Ashley Todd is not our "October Surprise"

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ashley Todd is not our "October Surprise"

All day long as this story unfolded I was heartsick. This story felt very personal from the first moment I heard about it yesterday because I am a Pittsburgher. The story might be a hoax but the street corner and the neighborhood and the sick racial-sexual game she was playing was very real. Scary real.

Imagine how you'd feel if this happened in your own backyard? In a city that you love and that you're proud of, a city that you recently moved back to and have a lot of hope for its future as a widely unrecognized gem?

I was deeply concerned that this was the exact kind of incident that could have serious unintended(?) consequences-- stoking racial tensions that exist in MOST cities on some level or another. It was such a viseral story, the cutting and branding of one's face. Later on she added that he molested her as well. It was such an awful racist archtype, reaching into history to conjure up a story that in another time would have gotten innocent black men lynched in retaliation. The victimization of a white woman at the hands of an angry, terrifying black man.

I know the so-called racism of western PA has been put in the national spotlight. I'm not denying that it DOES exist, however I see more interracial families here than I've seen in any other city that I've lived in. I've lived in a lot of other cities-- DC, Boston, Chicago, San Fransisco-- and Pittsburgh actually has less racial division than I've seen anywhere else.

As a Pittsburgher I am deeply OUTRAGED that she did tried to do this to us. I've been thinking a lot about what I would say to her if I could sit down with her. I would ask her if she understood the ugly, divisive history that she tapped into and ask her how she would have felt if her "attack" had driven other people to commit acts of violence against innocent people? Or that she tried to influence the election by creating an imaginary black man as a stand-in for the threat that some white people see that Obama poses to America?

I'm extremely appreciative of the Pittsburgh police for their speed and proficiency at getting to the truth of the story. Imagine if the investigation had lingered for days? a week? What if they hadn't uncovered the hoax until after the election? What might have transpired in that time? How would that have played out on the national stage? Imagine the McCain campaign ads. The mind reels.

So it's very hard to have too much pity for her considering what she tried to do-- it literally turns my stomach and makes my eyes burn. I just hope that she can learn from what she did, that she understands that in her attempt to fake a hate crime that she committed a hate crime against Pittsburgh itself.

Update: As of now there are over 1,400 stories about "ashley todd pittsburgh" in the news all over the world. Nice going, Ashley, you're an international celebrity! You may very well be the final push that helps a lot of fencesitters make a choice-- that they don't want anything to do with such a dirty campaign. Yes, I mean the McCain campaign because the McCain campaign has been caught pushing this story into the news yesterday before any of its facts were verified.

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