Yesterday, Theodore Wafer, the man who shot Renisha McBride, was found guilty on all three charge brought against him, including second degree murder. There was no question that Wafer killed McBride, who knocked on his door after surviving a car crash. The defendant claimed, though, that the shooting was self-defense: Wafer insisted he thought McBride, who was not armed, was trying to break into his house because (he claims) she knocked very loudly.
The jury didn’t buy it. Cheering on a prison sentence is always an uncomfortable position, but it’s hard not to take some small amount of comfort when a system can at least recognize one form of overlooked violence, if not its own. It won’t bring McBride back; it won’t make it ok. But recognition matters, particularly when it is so rare. As McBride’s mother, Monica McBride, said, “Her life mattered, and we showed that.”
However, despite the verdict, the Associated Press decided some serious victim-blaming — and victim-erasure — was in order. The AP has since deleted its tweets, but the internet is forever. Here were its two original announcements:
As many have pointed out on Black Twitter and blogs: The first tweet, which doesn’t even bother to mention McBride’s name, reduces her to the fact that she’d been drinking, clearly implying that this somehow made the killing complicated, if not acceptable. (Wafer isn’t mentioned either, but his mugshot is replaced with the smiling vision of a suburban homeowner. She is drunk; he has money.) The second — and perhaps even worse — tweet removes McBride entirely, replacing her with the porch on which she was shot. It softens Wafer’s responsibility, too: he doesn’t shoot, he is involved in a shooting.
Commenters responded with anger and satire. The #APHeadlines hashtag emerged to skewer the AP’s racist elision of violence and the victim’s humanity, imagining how the news organization would have reported historical events.
In response, the AP promised to review it’s policies and procedures for tweeting. Oh great, nothing like a policy review sans apology to substantively address bigotry.