The Racialicious Links Roundup 11.7.13: Renisha McBride, Richie Incognito, Kanye West, Crest, SNL & More

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f you thought what happened to Jonathan Ferrell last month was horrific, wait until you hear about the slaying of 19-year-old Renisha McBride.

At around 2:30am on Saturday morning, McBride got into a car accident near Dearborn Heights, a suburb around Detroit. Her cell phone battery was dead so she went to a nearby home to seek help. But after knocking on the door, McBride was killed by a gunshot wound to the head. (Update: McBride’s family told Detroit Free Press that she was shot in the back of the head as she was turning to leave.)

Dearborn Heights police initially told McBride’s family that her body was found dumped near Warren Avenue and Outer Drive, but that story quickly changed. Not only are police refusing to release the identity of the man who shot McBride, they’re now saying she was mistaken for an intruder and shot in self-defense on the homeowner’s front porch. Even if that’s the case, and there’s reason to believe it’s not, the shooter still failed to call 911 after shooting an unarmed woman in the head, instead leaving her there to die. Does that sound like the behavior of a law-abiding gunowner who made a tragic mistake?

Well, I’ve spoken to multiple people today about this and the explanation from all of them is that in the Dolphins locker room, Richie Incognito was considered a black guy. He was accepted by the black players. He was an honorary black man.

And Jonathan Martin, who is bi-racial, was not. Indeed, Martin was considered less black than Incognito.

“Richie is honarary,” one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told me today. “I don’t expect you to understand because you’re not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It’s about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you’ve experienced. A lot of things.”

Another former Dolphins employee told me Martin is considered “soft” by his teammates and that’s a reason he’s not readily accepted by some of the players, particularly the black players. His background — Stanford educated and the son of highly educated people — was not necessarily seen as a strength or a positive by some players and it perpetuated in the way Martin carried himself.

What’s wrong with this picture? All but one of the kids are dressed as things that are imaginary, or historical (if not extinct), or whimsical, or generic. Just one of them is attired as a stand-in for a living people — a living people who are still living, despite the U.S. government’s efforts to kill them off. And yes, some of these people do, today, wear a feather headdress or paint their faces in ceremonial gatherings, although many do not.

Kids look cute dressed as bumblebees, or robots, or ninjas, and there’s little danger that their fertile minds will form opinions about these things they will carry into adulthood. But what of the little Indian? What does his costume teach? If this is what an Indian looks like, does that define, for children, what all Indians are? Can an Indian be a lawyer? Do Indians live in houses? Do Indians speak proper English, drive cars, or even wear underwear? (And how come he doesn’t have a dead crow on his head like in the movie?)

Kanye West is a grown-ass man, an immensely bankable artiste who can wear whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and with gusto. He occupies a reality that accepts and promotes extreme behavior, visuals, and creations. We’ll gawk at his most perplexing fashion, but no one’s gonna stop him. As he says himself, “Who gonn’ stop me, huh?”

When Kanye peels out of Barneys sporting a bomber jacket that’s patched with Confederate logos, we’ll snap a few photos of dude and keep it moving. But when Kanye starts merchandising this brand of grim irony, however cheeky, to his fans, you have to wonder: Who does he expect to rock these tees, jackets, and totes, and where?

Using shocking imagery to stir up conversation and address serious issues is nothing new to streetwear and hip-hop. But to re-brand a symbol that has split our nation since 1861 is quite another matter. Far from a Lambo parked in Beverly Hills, these are the other realities his fans live within, in places like Richmond or Charlotte or Tallahassee, where the irony is possibly lost. If you’ve ever shared homeroom with rednecks or otherwise been swarmed by bumpkin riffraff all sporting that flag in common, you know there’s often a measure of dread in confronting this iconography. The Stars and Bars are a loaded, startling image, for sure.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the Virginia’s governor’s race narrowly on the strength of women’s votes, by an eight-point margin–slimmer than several polls had predicted. That was partly because white women broke heavily for Republican Ken Cuccinelli, 54-38, according to NBC News exit polls. Cuccinelli also won married women’s votes by eleven points.

But because African-American, Latina, and unmarried women turned out in numbers close to Barack Obama’s 2012 election, McAuliffe won women overall–and with them, the election. He also won 59% of the votes of people who said abortion was the most important issue to them, who made up 20% of the electorate.

The McAuliffe camp had pinned its hopes on at least narrowing the gap with white female voters, who made up 36% of the electorate this year. Over the summer, some polls showed Cuccinelli and McAuliffe even on white female voters.

Civil rights group ColorOfChange.org is asking Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels to address the show’s lack of black femalecastmembers and has penned a letter to Michaels and the NBC show’s producers.

“Since Maya Rudolph’s departure in 2007, SNL has failed to cast even one Black woman — yet still manages to traffic in dehumanizing portrayals that make race and gender the butt of the joke,” reads the letter from ColorOfChange.org executive director Rashad Robinson. “SNL seems committed to aggressively continuing to push images of Black women as incompetent, rude, hypersexual and financially dependent. Frankly, we’re tired of this disrespect.”

In the current season, a CIA analyst played by the Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi has changed the temperature on “Homeland” without doing much of anything. Boniadi’s character, Fara Sherazi, is explicitly a potential threat; in a show whose very nature lends itself to constant betrayal, the camera lingers over her rather anodyne presence as though her hijab signals treason in the offing. (This leer was particularly pronounced in the most recent episode, during which Fara’s typing on a computer was treated almost lasciviously by the “Homeland” camera.) Indeed, the heretofore heroic character Saul (Mandy Patinkin) lectures Fara, early in the season, about how disrespectful her choice to wear a traditional religious garment is. Some other shoe will almost certainly drop, this being a series that burns through seasons’ worth of plot in a few episodes — but even if it doesn’t, “Homeland” has created an atmosphere of paranoia around Fara that says more about its creators’ viewpoints than it does about what Americans think of Islam.

Because it stands to reason in our reality that Islam is not equated with radical Islam — indeed, the notion that an expert on international banking with cultural ties to the Middle East would be a yet more valuable asset for the agency, rather than a threat, never enters into Saul’s calculations, or the show’s. There are two issues at play here: One is that “Homeland” is not nearly a serious-minded-enough show to bear the strain of depicting anti-Muslim prejudice with any delicacy, if that’s even the aim in the first place. The show deals in such messy and broad emotional strokes that it’s impossible to know quite how seriously to take Saul when he rages against Fara, or Carrie, last season, when she fingered her Muslim colleague Galvez (Hrach Titizian) as the mole within the CIA. She was later revealed to be wrong; the show’s treatment of the bombshell that Galvez was a Muslim and thus exponentially more likely to be in league with terrorists, was distasteful at best. The lack of moral seriousness around the show’s treatment of Islam and of terrorism is why the show is at its best, these days, when it’s moving quickly. Any time spent dawdling is time spent either in a completely irrelevant quagmire (hi, Dana!) or indulging troubling implications.