Craig Stephen Hicks & Me: In Condemnation of the Chapel Hill Shooting

Content Notice for Violence and Bigotry

Remember Oklahoma City? I do. Muslims were publicly blamed but no retraction or apology came for us after the suspect turned out to be lily-white. Nuns publicly prayed over him but no one asked all Catholics to condemn McVeigh in the face of people highly honored in their religion calling McVeigh a “victim of violence.”

Remember 9/11? I can’t seem to forget it. My cousin died that day but I spent the day (and seemingly the rest of my life) talking about it as if I had anything in common or to do with the men who committed that act rather than a victim of it.

I cannot separate myself from my lived experience when I speak of the murders that happened yesterday in North Carolina.

screenshot of Hick's Facebook post about his gun, including the gun itself and its weight

Here are some facts about Craig Stephen Hicks.

  • He is connected via Facebook with many public figure-type atheists.
  • His Facebook profile picture declares his atheism.
  • Some of his posts express an anti-Islam sentiment, though he did post things that opposed other religions as well.
  • He has a gun that he publicly posted about.

Here are some facts about me.

  • I have 6 mutual Facebook friends with Hicks and wouldn’t have been surprised if I had been one of his Facebook friends.
  • I’ve used profile and cover pictures on Facebook that declare my atheism.
  • I post criticisms of many religions but especially Islam, since that is the religion that affects me most personally.
  • I’ve very seriously flirted with the idea of getting a gun and identify as mostly pro-Second Amendment (with caveat).

The three victims have been killed by the hand of someone more like me than anyone for whom I’ve been asked to apologize before. Furthermore, I’ve chosen the things that Hicks and I have in common, while I didn’t choose to be born into a Muslim family.

Based on these facts, I feel it is only appropriate for me to condemn the murders of three people and state that I do not condone such actions, even if no one is asking me to do so. Craig Stephen Hicks and I had much more in common than I have ever had with any Islamist terrorist who committed an act of violence, yet I’ve been pressured to distance myself from, apologize for, and explain away Jihadis from the moment any terrorist act with an unknown suspect happened.

I doubt that the murders were the result of any sort of premeditation. This did not seem to be a calculated move to kill Muslims whose only crime may have been some perceived slight regarding parking spaces.

We do know a few things.

The dehumanization of Muslims is a crucial part of the strategy in the USian War on Terror, as it has been in many wars. Atheist rhetoric against Islam often takes a turn for the racialized. Even the best-intended criticism of a minority of any kind, religious or not, has a tendency to lead to to generalizations due to people’s lack of exposure to and familiarity with that group of people. Implicit racist biases are real as per scientific research and are known to lead to deadly snap judgments and reactions.

Most importantly, we know that three people are dead.

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Craig Stephen Hicks & Me: In Condemnation of the Chapel Hill Shooting

16 thoughts on “Craig Stephen Hicks & Me: In Condemnation of the Chapel Hill Shooting

  1. 2

    Remember 9/11? I can’t seem to forget it. My cousin died that day but I spent the day (and seemingly the rest of my life) talking about it as if I had anything in common or to do with the men who committed that act rather than a victim of it.

    Same here. I still feel somehow collectively responsible for things Muslims do. Even though I got out years ago and much of the Muslim community never accepted my folks & me as real 1st class Muslims to begin with. There’s still this “could people like me have been more vocal/done more to prevent this” feeling. It’s no different now that a member of the secular community has commited a cowardly murder.

    Based on these facts, I feel it is only appropriate for me to condemn the murders of three people and state that I do not condone such actions, even if no one is asking me to do so.

    It’s also the right thing to do. I’m pretty disappointed by a lot of fellow NBoC who paint this as a white problem that is none of their business. We’re included in the same community by virtue of our non-belief, and reigning in the extremists among us is our responsibility. This didn’t happen over night. There is a certain “camp” within the community among whom things like undermining women’s freedom of speech with threats (random example) are considered perfectly acceptable. These people have been radicalizing themselves for some time without any kind of coordinated attempt to confront them. This is just the kind of breeding ground extremism needs.

    And there is a second camp which instead of developing a sound strategy against this, has too often pursued opportunistic and selfish agendas instead (I’d actually be in that second camp if I didn’t have to read from them how having a blog article plagiarized makes them victims of violent misogyny, an hour after comforting Syrian refugee women at the local asylum seekers home over DV). It’s been clear for some time that we have a problem, and no one has made a serious attempt to stop it. Now we all have to take some responsibility.

    The dehumanization of Muslims is a crucial part of the strategy in the USian War on Terror, as it has been in many wars.

