Boston terror suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had their complexions darkened on a magazine cover, so as to make them look less European and more Arabic.
The Tsarnaev brothers are natives of Chechnya which is a republic of Russia.
The Week ran caricature images of the suspects noticeably darker than they appeared in photos and surveillance footage made public in the last few weeks. 19-year-old Dzhokhar is even listed as “White” on a poster released by the FBI. Clearly confused as to how a Muslim terrorist could be White, perhaps the magazine illustrator decided to paint the suspects the way they believe they should look.
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.
Race and religion have been a big issue in the attacks, which led to retaliations against people believed to be Arabic and/or Muslim. As previously reported, Chuck Woolery got into a one-sided Twitter fight over his hypothesis linking Muslims to all the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
In the weeks following the tragedy, President Obama discouraged the nation from letting the actions of the accused shape their opinions on the religion.“There’s a temptation to latch on to any bit of information, sometimes to jump to conclusions,” he said. “But when a tragedy like this happens … it’s important that we do this right.
“That’s why we have investigations … That’s why we have courts. And that’s why we take care not to rush to judgment — not about the motivations of these individuals; certainly not about entire groups of people.”
See the full magazine cover, alongside photos of the suspects below.
Photo: The Week/Brofiling