Basic Facts on Clothing and Murder for American Bigots

Dear American bigots:

Basic Fact: Wearing a veil, as Iraqi-American Shaima al-Awady did before she was brutally murdered in her home as part of a hate crime, does not make a person a terrorist. You don’t mind it when pious Roman Catholic women wear a nun’s habit, and you recognize that dress as a sign of dedication to God. You don’t blame all the violence ever committed by Roman Catholics, or events like the Inquisition, on a nun in your neighborhood. Be as tolerant to pious Muslim women.

Basic Fact: Wearing a hoodie is not an invitation to murder, as Geraldo Rivera suggested it was in the case of Trayvon Martin. In fact, if you think about it, St. Francis of Assisi wore a hood, as did many other saints and monks. In the United States, we don’t kill people for how they dress, but how dressing like St. Francis is a crime is a special mystery.

Basic Fact: And, by the way, there is nothing worse than being both a bigot and a f*ck-up. So for God’s sake leave the poor Sikhs alone. Few Muslim men wear turbans, so if you see someone with a turban and a beard, he is likely from Indian Punjab and not a Muslim. I mean, you shouldn’t be bothering Muslims either, but your sad ass is definitely going to clown hell if you shoot down a Sikh because you mistook him for a Muslim.

Basic Fact: And by the way, all this emphasis on clothing as a motive for murder is just a smokescreen for sidestepping the real issue, which is that bigots shouldn’t be allowed to have hand guns. In fact, since you can’t hunt deer with a hand gun and most owners of a hand gun are not reservists in the National Guard of their state, it is unclear why the US tolerates so many hand guns. In countries like Britain, which do not, the murder rate by gun is vanishingly small compared to the annual carnage in the US.

64 Responses

  1. In the eyes of crack Fox News analyst Geraldo, it’s OK for an idiot like Zimmerman to be patroling the neighborhood with a firearm, but not for a young black kid to wear a hooded jacket.

    Geraldo’s blame the victim comment sounds very similar to “Well if she wasn’t wearing that short skirt she would never have been raped!”

  2. Many thanks for your very useful little list. Occasionally my mind goes blank with anger concerning one obscene act or another; it’s helpful to be reminded from time to time that decent people exist.

  3. Also, (as many have noted) isn’t it interesting that the National Rifle Association isn’t loudly proclaiming that if only these two victims had been armed, they could have “defended themselves” from their attackers?

    It seems these people have watched too many Westerns, where the reluctant good guy picks up a gun and successfully defends himself against a large number of attacking bad guys. Funny how the subject of “collateral damage” or shooting an innocent person by mistake never comes up.

  4. Actually, many US states do allow hunting with a handgun. Also, comparatively speaking, the UK’s MURDER rate is as high as the US. The US does not “tolerate” hand guns in the hands of the people, the people tolerate a government that increasingly wants to strip us of our Constitutional rights. Rights that no one anywhere in the world has the right to take away. Disarming Law-abiding citizens is not going to magically make violent crime disappear. In fact it’s being played out right now in places like Chicago and New York City. The two cities that have the strictest anti-gun laws in the country have the highest rates of violent and gun-related crime. In places where the rest of us live, however, as more and more people get Concealed Carry licenses, violent crime is going down. More guns = Less crime. It’s a basic fact

    • Wrong.It’s a basic fact.

      (Prof. Cole never said states don’t allow hunting with handguns; he said you don’t hunt deer that way.)
      Similarly wrong on every other point.

    • @ J. Klein: I’d be more impressed by your UK “MURDER” statement if you addressed the actual statement which mentions “murder rate by gun”, not murder in general. And, instead of a panegyric to the feel of a warm gun in one’s hand, I’d also like some hard figures to justify your assertion that “More guns = Less crime. It’s a basic fact.” Otherwise you’re merely sharing your fears and (in my opinion) misguided wishes.

      • Leslie – J Klein said the overall murder rate is as high, not the gun-related death rate – presumably the idea is that people in the UK murder just as much, just not with guns.

        (nationmaster link isn’t even a rate, it’s the total muders with firearms, which isn’t a fair comparison between countries with a large difference in population. )

        Still, a 2-minute google turns up this:

        link to en.wikipedia.org

        which says the rate for the USA is 4.8, and the rate for the UK is 1.23. That’s four times greater.

        J Klein needs to check some facts.

