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.
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.