“There’s no specific reaction from the White House.”
These stand as the only words which have been uttered by the White House after the murder of three Muslim-Americans in what seems to be a hate crime (if not a lone-wolf terrorist attack). There’s no specific reaction from the White House.
We are now approaching 48 hours since that heinous crime. The innocent victims’ bodies have already been laid to rest before thousands of mourners. Muslim-Americans I know are shaken, scared and enraged, part of a vulnerable minority community made all the more vulnerable since American Sniper hit theaters, setting off a spate of Islamophobic attacks.
Yet, these are the number of words uttered by President Obama: zero.
The White House’s apparent excuse for not saying anything about the shooting – not even to express words of sympathy or sadness for the victims – is that there is an ongoing investigation, and that the results must be in before Obama speaks.
However, this excuse holds absolutely no value. Indeed, President Obama (rightly) made immediate statements of sympathy and support in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the shooting at the Kansas City Jewish Community Center (to name just a few). All of these statements were made well before any investigations had been concluded or clear information had been determined regarding motivations or even perpetrators.
To amplify this, consider: this summer Obama immediately condemned the killing of three kidnapped teenagers in Israel before anyone knew who or why they had been killed.
Why then has Obama not made a simple statement of support for the families of what by all accounts were three incredible Americans in Chapel Hill? Why has he not uttered a single word of condolence? Of sadness? Of support for a Muslim-American community feeling the reverberations of bigotry and fear in the wake of this crime?
I’m loathe to accuse an African-American President of echoing the bigotry toward Muslims which so clearly imbues a post-9/11 America. However, it’s also difficult to see any other reason for Obama’s reticence.
Had three white citizens been shot by a Muslim, we all know what the country’s reaction would have been. Terrorist attack in Chapel Hill would have been the sensationalist refrain immediately echoing across all media streams, and the President would have had to react to a shaken public.
However, the only public shaken right now are those citizens in the Muslim-American community and their allies. It’s a public, apparently, which is small enough, and vulnerable enough, to not warrant words of support from Obama in a world where such words carry political weight.
Yes, perhaps offering such words would politically hurt Obama in our Islamophobic country. Even so, this is not what leadership looks like.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.