EDIT: Since this piece has received an unexpected level of attention, perhaps a disclaimer is appropriate. (Note that this is a personal blog run by one individual absolutely not okay with any sort of bigotry, especially against minorities.) With the emails, messages, comments, and tweets I’ve received, a lot of white people are offended by my use of what are apparently “absolutes.” The irony! (Because you know, orientalism, colonialism, and other such realities POC still have to live with – and orientalist and empty representations of especially Muslims and Middle Easterners and Africans in western understandings of the peoples of these regions.) I’m obviously not claiming that all white people are evil to all people of color (I mean, what?). This blog turns the tables and privileges people of color, their voices, their concerns, their experiences. So if you’re a white individual offended by anything I’ve written below, I’m actually not sorry at all because the only reason you’d be offended is that you expected I’m talking about all white people, and since you’re not a bigot, I should take that into consideration. Well, except, no. You don’t get a pat on the back for not being a bigot.
Understand that it is your white privilege speaking when you expect me to reiterate my point so that it doesn’t “generalize” all white people (?). It is your privilege speaking when you expect me to explain myself (or any person of color) over and over and over so you can understand it. When you expect people of color to serve your ego. This blog is not the place for apologies to white people. If you take issues with that, there are plenty of other spaces where white people’s egos are served.
So if you’re a white person offended by what I’ve written below, here are some suggestions: 1) Look up the hashtag #StopWhitePeople2016, and 2) go be friends with at least 30 people of color. 30 might not be enough, either, but it’s a good start. This way, you won’t be able to say, “But my one black friend is okay with my use of the N word!” Or “My Asian friend says Asian people are like X.”
Why can’t white people just, just shut up for once and listen? (Again, #notallwhitepeople! We know!)
But nonetheless, just to clarify: The whole point of the piece below is to discuss white hypocrisy and limit it specifically to the demonization of all black people when the suspected criminal is a black man (and this holds true for the race/religion/etc. of other POC criminals, too – like attacking Islam or Muslims for the crimes of individual Muslims, or highlighting the individual’s religion and race in the discussion of the crime when the person is not white. And for literally jusifying the crimes when the person is white because he had mental health issues at the time of the crime. And I point out the status of the mental health of the black suspect in custody for Haruka’s crime, and you are not okay with that? And you act like I care that you’re not okay with that?)
And to say that the murder of Haruka Weiser (may she rest in peace) is not permission for you to be racist or say, “See, see, this is why black people shouldn’t be living” or “this is why Black Lives Matter has no purpose.”
If you read any of what’s below to mean that I don’t care about Haruka Weiser or that her murder was justified in any way at all (God forgive me for saying this – as we say in Arabic, astaghfirullah for this suggestion alone), you didn’t read the thing at all; and if that’s what you choose to believe, you’ll believe it even if there’s evidence to the contrary. Fine, you stay that way.
Funny that People of Color have shared this piece many, many times, and I’ve received a lot of support from them for it. My own white friends also appreciate it. (See?) But many other white people are coming to tell me this is an inappropriate piece. If only I cared about your ego.
This is really painful to write and talk about. But, given the response to the murder, I feel compelled to write it in criticism of the racism and other bigotry that so many people are displaying while attempting to express their anger and grief over the murder of an innocent young white (actually mixed) woman killed allegedly by a young black homeless teen diagnosed with autism, depression, and schizophrenia.
Okay, so, basically: A young female college student (whom the media classifies as white) was murdered on the UT Austin campus last Sunday, her body abandoned in a creek that students walk by all the time. Though we don’t know what exactly happened and how exactly she was killed, we have been told that her body showed obvious trauma resulted from a horrific homicide.
The victim’s name was Haruka Weiser. She was a freshman Dance and Theater student, widely known for her skills as a dancer.
The murder has affected the UT community and anyone who knew Haruka. In her honor, the UT tower was darkened the night they caught the suspect. It’s been a chilling week, devastating and disturbing on every imaginable level.
What happened to Haruka is inexcusable, completely wrong and unacceptable, and devastating to no end. May she rest in peace, and may her family find comfort and strength to cope with the loss. She appears to have touched so many lives, and she was undoubtedly a beloved to anyone who knew her.
