by Frances Quaempts-Miller
“When I’m down and I feel like giving up…I whip my hair back and forth.”-Willow Smith
When I first learned of the latest hate crime hoax involving Amari Allen, a 12 year old African American preteen, I was watching the sometimes salacious national news show “Inside Edition” with my wife. Allen appeared on screen as a brave victim who was seemingly attacked by three white boys because of her “nappy” hair. Though something about the story just didn’t seem right, the part of me that knows what it’s like to have my hair ridiculed and touched without permission, won out. I decided to believe the narrative knowing there was potential for a hate hoax.
Confirmation bias for some people comes from a place of real experience. I have no doubt that many black people, women in particular, felt the sting of bad memories when Allen’s story hit the screens. Hate crime hoaxes are often initially believed because they sound plausible to those who have dealt with similar circumstances. Even the awful Tawana Brawley gang rape hoax, where she claimed racist words were written on her body and was left for dead in a trash bag, could seem likely because of the harm violently racist whites caused African Americans during slavery times and beyond. Blacks and other people of color learn as kids to be on the look-out for racial denigration so the past isn’t repeated.
Author and university professor Wilfred Reilly published the book “Hate Crime Hoax: The Left’s Campaign to Sell a Fake Race War,” this year and has over forty four pages of notes related to such hoaxes. Chapters in his book include discussions on fake religious, gender, and LGBT incidents, hoaxes related to bias against President Trump, white hoaxers, and of course college campus incidents. Reilly notes that these false hate crimes perpetuate a vision of what he calls the “Continuing Oppression Narrative,” that keeps blacks and leftist race activists in a constant state of “doom laden” analysis.
Reilly notes media stories that serve to crystallize the idea that cruel racists are lurking everywhere can “deflect attention from cultural issues within the Black community.” Organizations like the NAACP (which I once belonged to) and Black Lives Matter along with left-wing media outlets feed the “large and well-entrenched grievance industry.” At the same time, continuing problems for African Americans including fatherlessness, black on black crime, and diseases that disproportionately affect blacks like sickle cell anemia and sarcoidosis, remain out of the realm of public and social justice discourse.
Chasing racist ghosts also negates focus on black achievement. Coleman Hughes, a university student and writer, asked at the beginning of his Quillette essay The Case for Black Optimism, “When was the last time you heard good news about the state of black America?” Hughes contends that things are actually looking up for blacks, especially when compared to how they were doing in the recent past. The “blacks are being hurt and need help” plot obliges white social justice vigilantes and black race-baiters alike to destabilize society by using deception to gain power, notoriety and money while keeping African Americans in a falsely derived perpetual state of panic. This in and of itself could be called racist.
A story like Allen’s in our current epoch wouldn’t be complete if it wasn’t connected to President Trump somehow. The “Inside Edition” episode I watched didn’t mention the connection to Karen Pence, but most other news sources did. Instead, “Inside Edition” tied the Allen story to the issue of rights for African Americans to wear their hair naturally in professional settings. The news show did not retract the story on their broadcast but did post an update on their website. Reilly’s partial solution to the fake hate crime wave is to have reporters and editors treat accusers respectfully but not “greet each new claim with instant and total credulity.”
Why Amari and her guardians created this lie remains a mystery. Reilley estimates that “between 15 to 50 percent of hate crime accusations are flatly false.” This means there’s a lot of people making race relations worse in the name of combating racism. Many times in the past race hustlers have used hoaxes like this to make unethical rationalizations about how such hoaxers are “well-meaning anti-racists,” using lies to draw attention to real racism. Another popular excuse, as was the case with Brawley and Allen, is that “someone did something at some time,” and the hoaxer was just over amplifying a previous racial wound or is just responding to “institutional racism” and “white privilege.”
Amari Allen and her guardians need to be accountable for the willful disinformation they pushed. Likewise, popular and left-wing media sources are complicit by not fully investigating before asserting the racialized sky is falling. My hope for Allen in spite of her deceptive story is that she can one day understand she doesn’t have to lie to advocate for black autonomy and equality. She can take her woeful transgression on the chin and use it to live a more ethical and truthful life. Only an honest examination of her motives, as well as the motives of her grandparents and the media, will help her to move past this and perhaps become a young lady who can teach others to tell the truth even when a juicy lie seems too good to pass up.
Frances Quaempts lives with her wife and dog in Portland, Oregon. Her professional background includes management, event planning, the book industry, and advocacy in the non-profit sector. She has been an activist and volunteer for over three decades including being an HIV/AIDS educator, grant writing specialist, campaign spokeswoman and Chief Petitioner. She’s currently a dog wrangler as well as a staff writer and community liaison for a local community newspaper. Frances is a bibliophile and ardent Svengoolie fan.