Location: Palm Beach County, Florida, United States

Recently have been told I look like Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island. I hadn't heard that in years, but that is a good place to start as to what I look like, although she had a better bod. I have three boys and have been married for 13 years. Born of a Navy family, in Hawaii, one Mom, one Dad, one sister and one brother. The eldest of three children. BS in Applied Mathematics. Consider Pensacola my home town although I moved every 2-3 years of my life growing up. Currently work in the aerospace industry in an engineering position while being a Mom. Of Celtic heritage and very proud of it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Can't Judge a Book By His Cover

Harvey put a post out today with regard to rascism. I grew up in a Navy family and not until I got to high school did I actually realize racism existed. My grandparents used terms that were not acceptable in our home, but it was explained away as ‘older generations’ and so I didn’t think much of it. But in high school, it hit me full force. I found it repulsive and still do. I have friends of every ethnicity and every religion. A boyfriend I had in high school was Muslim (now an atheist). In college one of my summer flings was a young man of Chinese descent. I judge people by what I see in their character and their hearts.

However, that said, it is not to say that at 39 years old, I do not have stereotypes in my head. It is unfortunate and I don’t like it, but it is there. We are having a horrible crime problem in downtown West Palm Beach. Last I heard when I left West Palm Beach for Christmas, we had had 10 people killed by the violence. We are having a current problem with black on black crime, so when I heard of the violence, I knew that’s what it was. That bothers me that in my head I had jumped to that conclusion. (It is a black on black crime problem and the 10th victim was a toddler. It is horrible.)

But another example… when I hear mass murderer, serial r-apist, serial murderer, or some other funky whacked out awful crime… I immediately think ‘white person’. I NEVER think black person. How odd is that? But it is the data I have assimilated in my head from Jeffrey Dahmer, to Ted Bundy, to John Wayne Gacy. Weird horrible stuff… those are white people crimes. Blech.

So this brings me to a story.

A couple years ago, there was a story that broke national headlines for a guy who ran a crematorium out of Noble, Georgia. Ghastly story. The man hadn’t been cremating the bodies he had been given charge to, but instead had been burying them, shoving their bodies in septic tanks, etc, giving the families something like pulverized concrete instead of ashes. (It also appears this was a 'family tradition' as he took over the family business.) The authorities dragged the lake near his home, dug up all over the property and the things they found, skeletons, mummified bodies, bodies decomposed into one massive gruesome blob, it was enough to turn one’s stomach upon reading it… and leaving no doubt in my mind that many of the said authorities ended up in some serious counseling. You cannot erase from your mind horrors you witness, no matter how much you will it.

So I was reading the paper and ran across an article… and.there.was.a.picture. At the top of the article was a small square picture of the crematorium ‘owner/operator/potential Stephen King character'. I kept staring. Immediately I called my sister and said, “Hey. There’s a picture of that whack job from Noble, the dude that’s been storing bodies instead of burning them. There’s a picture of him. What do you think he looks like?”

Without skipping a beat she said, “Skinny, nasty, dirty, 'insert any name here for white trash here'.” Yup. That was my EXACT thought. I immediately think of too much inbreeding. But… NO. In the picture is a young black man. It NEVER occurred to me that he would be black.

Reverse stereotyping I guess…


Blogger Harvey said...

Thanks to Jeffrey Dahmer (and Ed Gein), people now think "from Wisconsin" when you say "scruffy-looking serial killer" :-/

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A little side note on why you had to wait to see a photo of that guy to realize he's black.

To keep from looking racist, our newspaper's "style" is not to list a suspect's race in a story, unless it's in a VERY detailed description. "Robbery suspect was described as a 6-foot-2, bald, white man with a scar on his forehead." We don't mention race at all in court or political stories. We also try to leave out a person's religion unless it's relevant to the story.

So folks are left to guess and insert their own feelings or stereotypes when they read the news stories. I don't know if that's better than listing the race in the story in the first place or what.
-- George

6:42 AM  
Blogger Sally said...

Did you ever see "Mystic River"? A young girl has been murdered, and, of the suspect one of the cops says something like, "White, thirties, married, abused as a's a perfect profile!" The suspect was innocent.

Our most recent serial killer was Fred West. I remember looking at photos of him in the paper and saying to friends, "Oh, they should have suspected him on his looks alone, judging from the pictures!" Seriously. He really did look like what he was. Google with care. It's awful what he and his wife did.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Pammy said...

I don't think it's reverse stereotyping. Probably more like profiling. Stats show, with few exceptions, serial killers, especially those that kill using more bizarre and/or heinous methods, are white, young to middle-aged men. Of course there's exceptions to every rule...Wayne Williams and Aileen Wournos, for example. On the other hand, stats show that most OTHER violent crimes are committed by young, black males. Again, that's putting a lot of faith in statistics.
Here in Peoria, we currently have a serial killer at large. Six women have been found dead at various rural locales and four are currently missing. These particular women all lived dangerous lifestyles...prositiutes and/or drug addicts...and, all are black. But I'm pretty sure they've profiled a middle-aged, white male as the perp.

6:23 PM  

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