Unfortunately, also, the way people are talking about the murder is just horrible. The primary suspect is a 17-year-old homeless black man, and so we can all imagine what the response would be – from “Give him the death penalty!” to “hahahah #BlackLivesMatter still?!” As if the tragedy itself isn’t disturbing enough, bigots are using this as an opportunity to promote and perpetuate their racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, classist, anti-black attitudes. That the suspect is a black homeless “African” teen (for those who don’t know, Africa is that village up in Noland), a victim of racist, classist, capitalist systems of oppression, breaks my heart.
If this sounds unbelievable to you, do any of the following: look up the hashtag #HarukaWeiser on Twitter and other social media; google Haruka Weiser; look up the hashtag #MeechaielCriner (the suspect) or #HarukaWeiserSuspect on Twitter. Or see the comment section on any of the articles on the event, including/especially on Facebook. And, yes, believe it that humans are capable of making such horrible comments. (Now you understand why it’s haraam/prohibited to read the comment section.)
As my close UT friends and I struggle with how to talk about this without pardoning the alleged murderer and while honoring Haruka–and acknowledging and condemning the fact that what Haruka went through was beyond horrific–I think we need a better way to address the problem. So here are some ways to avoid being racist, sexist, and just generally an evil person as you express your sorrow and grief.
- First and most important, Meechaiel is currently a suspect, not proven to be guilty. His arrest affidavit states that the police have “good reasons to believe and do believe” that Meechaeil committed the crime. They have not actually proven that he’s the killer. There is evidence leading to that conclusion, but legally speaking, we need to be careful when talking about this. And we have to be careful especially when the suspect is a person of color, given all the history of violence against people of color in the U.S. Unless you’re one of those people to whom this post is written in the first place – in which case, for you, all people/men of color are guilty until proven innocent.
- Remember that when white men commit crimes, even if they commit massacres, the collective response is *never* one that attacks all white people or all white men. So don’t make this about all black men or all black people, either. This is not about all black people, and this does not prove that “black people” are murderers. Just because you’re a bigot and have difficulty finding legitimate evidence that your bigotry is the correct way to live and be doesn’t mean you get to take the crime of an individual black teen (who’s a suspect at this point, by the way) to attack all black people and just generally all people who are not white. The irony is that the Black Lives Matter struggle is needed precisely because of your unacceptable racism.P.S. FYI, turns out that, since 1982 (and I wouldn’t doubt before that, too), “white people — almost exclusively white men — [have] committed some 64% of the shootings.” It’s not that those white men’s mental illnesses don’t matter; it’s that the hypocrisy of overlooking white crimes is unacceptable. We don’t demonize all white people or white men generally for the crimes that these white men commit, but we’re quick to demonize all black people for the crimes that black men as individuals commit.
- Meechaiel, the suspect, was a homeless teen abused and traumatized throughout his life as a child before becoming a foster child. He has also been diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, and autism, police reports say. (More here as well.) An interview that his high school conducted with him a year ago depicts his childhood as one of abuse and hurt and loneliness. This does not excuse what he did, if he did indeed do it, and this is not to say that because he had a horrible life, the law should pardon him. This is to say that, for some hypocritical reasons, America tends to dismiss the crimes of white “lonely” men with mental health problems as “oh, poor thing – he did what he did because he was lonely” or “because women kept rejecting him” or because he was mentally ill. But somehow, just somehow, with Meechaiel, so many people on social media are anxious that he won’t be punished fairly just because now the court will be like, “Oh, he had a bad childhood.”Rest assured, you white people afraid that a black man might not be punished because of the horrible life situations that led to him to commit a crime against a perfectly innocent individual: America is not going to pardon a black man, or any man or person of color, even if he’s a suspect only. Ever. For any reason whatsoever. It pardons only white men for committing heinous crimes, especially when the crimes are committed against people of color. People of color never have the luxury to claim victimhood of the cycles of abuse, oppression, and exploitation that push them to act the way that do – that luxury is available only to white people.
