For the past year, some Americans have been outraged by the non-indictments of racist and murderous police officers. Missouri police officer Darren Wilson received no indictment after his direct involvement in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, and NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo also received no indictment after the death of Eric Garner, who died in a chokehold. “No indictment” means that these police officers are not going to trial to be found innocent or guilty. It means that even though there is visual evidence of Officer Pantaleo choking and crushing Eric Garner’s head into the sidewalk and despite the fact that Garner can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe” eleven times – it is not enough to bring these officers to trial. It shows that Officer Wilson not only avoided justice, but was rewarded: he got paid leave from the police department, received $400,000 in donations from the Ku Klux Klan, and got married. In the wake of these jury decisions, protests erupted all over the country. People marched in the streets, holding up signs and chanting: “Hands up, don’t shoot!” “No justice, no peace!” “No more racist police!” and “Black lives matter!” In addition to walking the streets, strikes and “die-ins”, which imitated how Michael Brown’s dead body was on the sidewalk for four hours before receiving attention, gained popularity as methods of raising awareness for the issue of police brutality.
On the evening of February 10th, an outspoken white atheist, Craig Hicks, murdered three Muslim students – Yusor Mohammad, her husband Deah Shaddy Barakat, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha – execution style by shooting them in the head in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Chapel Hill police force claimed that Hicks and the three victims had a growing dispute over parking and that was the reason he shot them; news sources chose to not only blame Islam for the shootings, but also chose to give preference to the “news” that Kim Kardashian had just posted a selfie on Instagram of her new haircut. What they chose not to focus on was the shining light these three young people were: according to Facebook, Yusor and Deah had just gotten married six weeks before they were murdered. In addition, the two of them, along with Razan, were raising money so that dental care could be given to refugee children. Mike Brown was about to go to college. Eric Garner was married and had a family. These five victims have names and faces. What they don’t have anymore is life. Their lives are lost.
Violence perpetrated by Muslims is treated as if the world were about to collapse; the Islamophobia in this country is unjust and unwarranted. The supposed goal of the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” protests were to make a statement condemning police brutality, racist police actions, and the murders of unarmed African-Americans. Not indicting or finding racist police officers guilty of murder showcases a justice system where law enforcement officials are above the law. While the fate of Charlie Hicks has not been determined as of now, he is far from an anomaly; there are hundreds of anti-Muslim hate crimes each year in the United States. The truth of the matter is, 87% of United States mass shootings are committed by whites aged 13-56. So why don’t we ever declare them “terrorists”?