white privilege radically changes the appearance of Tsarnaev bros
This is how brofiling actually works in real life. The Week Magazine ran with this image as their cover sketch.
Just so it is said, clearly and unambiguously: the Tsarnaev brothers are white guys. They are white. The FBI’s own wanted poster for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lists his race as “white”, but you would never know it from the cover image on The Week.
Hold up the cover to someone else, and ask them how many white people they can see on the cover. Chances are they will identify Gabby Giffords on the top left and the image of the Boston policemen (all white men) on the top right, but how about those two guys in the center? Nope, not a chance that anyone would say these caricatures look white.
Why? Because in addition to being white they are also “Muslim”, which is the current dehumanizing “Other” label that whiteness has constructed as a sanctioned target for violence in US popular culture.
This is how white privilege works in media representations and everyday life: when the criminal suspects are demonstrably white men, seize upon any aspect of difference and magnify it such that they become Othered, non-white, and menacing. If it is too hard to do so, simply dismiss them as aberrations and isolated cases of insanity. This is also how white culture, specifically the process of whiteness in conjunction with white privilege, portrays several non-white identities, including those that are now considered white but at one time were decidedly not so. For example, see here for how the Irish were depicted as violent apes or lazy drunks in the late 1800s to early 1900s.
Addendum, posted 4.29.13:
As Tim Wise said on April 18, there are consequences for these kinds of things. Here are a few reasons why this is important:
- Making white criminals who are Muslim appear to be more ‘brown’ than ‘white’ has serious consequences for brown people. Indeed, as we saw right after the Boston bombings, people that simply “looked” brown and Muslim were profiled and assaulted. Two men were escorted off a plane in Boston simply for speaking Arabic and thereby somehow making passengers “uncomfortable”. A Bangladeshi man in NYC was beaten up because he looked ‘Arab’. And this affects women too: a Muslim woman doctor in Boston who wears a headscarf was attacked by a man while she was out walking with her baby. And the white Muslim wife of the older brother has been demonized for simply being a Muslim American woman, especially after Ann Coulter called for women who wear hijabs to be arrested.
- People have pointed out to me that The Week Magazine’s cover images are regularly caricatures/sketches of the main events of that week’s news. I know this—I read their print edition every week, and all their previous cover images are available online. But there are two main problems with this argument: (a) why caricature them in a way that makes them so explicitly ‘darker’ and ‘Arabized’ in their appearance? Contrast the way they look on that page with the other white faces on that same page—would anyone say that these men look ‘white’? So why is the caricature done in such a ‘racializing’ way? How is this any different from the more overt media racism that was used by Time Magazine (h/t @sarahkendzior), for example, to make OJ Simpson appear way more menacing? And (b) if The Week is simply trying to put a caricature of criminals who committed mass violence on their cover, then here are the covers for the weeks when Newtown happened, when Aurora happened, and when Tucson happened — where were their ‘racialized’ caricatures of Adam Lanza, James Holmes, and Jared Loughner? How come the ideologies and ethnicities and religions of those particular mass criminals were not profiled?
- And so here is the more subtle consequence: when white criminals are treated as if they are just aberrations, and when white criminals who are Muslim are portrayed as more brown than white not just by The Week but by mainstream propaganda outlets like Fox News, then the problems of white supremacist violence and extremism become hidden, unaddressed. When analyzed carefully, research has shown that right-wing extremism causes more deaths in America than “jihadist” groups. Also, of the terror attacks/plots since 1995 in America, 56% of them were by right-wing extremists and only 12% by Islamist/jihadist groups — and yet the DHS was told to back off reporting on that or on analyzing right-wing violence for fears of backlash from conservative political groups.
So, my main point is that such a willful blindness hurts ALL people.