    The dehumanization is mutual, it has existed for over 1,000 years, and as usual, innocent people pay the price. Both the West and the Islamic world come with rigid racial hierarchies, self-appointed master races whose lives always matter and “lower races” whose lives don’t matter, but who may – emphasis on “may” – be allowed to live if they follow certain rules of “respectability”. The people who died today were the latest victims of this cynical game. In addition to keeping our own militants in check, I think it’s the duty of every member of the secular community to challenge supremacist delusions and dehumanization on both sides.

    PS: I wrote down the codes for quoting things but I’m not sure if I got the right ones. If this comment looks messed up, feel free to delete it.

  2. 3

    Excellent point here.

    I was mortified when I saw his FB page. Other than the gun issue, I found little to disagree with. Frankly, I’m about to completely stop using the term ‘atheist.’ I was already reading up on secular humanism, and I think that’s a much better description/label, if you have to have one.

    And while I understand your point in this article, I hate that you feel like you have to issue a condemnation. If anyone, it is me and my fellow white, male atheists who should be front and center on this one in our condemnation of this murderer.

  3. 6

    Why does anyone feel the need to apologise? Give over with the wet liberal self-flagellation. We do not know the motive for these murders. Even if that motive should prove to be antipathy towards Muslims, how is that anything to do with anyone other than Hicks? Is every other paragraph of the works of Bertrand Russell an exhortation to kill everyone who isn’t an atheist? And if it was are Russell’s works ours or anyones scripture or holy book?

  4. 8

    Steve [email protected]

    Why does anyone feel the need to apologise?

    Who has apologised? No-one here.

    Is every other paragraph of the works of Bertrand Russell an exhortation to kill everyone who isn’t an atheist?

    I very much doubt hicks has read Russell. But he’s certainly a fan of Richard Dawkins, who is currently in denial that these murders had anything to do with the victims’ religion.

    1. 8.1

      “I very much doubt hicks has read Russell. But he’s certainly a fan of Richard Dawkins, who is currently in denial that these murders had anything to do with the victims’ religion.”

      Since these murders had nothing to do with the victims’ religion, he can’t be “in denial” about that. In fact, he is simply correct.

  5. JR
    9

    It’s not relevant if this had “anything to do with religion”. This is a straw argument. Religion is being used as both an “excuse” and a “protection” for all kinds of crimes and abuse (including so-called “hate crimes”, which is in reality, another straw argument).

    Religion should not be a protection for bad behavior. Nor should “anti-religion” be an excuse for bad behavior.

    Religion is in effect, “licensed” activity and belief (privileged and protected) because the religious have demanded this. But this is unfair in reality, since only religion can do this. Free speech is free speech and deserves the same protections for all forms of free speech, including religion, anti-religion (atheism if you will), and other forms of free speech. But religion is the only form of free speech that receives special attention and protection. The artificial and capricious barricades that have been built around religion are quite absurd, unfair, unjust and dishonest.

    Let’s briefly examine that protection given to religion, because it is very important. This protection includes the tolerance of bad behavior (oppression of human rights). This is wrong, but still tolerated (usually). There are absolutely countless examples of how religion is protected (by law and by custom) where if this activity was not “religious” it would be condemned and/or outlawed. Examples are vaccinations, spousal abuse, child abuse, indoctrination and many more.

    The whole concept of “religious freedom” is dead wrong. And so is “religious protection”. Individual rights do NOT depend or require a religion and therefore, to ensure equal rights, and equal protection, there should be NO SUCH THING AS RELIGIOUS RIGHTS OR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. There is only equal rights, and only equal freedom in other words, all which have the same and equal levels of protection (and expression). The “separation” created by religion is entirely bogus.

    In other words, I have the same rights as anyone, being an atheist, or being a religious person. None of us have more rights then the other. But that is NOT how the real world works. Religious rights have trampled upon the rights of everyone by demanding (and receiving) inordinate and special protections and privilege (tax status is yet another example). This is wrong and has always been wrong.

    Religions abuse their protected and privileged positions all of the time (all over the world), precisely because they have been given inordinate rights and protections that permit this. This too is wrong and an example of how misguided this protectionism really is.

    What we have always needed is EQUAL protection, where there are no special privileges, no special exemptions, no special protections, and no special preferences, everyone, everywhere receives exactly the same individual or group rights (which for brevity I won’t got into here with a description, suffice it to say that they must ALL be equal). But it’s dead obvious, that is NOT what we have because religion has horribly abused this concept demanding special protections and special rights. This is bullshit and always has been.

    The religious “argument” is a deflection of the real error here, and that is our tolerance, acceptance and codification into law the special protections for religion. This should have never happened.

    No comment on Hicks (opinions and speculations about this are pointless).

  6. 10

    Steve Watson @5: We’re not apologizing for his behavior; we’re simply condemning it, in part to draw a nice, shiny and visible from space line between what is and is not acceptable conduct for ethical atheists. Violence of any sort, and particularly murder, is simply beyond the pale, and yes there are people who still need to be told this.

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