Three Muslim students were shot and killed Tuesday night at a housing complex close to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The shooter, Craig Stephen Hicks, is a neighbor of the victims, 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. According to several major news sources, the shooting is believed to be the result of a parking dispute. But many suspect that it was a hate crime.
As usual, people have taken to social media to voice their concerns about the incident. But where we haven’t heard much about the situation is the media itself.
When I first looked up the incident, the only articles that came up were from small news companies that not many people read. I had to dig for information from larger companies such as CNN and The New York Times. When such an event happens you would expect to see articles and videos pouring out of all news sites giving coverage on the events, but this was not the case.
This brings us back a few weeks to the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria, where the latter received close to no attention from the media for a few weeks after the incidents.
Three days later, there’s still been a very small amount of talk about the shooting in North Carolina, which has raised many questions about Western media’s handling of incidents that involve minorities.
It has been argued that the incident is an act of terrorism. The shooter allegedly has a reputation for posting anti-religious remarks, including anti-Islamic remarks, on social media, and many believe that his actions were sparked by hatred and not just a simple dispute. Yet most news outlets are being cautious about using the term “terrorism.” If the situation had been reversed, however, there’s a much higher chance that the incident would have been called an act of terrorism.
Evidently it has been pushed by the media that the incident in North Carolina was just a “parking dispute” – but even if that is the case, why is there so little talk about it? Why are reporters not spending more time on the subject? There was still a loss of young, innocent life in this situation and the victims have received a small fraction of the attention that they deserve.
Western media has a tendency to put news about minorities on the backburner. Not only that, but it is also known for treating such news differently. This situation only perpetuates the idea that Islamophobia has taken the American people and the media. If the victims had been white, would the media have given it more attention?
So far, the answer seems to be “yes.”