverage they deserve. It’s getting so that families of missing minority children have to damn near pay for air time just to get some attention paid to their missing loved ones. Why? Because everybody is so busy talking about the boogieman.

You see, racism is like a disease; it only takes one host to spread it but it takes everybody to end it.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at youtube.com/steffanierivers.