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"She Killed Herself": Renisha McBride and the Racial Politics of Blaming the Victim

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Renisha McBride's killer now has a name. Theodore Wafer  has been charged with murder for shooting Renisha McBride in the face with a shotgun. His arrest was long overdue.

As I wrote  hereblack folks do not have the luxury of being strangers in America who seek help in a time of crisis.

Black Americans are also subjected to extremely high standards of perfection, "personal responsibility", behavior, and comportment in all areas of life. White privilege is a license for white mediocrity and bad behavior because a given white person's behavior is not taken as being representative of the group as a whole. By definition, "bad" white people are outliers and exceptions because Whiteness imagines itself as benign, neutral, natural, and "normal". Black and brown folks are judged by the "least" of us, the latter is taken as representative of the whole until we/us prove otherwise.

Post civil rights "colorblind" racism uses a set of rhetorical tactics and tropes to justify white supremacy. There are common deflections which are used to mask and excuse away racism--one of my favorites is the always popular "one of my best friends is black/Hispanic/Asian". Modern white racism uses humor as well, "I didn't mean it, I was only kidding. Minorities are too sensitive". It also deploys the tactic of distraction through absurdity, "what about reverse racism! white people are victims of anti-white racism in America!"

Colorblind racism, drawing on its roots in old fashioned dominative and aversive racism, also tries to rob people of color of basic human rights by deeming them not worthy of empathy. Modern racism also blames the victims of white supremacy, structural and personal, for their own circumstances.

When the issue becomes one of race, guns, and crime, this chain of reasoning and logic is amplified. Black folks who were lynched by the thousands somehow "provoked" white people or otherwise "had it coming" because they were not duly "respectful" of white authority. More recently, Trayvon Martin caused his own murder by a street vigilante named George Zimmerman because he wore a hooded sweatshirt and should not have been walking down the street without white folks' permission.

Renisha McBride will be treated in much the same way, because on the night of her accident and murder, she was apparently "intoxicated". The focus will not be on how a white man with a shotgun blew off her face for daring to knock on his door in search of help.

No. For colorblind racists, racially resentful white people, their allies, defenders, and those particularly sick people who combine those attitudes with worship of the gun, the real story is how Renisha McBride "killed herself" and was "responsible" for her own murder by having too much to drink and then seeking help.

In America, female rape victims are blamed for their own assaults because "they were asking for it"; "were dressed provocatively"; or "had too much to drink". Through a similar reasoning, black and Brown people who are killed by the George Zimmermans, gun happy cops, or men like Theodore Wafer, were also, like rape victims, provoking the shooters to pull the trigger.

Blackness has many burdens. One of them is the ability to cause existential dread in others, as well to somehow make black people responsible for their own murders by white people.

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