The tragic shooting death of Renisha McBride in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights is causing the usual liberal sociological analysis about how America hates blackness, and nothing has changed in fifty (or maybe eighty) years. On the Al Sharpton radio show, David A. Wilson of NBC-owned The Grio.com equated America in 2013 with the days when blacks in the segregated South carried a Negro Motorist Green Book for safe travel in the 1930s.
Time’s Ideas blog turned to Noliwe Rooks, Cornell associate professor in "Africana Studies and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies," for an article titled: “Renisha McBride and Evolution of Black-Female Stereotype: Why are black women seen as more threatening, more masculine and less in need of help? Because they're not being seen as women at all”. She turned to MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry for expertise:
In her 2011 book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America, Tulane political-science professor and MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry describes four classic caricatures: the "angry black woman"; the loud-talking, neck-rolling Sapphire; the highly sexed and sexualized Jezebel; and the maternal, asexual, dark-skinned, large-boned Mammy. But none of those images should inspire fear, or explain why anyone would immediately view black women like McBride or Moore as threats, as opposed to women merely in need of help.
Then it grew wackier:
In order to better understand how history might help us understand the present, I contacted a historian at UCLA, Sarah Haley, whose work looks at how historical perceptions of black women have impacted their societal treatment and relationship to the criminal-justice system. When I asked her about the McBride case, and why she thought the homeowner might not have offered help, she said that black women are more often viewed as “the help” than in need of help. She added, “Black women have been seen as different than black men, certainly, but they have not always been seen as women either; to be a woman is to be seen as deserving of protection, and black women are not always seen that way.”
Perhaps calmer theories about the horror of American race relations will emerge now that the shooter, Theodore Wafer, has been charged with second-degree murder in this case.