- Stop saying, “What a beautiful young girl for anyone to do that to her!” or “No beautiful, talented girl like her deserves to die like that.” Yes, Haruka was pretty, and, yes, she was talented and had a great future and big dreams. But, no, that’s not a thing to highlight when talking about how sad it is that she is now gone. I mean, what? And non-beautiful, non-talented girls do deserve to die like that? Of course you don’t mean that other girls do deserve to die like that. But your words imply precisely that. So don’t be an ass, and stop expressing your sorrow in ways that suggest there’s a certain value attached to her because of her looks and her talent.
- Here’s a suggestion: Instead of attacking black people and Black Lives Matter, direct your anger towards patriarchy. What happened to Haruka is something that many, many women have been victims of – violence against women. Violence against women on campuses, at homes, literally anywhere is a reality that all women have to live with as something that they can be victims of any time, any day. So don’t be racist – just stand against patriarchy and, particularly in this case, violence against women. Violence against ALL women, not just white women. Because the rest of us women matter, too.
Also, just some related comments.
1. When UT female students get attacked, the word “white” does not appears in the emails that the university sends out reporting the assault to the UT community. That’s when the attacker is white. When he is “black,” yes, the racial identity is highlighted all over. This is also true in cases of hate crimes by white men on campus.
2. My heart breaks that Haruka did not survive. May she rest in eternal peace and light. I cannot imagine what she must have gone through during the attack. May God protect us all from all sorts of crimes, aameen. (I know that’s impractical to pray for, but like my mom always says, da khwdey pa dar ke hess kam nishti – anything’s possible with God, so it doesn’t hurt to pray for things.)
But let it be known that had Haruka survived, the most the UT community would know would be something like: “An assault occurred on campus at Location X. The perpetrator has/has not been caught. We remind you all to please walk only in well-lit areas and always with a buddy.”
3. There is history at UT behind the racism of so many of the people attacking all black people or the Black Lives Matter movement because of Meechaiel. Racism is a huge problem at the university, perpetrated especially by white frat boys (who aren’t just racist but also dangerously sexist). One of the most recent ongoing cases is that of Cody Young, a senior at UT. He was attacked by three UT students on February 20th; the boys threw glass bottles from their apartment (several floors high), and when he attempted to call the police, the boys came down to the street to try to attack him. They also yelled slurs like “Fuck you, n—–” while throwing the bottles at him. UT is taking its time dealing with the situation, if it’s dealing at all (since the assailants are white frat boys, that’s no surprise). Also, in 2012 and 2013, minority students at UT were victims of a chain of bleach-filled balloon attacks. (Some of these balloons were filled with water and others did have bleach in them.) Read more about this here.
4. While UT is right that a murder had not occurred on its campus since 1966, when a white man committed a mass shooting on the campus, let’s not forget Jennifer Cave. Jennifer Cave was murdered brutally in August 2005, her body mutilated and dismembered; the murder was committed by a Colton Pitonyak and Laura Hall, both white individuals (there are different stories of what exactly happened, and Laura’s role is still unclear. Look up the story if you’re interested). This occurred on West Campus, an area that students living there generally know to be unsafe for women (and especially for women of color and people of color generally). West Campus isn’t on-campus, but it’s walking distance and one of the most popular areas for student housing at UT. So, yes, murders haven’t occurred on the UT campus since 1966, but Jennifer Cave was murdered in the area by two UT students.
5. There are legitimate concerns from many UT students that the increased security on campus as a result of last week’s murder is actually not a good move. There are other ways to work on the problem of safety on campus (hint: we need better lit, more well-lit sidewalks and areas around campus – otherwise, the advice to walk only in well-lit areas is futile). Some students are worried that this increased security is now going to be monitoring particular student activity on campus that does not suit the political interests of those in charge. That, and also … the fight against homeless individuals on the guad:
Let us not forget that the UT and greater Austin community in general have already been looking for reasons to criminalize homelessness.
— صراط (@lulee95) April 8, 2016
Let us not forget the survey SG put out that asked if their solution to “the homeless” should take their well being into consideration.
— صراط (@lulee95) April 8, 2016
That should be all for now. Bottom line: Stop being racist.