Corrections officials in California have released a photograph of 74-year-old Charles Manson. In it, he bears little resemblance to his more famous prison photos–especially about the eyes. He is visibly older, gray, balding. The swastika on his forehead is probably the only clue that this is, in fact, Manson.
Seeing the photograph I was reminded of a fact about the Manson Family case that had largely slipped my mind. One motivation for the killings reportedly was that Manson wanted to start a “race war” between Blacks and Whites:
Manson had come to believe that Armageddon was imminent, in the form of race war, and believed he was destined to be the ultimate beneficiary of it. Manson viewed race war as imminent, describing it as Helter Skelter, “all the wars that have ever been fought, piled on top of each other.” He told his followers that this was imminent, but that there was a secret underground world reached by a hole underneath the desert, where they would wait out the war in bliss…. Blacks would win the war, but be unable to run the world through lack of experience, and the Family would therefore emerge and run it for them as a benevolent autocracy with Manson at the head of this new world order. The war would be triggered by “some black people coming out of the ghetto and doing atrocious crimes… killings… writing things in blood.” However, by summer 1969, Manson was heard to say that blacks did not know how to start its role in this war, so he would have to show them. (Source)
It is not fully clear if Manson really believed and wanted such an outcome or whether he had other, less grandiose motives for the killings. (Frustration at being a failed musician and the murders being an attempt to send a message to a music executive who snubbed him is one possible personal motive.) But what is interesting to me was that this may very well be one of the earliest examples in the modern era of White-on-White crime being blamed on Blacks.
Charles Stuart, Boston, 1989…Susan Smith, South Carolina, 1994…Ashley Todd, Pittsburgh, 2008…
Of course there have been others. And of course the situation has happened the other way around (Blacks falsely accusing Whites). At the center of all these cases, though, is the idea that the perpetrators of the frauds and false allegations prey on our willingness to believe the worse about each other. There are those of us who want to believe that Blacks might rise up en mass and go on a murderous rampage against innocent Whites. Kind of like the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict except on a massive scale.
Is it possible, then, to make these race-baiting falsehoods useless due to a different belief system in us? In the last case I mentioned above, for example, it did not take very long for the lies to unravel. Just look at the passage of time from initial allegation and revelation of the allegation as false in the cases above. Does that mean that in the “Obama Age” we were not as quick to believe in the savagery of Blacks as we have believed in the past?
Maybe. But by the same token, there were a lot of believers in the Todd case, even after some of the inconsistencies in the evidence began trickling through.
Even more troubling, in the Todd case (as well as the Susan Smith case) a frequent comment from observers was that this young woman “clearly needed help” or “deserved our empathy.” (I have not heard similar widespread cries for compassion for Black perpetrators of false allegations.) Some said “the only person she hurt was herself.” The harm that could have been caused by her accusation was dismissed since–unlike the many random Black men rounded up in the streets during the Stuart case–no Black men had their rights infringed upon as a result of a police search for this mythical Black Obama supporter with a knife and a plan.
But that is not entirely correct. The Todd false accusation was yet another seed. In this case, the seed sprouted only a little-barely breaking the surface of the ground. It then quickly withered and died. But the dead and rotting seedling then provided sustenance for soil that was already quite fertile. More seeds have sprouted and will continue to sprout from that rich soil. Many of them will grow to maturity and bear fruit.
Some of us want to believe in Manson’s helter skelter. Some of us will even find ways to act on it. It does not help matters that for too many White Americans, two of their worse fears have been realized: a Black man in the White House and increasing demographics for non-White “minorities”…