Why did anyone believe the now-discredited story by a McCain volunteer that she was attacked by a black man due to her McCain bumper sticker, even though the story seemed improbable from the beginning?
Because despite the progress we've made in race relations in this country -- of which Barack Obama's candidacy is the most obvious example -- many white people are still all too willing to believe that they are more likely to be criminally attacked by a black person than a white one.
And that's not true.
According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics 2006 data on victims and offenders (PDF alert), white people are more often attacked by white criminals. To cite just one statistic from the many available in the BJS reports, 70 percent of all violent attacks on white victims are by people the victim perceives as white, while only 13 percent are by attackers perceived as black (the remainder is either other races or unknown). This is a figure compiled from 3.7 million attacks by a single attacker.
If you look at rape attacks, over 50 percent of the attackers of white women are white, while about 17 percent of them are black.
The truth is, white people are at much more risk of violent attack from other white people than they are from people of other races.
Likewise, black people are more at risk from other black people; the same BJS chart shows that 75 percent of all violent attacks on blacks are by people perceived as black, with 11.5 percent committed by white people.
It's time to retire the old stereotypes. Fearing the wrong thing makes us more vulnerable, not safer.
(Note: All statistics are from Chart 42 in the above listed PDF.)