The Chapel Hill Killings: Lessons

I'm sorry, but it is never too early to be discussing lessons. Especially not in the current world of ADD, where folks move on as soon as the headlines disappear. For me, the two primary lessons to learn are: own responsibility and get involved.

What. No rant about Muslim-haters, police cover-up, irresponsible media reporting? No. Well, some about the latter a bit later. But, no. Why? Because you can't change what you can't change. What you have to do is own responsibility for what you can change, and get involved to change it.

No-one has, or will ever have, the slightest notion of what goes on or was going on in the head of Craig Stephen Hicks. Almost nothing is served by trying to find out now. Of course it was a hate crime. The man hated. Does it really change one dot, tittle or iota of anything to have a long. unseemly, pointless debate about whether it was parking he hated, or Muslims?

You can not legislate the way people feel, including hatred. What you can do is legislate the way they demonstrate their feelings. And this man had been demonstrating feelings for yonks.

I have only the greatest of compassion for Deah, Yusor and Razan. But their deaths should never have occurred. They should have reported Hicks to the police long before the evening of February 10. This man was banging on the doors of all the neighbors, complaining about parking, with a gun on his hip. That is creating a fracas. Call the police.

It doesn't matter whether he hated this neighbor more than another. The moment his hatred took a form that was breaking the law, or just causing disruption and fear, the police should have been called. And the awful events of February 10 likely would never have occurred. For sure, the police are reporting that they never received any complaints about Hicks.

By the same token, if Hicks was concerned about parking, he should have spoken with the apartment office or called the police himself. I live in an apartment complex. We are under strict instructions from our office and the police not to have discussions with neighbors about matters of conflict. But instead to call the police and report the matter to the office. Precisely so as to avoid confrontation.

What if you fear the police? Ok. Not a stupid question. I am one in the town neighboring Chapel Hill (Carrboro, NC), along with others, who are trying to implement a process of citizen design of policing, specifically because of concerns, locally and nationally, with the nature of some policing approach.

Ok. But, if you want less of a police presence in your neighborhood, then you have to engage in community self-policing. I read that a community meeting was held to discuss Hicks. What happened? Nothing. Why? Because folks don't follow through. We need to.

To digress for a moment, the moves in Carrboro, NC have come to a bit of a halt, because the next community meeting with our local police chief is not due until June. I know it is not going to be possible simply to turn up in June and expect people to pick up where we left off from the last community forum. One can not be passive in one's interest. I know that one or more of us will have to work assiduously for the month before that community forum in June to re-interest folk, get some control of the agenda and the like. Advocacy, change, improvement takes work and vigilance, not just a post or two on Facebook.

I said I'd come back to the media. I specifically want to address the earlier article, talking about Hicks's obsession with parking. You can't change people. Can't make them less weird. But journalists can stop writing self-evident nonsense.

The article itself reads stupidly. Even if Hicks turns out to be the most complicated individual in history, it is incumbent on journalists actually to read what they write. I know a bit about this. My book is currently undergoing what my publisher calls editing for consistency. I call it destroying a work of timeless art. Yes. We are having a parking dispute. But, the point is, he won't let me write crap.

How on earth can a journalist write that Hicks was a champion for the rights of individuals, when he is also described as lacking any compassion? How can he be a liberal, who turns up on neighbor's doorsteps, toting a gun?

It's not good enough to say, well, that is what folks said to the journalist. Just because people talk nonsense does not mean a journalist has to write it. Journalism of this low quality merely causes confusion and misunderstanding.

Of course there is some question as to the mental balance of Hicks himself. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about a journalist saying, whoa, either I report that Hicks was a likely schizophrenic, and report the inconsistencies, or I say, I can't blithely accept these contradictory reports.

Why should a journalist get that involved, I hear you ask? He's just a journalist. And I respond, he's a journalist, in a position of some authority, contributing to analysis and understanding. We need all of us to own responsibility for what we say, and do, and what we do not do.

Again, I know a bit about this. My book results from one thing. I saw stuff around me that did not make sense. I investigated. I asked questions. If we all stand by passively, then bad stuff will go on happening. If something does not make sense, the chances are, it does not make sense. Get stuck in, and find out why. And it starts with people like journalists. So, I do not let the writer of this article off the hook that lightly.

There are lessons to be learned from the tragedy of the Chapel Hill killings. The first is that it was a crime. A heinous crime. But a crime. Not a religious war. It was a crime that could have been avoided. And that can be avoided again. Not with grand protests, marches, or new legislation. But by ordinary folk, you and I, taking an interest, giving a damn, owning responsibility and getting involved, in a purposeful way.

#IamDeah #IamYusor #IamRazan



Three Muslim college students shot dead in Chapel Hill, NC. This is not who we are. Not in Chapel Hill. Not in North Carolina. Not in the United States.

Back in 2006, I interviewed a Muslim college student from UNC on my radio show, on WCOM, Carrboro and Chapel Hill's community radio station. She was part of a movement to promote understanding between Jewish and Muslim students on campus.

There we were, a Muslim girl, a lapsed Catholic and my two Jewish co-hosts, laughing, being irreverent with each other, and seeing the world through rose-tinted spectacles.

That is who we are. But is it?

For we are the same North Carolina where, just recently, Duke University refused a request to permit a Muslim call to prayer from its chapel tower. The same North Carolina that so condones murder that we permit state murder as restitution for individual capital crime.

We are the same United States that witnesses some 32,000 gun deaths a year. And that has tens of thousands of its military personnel camped out in the Middle East.

There will be many calls today and in the coming weeks for calm, for peace, for Chapel Hill, North Carolina and the United States to renew and reflect our shared values. But precisely what are the values that we are sharing with our own citizens, and with the rest of the world?

Deah Shaddy Barakat came to UNC to learn how to be a dentist. So that he could help to look after fellow human beings. His wife, Yusor Mohammad, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, were also at university; not to learn how to hate, but as part of a process of making the world a better place.

And we killed them. We may not have pulled the trigger. But we are part of an American society that nurtured their death, every bit as much as their actual killer, Craig Stephen Hicks, nursed some perverse hatred in his heart, whether over a parking dispute or something more sinister, it really doesn't matter.

This is who we are. As Chapel Hill residents. As North Carolinians. As Americans. Until we make it different.

Today, I am Deah. I am Yusor. I am Razan. But today, I am also Craig Stephen Hicks.

#IamDeah #IamYusor #IamRazan


Mr. Hicks is indeed very upset with the world. I can understand then, his alleged ability to relate so completely with the movie "Falling Down", which is a movie about a nut case pretending to be an average guy who snaps. It must have made him feel more normal.

What makes these killings so much more disturbing to all of us is a suspicion, that Mr. Hicks found it easier to murder Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha because they were Muslim. I however posit that Mr Hicks Zeitgeist of hate was much less specific and that made it easy for him to murder anyone he perceived as being “different”.

There was never going to be a happy ending for Mr. Hicks.

There are no words for the hopelessness I feel from the senseless murder of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. All of whom were about to embark on great adventures, poised to do much needed good in the world.

If there can be good that comes from this for the rest of us (and I am not at all sure there can be) perhaps it is that while Mr. Hicks is falling down, the rest of us can together find a way of getting up.


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