Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Just Your Average Othering

So this it what I saw when I opened my Yahoo email today:
[photo shows Sikh men in prayer, headline reads "Temple gunman was on feds' radar, warned friend of 'racial holy war'"]
Leaving writing about the actual tragedy that occurred to those with more knowledge and authority than I, I'd like to focus on the conjunction of this headline and image. Maybe I wouldn't have noticed if the two hadn't been so close together, but the coverage of the Aurora shooting was always accompanied by photos of Holmes or photos of the aftermath- victims crying, police arriving, etc. Why would they choose to use a (seemingly*) random shot of Sikhs in prayer? This photo only serves to Other the Sikh community, as if their appearance is so novel that even as victims they must be shown, displayed in their day to day environment instead of in a sympathetic portrayal based on a common humanity.

I also worry about the connotations of this photo in connection with the headline. Of course, we know the phrase 'holy war' is a loaded one, most commonly associated with 9/11 and its subsequent Islamophobia. Which, by the way, is the reason this temple had been targeted by extremists in the past. So why place the two together? It's a valid news item, to see that a white extremist uses the same language as the heavily vilified non-white extremists, but this photo doesn't help subvert any norms, especially when the public is used to seeing the killer's face next to the sensationalist pieces about him.

*I can't find any citation for this photo, as it is not in the article once you click through. Even if it is a photo of members of the targeted temple, it's a poor choice compared to the candlelit vigil, etc. that are on the other thumbnails related to this event.

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