One Week Later

Last week a tragedy stuck Chapel Hill when three students were murdered in their home by a neighbor. Headlines blared the word Muslim, associating religion directly with the individuals and the shooting. Many people immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was a hate crime, questioning the neighbor, Craig Hicks’, motive.

It has been one week since the shooting. How much has the story changed? On CNN’s website I simply searched Chapel Hill shooting and the progression of stories shows. Most recently on Tuesday Craig Hicks was indicted on three counts of first degree murder. He is expected to appear in Superior Court in March.

The motive is still being questioned. Hicks’ wife, who is in the midst of getting a divorce from him, is saying it had nothing to do with their religion, it was simply an ongoing dispute over parking. The victims families say it is a hate crime. Hicks’ had hassled the couple before, showing up to their house with a gun, angry about the noise and extra cars. CNN defines “hate crime” when violence is tinted with discrimination. The FBI said it is “a traditional offense like murder, arson or vandalism with an added element of bias.” To be a hate crime all that matters is the motive, which is still under investigation. There is not a lot of evidence to define it as a hate crime, but many people are calling it that based on comments Hicks’ made on Facebook about religion.

Federal authorities are also not labeling this as an act of terrorism, which is an act that takes place in the US, that’s dangerous to human life and is intended to intimidate civilians or affect government policy by “mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.” CNN reported the Chapel Hill shooting has met some of the criteria but by avoiding the label it makes it easier to pursue the death penalty.

Overall, there are still a lot of missing pieces from the puzzle. We know that three amazing people lost their lives. The motive and what will happen to Hicks is still to be determined.

From this tragedy, however, many communities around the world were brought together. I personally attended the vigil on UNC’s campus for Deah, Yusor and Razan. It was an extremely sad and powerful experience that will be one I always remember. Their friends and family spoke so highly of them and all the amazing things they had done in their short lives, challenging others to finish what they had started. They created the Facebook page Our Three Winners  in their honor, which has over 180,000 likes. And after seeing the thousands gathered, they said “love is indeed more divine than hate.”

The Chapel Hill shooting shows media’s influence on a story. It has taught me that people will assume what they want from media. One word – “Muslim” – triggered many others including “hate crime”. But this is not the first or last time a person’s religion is tied into the headline. Just last week there was a murder in Denmark of a Jewish man and a Jewish cemetery vandalized in France with swastikas. Whether Muslim, Black, Jewish, etc. minorities stand out because they are different and are continuously targeted. Unfortunately, historically society picks on those who are different.

Nonetheless, it is the media’s job to report the story with as much accuracy as they can. In just one week so much more information has come out about the shooting. The news, a person’s story, the facts are always changing. Whos know what will come out in the next week, or the week after that. A lot is still to be determined.


One comment

  1. Larry · February 19, 2015

    Knowing or unknowing we all have biases. The media plays off our biases with stories like the tragic shooting in Chapel Hill, and the recent events in Europe. Is the story different if a Muslim student was tragically killed, or if a UNC student was killed (would the media report “a white student was murdered in Chapel Hill”?). What if a Jewish security guard was killed, or a security guard was killed. The story is the same, but our perception, bias, and reaction is likely highly different. As Morgan writes, in time more of the facts are obtained and released, more of the story is reported, and as we learn more we can form more intelligent opinions. Will they be shaped by our own biases, of course. Should they be shaped by the media, sadly no but it is up to us to filter the news in such a way (and read beyond the headlines) that we can make our own judgements, decide or not decide if the Chapel Hill shootings were a hate crime (and yes there is a legal definition), but also be careful in what we say and how we say it.


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