    • Actually, the murder rate in the UK is less than half that in the US. In England and Wales, in 2008, there were 1.19 murders per 100,000 people, in Northern Ireland there were 1.35 and in Scotland in 2007, there were 2.15 murders per 100,000 people (different countries in the UK gather their own crime statistics. In the US in 2008, there 5.22 murders per 100,000 people. More guns does not therefore mean less crime.

      [statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, International Homocide Data, link to data.un.org

    • More guns = less crime, especially when the NRA lobbies to have every violent offense labeled “self-protection”

  5. By the way, the poor lady was beaten (apparently with a tire iron) and not shot with a handgun. You might point that out somewherabouts that last paragraph for clarification.

    This, of course, in no way lessens the tragedy of the situation, for which all of us should be ashamed of this country.

  6. Do homeowners have a right to forbid handguns, or any concealed weapon, to be brought into their home? Should a person with a concealed weapon be required to first ask permission to enter a home so armed?

  7. Please Juan, let us not use profanity, particularly when addressing religion and devotion to God. I would prefer not to denigrate bigots, but encourage them to see the light. We are all children of God and some of our paths are more difficult than others. Upbringing and education are real privileges and I appreciate that you help me understand how you see these world events.

    I have lived in very diverse areas of the world, with many kinds of people. My father was an anthro-sociologist, so how can I be judgmental about others customs and beliefs. I suggest reading,”Nacirema”, which is an anthro study of a primitive people. (It is American spelled backward). One of the cartoons posted at the Gombe Chimp Reserve in the 60′s showed two Anthropoid creatures looking like cave men and one said to the other, “Evolution? Fooey, God created us in His own image!”

    Muslims all around the world have treated me with great hospitality and kindness, as have Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Christians. Religion is not only about how to treat others, but how to transcend the mundane.

    It is a delight to meet Christians in Kerala whose ancestors were converted by St Thomas @ 50 A.D. And to see in Ethiopia the painted mud Coptic Churches with 700 year old frescos depicting the the devil as a black man, when their history was of fighting their Sudanese neighbors shed light on how our beliefs come about.

    Hold true to that which is highest.

  8. Thanks for this. I’m an American Muslim and a mom. And I’m crying today for Trayvon Martin and his family, for Shaima A and her family, and from deep shame that America is still so full of hate, racism, and violence, that a teenage boy and mother of 5 were both recently murdered for not being white. My family has been in North America since the 1650s, but since I became Muslim 5 years ago, I have become a second class citizen. Before I traded my white privilege for modest dress, including a headscarf, I was also blind to the reality of racism in the US. No, sadly, these are not isolated incidents. It’s a blessing just to read anyone acknowledging that yes, there is a problem.

  9. A free society has always been a wager on the essential decency of the average citizen. What on earth is going wrong with the US? From the guy on a corner with a handgun, meting out ‘justice’ to America’s enemies, to that guy at the top, Mr Obama, similarly meting out ‘justice’ when compiling his latest kill list of US-citizens for the CIA to dispatch by drone. It seems impunity is all the rage, and damn tolerance of any stripe, that’s so pre-9/11.

  10. Clothing has been used as an excuse for committing crimes for centuries, particularly as regards violence against women. This said, it doesn’t make it right.

    Thanks for the great pictures of nuns, monks, and wise men! It being the Easter Season, this would be a good time to remind certain people that the dress they’re condemning is the same as they or their icons are wearing in church.

  11. The prevalent meaning of to “take the veil,” during my childhood, was to become a nun. If this is no longer the case, perhaps it is an indication of how much of a societal shift the U.S. has made since the destruction of the World Trade Center.

  12. Unfortunately wearing clothing of a particular sort is often done to make a statement to others that you are “different” and as a statement to like minded that you are “one of them”.
    For example if you see a Hasid in his get-up walking towards you on the sidewalk, don’t bother telling him “Good Morning” because you will receive no recognition in return, none. So all the dress stuff has so many aspects of tribalism or clanishness that it inspires a reaction in others. So, while I think it’s deplorable for someone to assault or murder someone because they are wearing a weird custume, it’s also part of human nature and, on the part of the unstable, may precipitate reaction. Imagine walking through Queens wearing the uniform of an SS officer, even now. maybe it’s a good idea when in Rome to do as the Romans do…All cultures have their flash points and Muslims would do well to leave behind some of their medieval village traditions when they come to this country. They would find readier acceptance and less overtly hostile behavior towards them…same thing with “gangsta” apparel.

    By the way, it is legal to hunt deer with a handgun in many areas, including Virginia where I live. The handgun just has to meet certain ballistics requirements so you’re not wounding an animal with a popgun. A long barrel revolver of the Dirt Harry variety is legal here because the Foot pounds of bullet energy is high enough to qualify. But this is somewhat sophistic because most of the people killer pistols don’t qualify..

