College students often move through their lives in a haze. Even here at Rider, many of us are trapped in our tunnel vision. We attend class, eat our meals at Cranberry’s and retire to our warm beds at the end of the day. In all of our actions, we are living in a cloud of perceived comfort that blurs our vision and makes us see our lives as purely safe. We often disregard other types of people.
For Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and his sister-in-law, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, that cloud of security dissipated into gunshots. The three University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students were shot execution-style allegedly by Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, at a condo community near campus.
According to an article in The Huffington Post, Hicks’ Facebook page paints a dark picture of his biases. He expresses hate for all religions, from Christianity to Islam. The article cites one of Hicks’ posts regarding texts from the Quran, the Bible and the Jewish Talmud in which he eloquently wrote, “I wish they would exterminate each other!” The Chapel Hill police and the FBI are currently investigating the possibility of the shooting being a hate crime, though it was initially reported as a parking dispute. Barakat was 23, his wife, Abu-Salha was 21, and her sister was only 19.
Many media outlets have downplayed this story, speaking about the shooting only after social media erupted into outrage. According to Mashable.com, #MuslimLivesMatter had been tweeted 50,000 times as of Feb. 12, and #ChapelHillShooting was tweeted over 600,000 times. Despite the crime’s violent nature and implications of prejudice, mainstream media coverage picked up the story only after so much social media attention was directed to this incident.
Selena Fernandez, accounting major and president of Rider’s Lambda Theta Alpha Latin sorority, expressed the sorority’s distaste for the media coverage.
“We are all disappointed with how lightly the media seems to be taking the whole issue,” she said. “Whether or not the issue was over a parking dispute, the lives of young individuals were abruptly cut short, and there is absolutely nothing about that that should be taken lightly.”
The shock waves from this senseless shooting can be felt far beyond cyberspace. The impact has stretched far enough to touch Rider. On the chilly evening of Feb. 12, the sisters of Lambda Theta Alpha gathered in front of Moore Library in a somber mood. The small candles in their hands lit the night as a form of recognition, as they mourned the three Chapel Hill victims.
“Holding a vigil here at Rider seemed so important because of all the similar issues and senseless violence that has been happening all over the country,” Fernandez said. “Rider is more than a gated community and should always seek to emphasize that. This issue ties to our students, and to individuals everywhere, to be aware and mindful that all life is precious, fragile and unique.”
As Rider students, many of us are privileged to enjoy our freedom and sheltered by our campus gates. Meanwhile, too many people are persecuted by cruel harassment or at gunpoint, simply for the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, or other such reasons.
Commendably, our university is opening its arms wider. According to the recent NSSE report on student involvement, Rider ranked higher than other Eastern private institutions in terms of opportunities for communication with diverse people. After J. Barton “Bart” Luedeke became president of Rider in July of 1990, he stressed widening our reach to a broader range of people, beyond the mainly white, middle-class student body.
Rider has come a long way in this journey of diversity. From more ethnic-based organizations, such as the Asian Students at Rider (ASAR) and the Latin sororities and fraternities, to events themed around Black History Month and the Black Lives Matter movement, the university is avidly attentive to students and professionals of all colors and beliefs. As a university, we have walked very far and should be proud of every single step we have taken.
However, Rider’s work is not yet over. If we are to embrace diversity, all students must seek out the awareness and attention that many media outlets are failing to provide. People of varying races, religions and beliefs are suffering in a time of permeating prejudice. As the sisters of Lambda Theta Alpha have valiantly displayed, we all must stand together as human beings in solidarity.
Look beyond the haze that clouds our vision. See not only the Chapel Hill victims, but all victims who are martyrs to their beliefs or ethnicities. As a university, paying attention to these issues is a huge step toward fighting them. We have come a long way, but that doesn’t mean we should stop moving. We must dispel the fog from our eyes so we can see our way into an inclusive future.
The weekly editorial expresses the
majority opinion of The Rider News.
This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.
Printed in the 02/18/15 issue.