Four years, four months and two days. That’s how long it took to bring the tiniest ounce of resolution to the Chapel Hill community after it fell victim to the horrific, xenophobic slaughtering of three Muslim students: Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.
Is this what justice feels like? Because it sure as hell doesn’t feel like much. Three life sentences isn’t enough. It just isn’t. Honestly, I don’t have a proper solution for it because there should be no reality in which this should have happened.
How can three life sentences repair the broken hearts of the victims’ families and loved ones? How can this punishment combat the deep rooted fears instilled in the surrounding minority and Muslim communities for being persecuted based on their faith or skin color? Perhaps worst of all, how can it replace the rich lives of these three distinct, incredible, accomplished students, robbed of the chance to succeed and make their own way in this world?
The America I believe in is the one President Barack Obama established a commitment to in his statement days after the shooting: “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like or how they worship.” And yet, that idealistic vision of America is chipped away every day when innocent college students are brutalized for speaking out against injustice, marginalized for any minority identity or in this case, gunned down for their faith.
At the very least, the successful conviction was a step in the right direction, finally legally validating the racist and xenophobic aspects of the murders. Expert testimony confirmed it to be a hate crime in no uncertain terms: “These were not random victims of a parking dispute... these victims were seen and interacted with differently because of who they were.” And in turn, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue finally admitted the shortcomings of their case handling four years ago, striking down their originally peddled narrative that the deaths of Yusor, Deah and Razan were over a simple parking dispute.