Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Un-Whitening of Terrorism in the U.S. - Depictions of the Tsarnaev Brothers

from Gawker http://gawker.com/the-week-magically-turns-white-bombers-brown-for-its-la-487386826
Ethnic identification has been heavily used in stories about the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  From the earliest accounts of the suspects as "dark-skinned" by CNN's John King (http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/04/cnns_chris_king_explains_his_dark_skinned_comment_on_twitter_and_gets_schooled.html) to all other news reports trying desperately to make synonymous the Tsarnaev Bros.with Chechnya.  Every word and ethnic designation that applies has been used...except for the term "White."  The Gawker pointed out that The Week coverage and illustration of the Tsarnaev Brothers distanced the suspected bombers even further from being white by the "browing" of their depictions, with emphasis on their noses, lips, & eyebrows.  All features that are tied to racial designation in the U.S. http://gawker.com/the-week-magically-turns-white-bombers-brown-for-its-la-487386826

I asked my students the seemingly simple but amazingly complex question of why.  Sociologically answers can range from the resistance of the power majority to identify itself with terrorism to anti-internationalist/anti-immigrant sentiments used to marginalize them and the immigration issue even more.  However, for me, the conversation can be even deeper.

Most recently, the family of Tamerlan Tsarnaev were turned away from several places when seeking to bury their son.  If Timothy McVeigh's (one of the terrorists, to whom that term was never applied, behind the Oklahoma City bombing) body weren't cremated, I wonder if his family would have faced the same obstacles trying to bury him?  More grounded in reality, Adam Lanza's body was claimed by his father and the burial arrangements were kept secret.  How is that possible when the denial of burial services are headline news for the family of Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

One answer is white privilege. Actually, that's a pretty big answer.  Another answer is, again, anti-immigrant sentiment which has been largely opportunistic as well.

I'd enjoy hearing other thoughts on the issue as well.  As always, feel free to comment, share, follow, and like what you've read.  As long as we keep the conversation for the pursuit of answers flowing.

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