This week brought the awful news of the shooting deaths of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha by a neighbor supposedly over a parking space. Somehow there is some debate as to whether or not this is a hate crime. I want you to imagine for a moment the coverage if a Muslim man shot three young, white, bright college students. See what I am seeing? The constant coverage. The howls of “terrorism.” Yet this story barely got traction (I heard about it TWO days after it happened) until social media picked it up with #muslimlivesmatter, echoing #blacklivesmatter. A father lost two of his children. A community lost three of its members. At what point do we begin to recognize that a climate of hate allows this kind of shooting to occur and then let it come down to a debate over why it really happened?
On my commute Friday, StoryCorps played back an interview Yusor had recorded with her former elementary teacher just a few months before the shooting. Listening to this young woman and her teacher further showed me what we are losing when people are gunned down (they were shot in the head, let’s call that what it is: executed). Their talents, their kindness, their lives. Those things all matter. Take the two minutes to listen here. Let’s not forget what has been lost and let’s not let this loss be hijacked by another round of rigamarole debating whether or not hate exists in America.
In other saddening news this week, Millersville University student Karlie Hall, 18, was found dead in her room, allegedly killed by her boyfriend Gregorio Orrostieta, 19. Embedded in the coverage is this comment: “In a note to students, Millersville President John Anderson called Hall’s death ‘unfathomable.’ ‘We’ve never had this happen. We’re a pretty bucolic, rural campus. Very safe,’ [University Spokewoman Janet] Kacskos said.” The assumption that a rural area is safe from domestic and partner violence is absurd. And frankly dangerous. Why are we assuming that just because a college is in a “bucolic” setting that it will be exempt from gendered violence? It is 2015. We should all know by now that such violent acts happen everywhere; violence doesn’t discriminate based on setting.
Not feeling or being safe at school is a worldwide crisis. The United Nations’ human rights office alerted the media of concern over an increase of attacks on girls wanting to attend school. “‘According to U.N. sources, more than 3,600 separate attacks against educational institutions, teachers and students were recorded in 2012 alone,’ it said.” An educated girl is a girl with agency. Agency endangers oppressive systems. These brave girls are risking their lives to learn.
Time for some hope. The nation is finally having a conversation about partner violence and sexual assault. Finally we are taking the conversation out of classrooms and another enclaves of action and turning it to the streets. In a stunning moment during the Grammys, President Obama told the nation (I would say “reminded,” but I think it might have been the first time many in the audience were made aware of such a message) that we are all responsible for ending violence. In what was practically a directive, he told viewers to hold themselves accountable. Huzzah!
My local community, Kutztown University, put out this video featuring students encouraging others to take the It’s On Us pledge. I am so proud that we are starting to have a real conversation about violence in which we begin to see that violence is bad for all of us. These are excellent steps in the work; now we all have to do the actual work. You can take the pledge here.
In some education hope news, Diane Ravitch exists. That might be enough. Her work examining the stranglehold standardized tests have on public education inspires me to fight even harder against the privatization of our public schools. My partner and I were lucky enough to attend her lecture this week at Lehigh University. In it she pretended to debate a reformer (perhaps Michelle Rhee who bailed on being on a stage with Ravitch last year) to show the differences between “reformers” and reformers. To an adoring audience, she railed against corporate interests invading public institutions.