It took the mainstream media an entire day to report on a possible hate crime that claimed the lives of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, of Chapel Hill; his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, of Chapel Hill; and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh, were all shot dead on Tuesday before their suspected killer turned himself in shortly after 5 p.m.
The victims were all shot in the head, "execution-style", according to Abu-Salha's father, who spoke to a local Chapel Hill newspaper, affirming that the murders were a hate crime.
They were all students who dedicated their lives to education and raised funds to help Syrian refugees.
The suspect is a 46-year-old white male.
The story was reported by local media and circulated on web, sparking outrage about lack of national coverage. Soon after, the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter emerged on Twitter and Facebook.
Despite news of the crime spreading rapidly on the internet, major U.S. media outlets did not report on the triple-murder until the next morning. British Newspaper the Independent, posted a story about the incident five hours before U.S. prestigious newspapers, the New York Times and Washington Post.
While the Independent identified the victims as Muslim in the headline, the New York Times' headline read, "Man charged in death of 3 near University of North Carolina."
The Times disregarded the possible motives or the identity of the victims. It was like headlining the Boston Marathon terrorist attack story, "Man charged in the death of 3 in Boston downtown"
Unfortunately, the national mainstream media's apathy about the murder of the students shows that Muslim lives do not matter to the establishment.
The victims' significance is defined by their identity and national origin in this country.
If it had been a 46-year-old Arab pulling the trigger on three young white folks, the media would have hosted ex-military officials minutes after the incident to discuss which countries our government shall bomb next as a response.
As Arabs and Muslims, our faith and ethnicity only become a factor if we do something evil. However, when evil is inflicted upon us, we are overlooked.
When three Muslims are victims of murder, in the headline of the New York Times they are merely "3."
On Wednesday morning, North Carolina police were quick to say that the motive behind the murders was likely a parking dispute, not bigotry. The police conclusion was based entirely on the statements of the suspect alone, disregarding what Abu-Salha's father said. However, how can a credible law enforcement agency figure out the motive of a triple-homocide in less than 24 hours?
"This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime," Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha told the News Observer. "This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far."
The case merits a more thorough investigation and deeper scrutiny from the police, who don't seem to be interested in the truth, which could bring negative publicity to their state.
The fact that the police rushed to deny allegations of a hate crime without spending enough time to investigate the matter validates our concerns about the value of Arab and Muslim lives in the United States.
We urge our community members to keep the lost lives of the three innocent students in the national consciousness by continuing to condemn the crime on social media and in their daily lives. We cannot count on the mainstream media to honor the memory of the three victims, but we will on our own.
We call on President Obama to condemn this crime with the strongest words and open a federal investigation in the incident. This kind of violence against Arabs and Muslims could occur more often if the government does not step in and address the Chapel Hill murders appropriately.
Deah Barakat was a dental student. In a video that has circulated on the internet after the crime, he urges people to donate to a medical mission that would allow him to travel to Turkey and tend to the dental needs of Syrian refugees there.
This is the kind of spirit our victims had. We owe them attention.
Our government owes them justice.