Thanksgiving break is typically a time for togetherness and gratitude, a social gathering that college students all around the country look forward to, yearning to spend quality time with their friends and loved ones. For my friend Kinnan Abdalhamid and his good friends, Hisham Awartani and Tahseen Ali Ahmedit, the holiday weekend was anything but such.
On Nov. 25, Kinnan and his friends, all Palestinian-American college students, were in Burlington, Vermont for the holidays. Walking down the street together, two were wearing keffiyehs (Palestinian scarves) and all three spoke a mixture of Arabic and English. Unprovoked, the three were brutally shot by Jason J. Eaton, 49, two in the torso and one in the lower extremities.
This incident, sadly, is nothing new to our violence-seasoned generation.
Abdalhamid and I were students together in an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training course this past year. From every interaction I had with him, I was consistently impressed at the passion and competency he brought to mastering every skill necessary to become an EMT, to save the lives of the very people who seem to hate the Palestinian culture he represents. As an aspiring doctor, he has proved without a doubt that he will become an empathetic, competent physician, someone who will make an impact in whatever community he chooses to serve. I am sure that the aspirations of Awartani and Ali Ahmedit reflect that same sentiment, one of fearless courage, dreams, and unwavering determination.
Here are three promising college students, the same age as many of us, fearlessly living their lives and representing their culture, only to be permanently scarred as a result of it. What happened to them is no more but a stark reminder of the prejudice and intolerance that consistently persists in our society, a bigger issue that is something that needs to be addressed.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is a long standing geopolitical issue, the repercussions of which have been reaching far and beyond its borders, something that is becoming increasingly common in our globalized world. The United States especially faces a grim reality in this sense; somehow, speaking a different language or simply wearing your cultural attire can make you a target for violence.
According to the FBI’s 2022 hate crime statistics report, In the year 2022 alone, of the 2,042 reported incidents based on religion, “more than half of these (1,122) were driven by anti-Jewish bias […] and 158 involving anti-Muslim [sentiment].” These statistics, being as horrific as they all, should serve as a wakeup call to us. We are the “woke generation” after all, so let’s start acting like it. It all comes down to a few simple facts. First, understanding the problem. Given the overwhelming amount of information that we process about every single event around the world online and offline, it becomes important to be aware of the truly factually correct information about a situation. So before we become one of the 23% of Americans sharing fake news, let us make sure we factually verify what we see before we send it out into the world. Second, not acting on our own preconceived notions about a person or group of people. We are all human beings, with hopes, dreams and ambitions. Every person, regardless of their race, gender, religion or prominent differences should have the right to freely live their life without facing the discrimination of others.