What If Chris Coleman Was A Black Man
One of the most insistent negative stereotypes about black people is the one that black men don’t stay and support their families. It is a commonly held perception that a black man would up and leave his family as soon as a fairer wind blows in. It’s one of those un-redeeming qualities that seem to be the black man’s lot in life. So I was a bit taken aback to see a television news pundit make the suggestion that if the Chris Coleman murder was about a black man who killed his wife and kids to be with his lover instead of a white man nobody would be interested in the story.
It is alleged that two years ago Mr. Coleman strangled his wife, Sheri Coleman, and their two sons, Garret and Gavin ages eleven and nine, in Columbia, Illinois, not too far on the other side of the Mississippi River from St. Louis. According to the prosecutor, Mr. Coleman murdered his family so that he could be totally free to be with another woman. It’s getting a lot of coverage here in the St. Louis area right now. The Chris Coleman murder trial started earlier this week.
Charlie Brennan, the host of St. Louis’ PBS station KETC-9’s television show Donnybrook, expressed a little race based frustration when he made the suggestion that if Chris Coleman was black no one would be interested in this story. If the number of murders committed in St. Louis’ predominantly black north side is any indication, nobody raises so much as an eyebrow at the news of another black on black crime. But when a white man is accused of killing his family people are bound to go crazy.
It might be just a small issue, but when was the last time a black man had to kill his family in order to be with another woman? Is it not the stereotype that black men leave without much of a cause anyway? Why would a black man go through the effort of committing a crime to simply do what the world expects him to do as if it’s some kind of black male birthright?
If what is being said about him is true, Chris Coleman is the coldest of cold blooded murderers. Like the proverbial black man who everybody expects to leave, all he had to do was pack his bags and go. But instead, because he may have been too absorbed in his own selfish existence to place any value on the lives of his very own children, Mr. Coleman is the center subject of a story about a seriously heinous crime. If Chris Coleman was a black man living in Columbia, Illinois under the same exact circumstances as the reality suggests it is a fair bet that the story would be worth every bit of all the attention that it is getting now. If for nothing else, this story would be worth the public’s attention due to the fact that a black man went through some serious hoops to do what other black men do on a regular basis.
But Chris Coleman isn’t black and he isn’t accused of committing this crime in the black community. Mr. Coleman committed his crime in predominantly white Columbia. It is a matter of fact that the white Mr. Coleman is accused of perpetrating a crime against his family. And although it is not part of our popular vernacular, Mr. Coleman is accused of committing one of the many white on white crimes that constantly go without acknowledgment unlike the way we simply can’t ignore the opportunity to recite the mantra black on black crime.
So a lot of people might want to somehow think that black people get a pass on murder, or want to think that white people are being held up to some higher standard of noncriminal behavior simply because they aren’t black. But the truth of the matter is that we have a white man caught red handed and he is going to trial for what he did to his very own. People might want to think that black people are somehow getting a pass. But the reality is that black on black crime didn’t become a staple of the local evening news because black people are getting a pass from people’s attention. Black on black crime hasn’t been hyped to phenomenal status by getting a pass. If anything it is white on white crime that escapes scrutiny.
Regardless, we can play what if about Mr. Coleman and what he may or may not have done all day long until the cows come home. It really doesn’t matter. The truth is that regardless of what color he might be, we have a man who is accused of committing the worse kind of crime, the murder of his own family. People might want to think we would have a less critical opinion for this crime had this guy been black. But if that’s truly the case, it might be because his victims, his own black children, would not be worth our attention as much.