    • Quick comments – you’re comparing wearing a headscarf to an SS officer. Bad comparison. By your logic, we should compare nuns to Nazis. And believe me, it is not human nature to beat someone nearly to death with a tire iron because you think they dress funny.

      Furthermore, wearing a hooded sweatshirt or “hoodie” is not “gangsta” apparel; I went to a suburban school district with an student body comprised of mostly (>90%) upper middle class white students and hoodies were quite common. Furthermore, you can’t argue that wearing a hoodie, or even baggy jeans or something else considered more “gangsta” justification for being shot.

      I certainly hope you aren’t American because people like you make me sick of my country.

  13. Dear Juan,

    I have nothing but the most profound respect for you, but the issue here is far deeper than the hoodie, ISTM. That has become a quick meme, but I wonder that the US has the ability or inclination to discuss the true issues here.

    I will explore it @ RangerAgainstWar, today and tomorrow.

    Kind regards,

    Lisa

  14. The irony of hate cries against Sikhs is, Sikhism is one of the most enlightened, evolved of all the world religions: They are fiercely dedicated to world peace and God and genuinely have respect for all other religions.

    And yet, they were mistakenly accused of the most wicked acts committed in the name of religion.

    • “And yet, they were mistakenly accused of the most wicked acts committed in the name of religion.”

      Apparently, you are unaware of the Sikh militants and the push for “Khalistan” in the 1980s. Sikh terrorists committed several atrocities at that time. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was killed by her two Sikh bodyguards. in 1985, Sikh terrorists bombed an Air India flight from Canada to India, killing all 329 people aboard. There were many other acts of terrorism committed by Sikh militants and terrorists. Sikhs, like any other group, have many peaceful members, but they also have those who will commit any atrocity to reach a goal, in this case the establishment of a Sikh homeland known as “Khalistan.”

  15. It is not yet certain that the murder victim was in fact killed by an unknown assailant. Is the husband a person of interest to the police? A note left by a killer to explain his/her crime is rare, but not if it was to deflect suspicions.

    • Now, now Joe. Mustn’t inject any other possibilities. There is a narrative we must all follow. That old line about waiting until all the facts are known does not apply here.

      • Joe, I thought the same thing. You’re right, notes at murder scenes are usually to deflect suspicion.

  16. “you shouldn’t be bothering Muslims either, but your sad ass is definitely going to clown hell if you shoot down a Sikh because you mistook him for a Muslim.”

    This actually made me lol, the real lol, not the virtual lol
    Really though, I think if these hate crimes were made Capitol offenses, the would be much rarer.

  17. Absolutely brilliant! Thank you for saying this so clearly.

  18. But we (or some of us) DO want out guns! And we (or some of us) want our bigotry! What else have we got?

    Especially if we are poor and being trampled under the corporate foot and have no hope that our ideological political party (Republican — because it respects “family values” such as gun-totin’ and bigotry, unlike them Dems) will do anything for us (except, perhaps, “hear our anger”) — we jes’ gotta keep our guns and our bigotry, or we’d really have nothing!

  19. This is your best post ever. “your sad ass is definitely going to clown hell” reads like a tweet from Kanye West. Bless you Juan Cole.

  20. I agree completely, but Juan you must have had a bad day!

  21. Juan: Some I agree with, several I do not. The Trayvon Martin event has unrevealed (due to media preference)facts that show the original victim is Zimmerman – has little to do with hoodies. Good point on Sihks as many have no idea who they are and the comments on dress are ‘right on’. Can’t believe your ignorance of the second amendment and question your statistics on England (London in particular.) If you want to be unbiased you need to move a bit to the right ! Muslim rules affecting women are definitely 7th century and not acceptable to any thinking person.

    • A recent Nobel laureate said (paraphrasing), mankind started out naked and evolved to wear clothes. Muslim clothing is the epitome of dress evolution.
      I think her opinion carries more weight than yours Mr. Moore

    • Please explain how an honor roll student with NO record is not the victim. Also, please explain how a man who is on record as having called 911 to report the “suspicious activity” of a primary-school-aged black boy walking by in his neighborhood is somehow the victim of anything other than his own horribly skewed and paranoid worldview.

    • HOMICIDE RATES (publ. statistics for 2008)

      USA — 5.22 per 100,000 population (FBI figures)

      U.K. — 1.57 per 100,000 population (Eurostat)
      Italy — 1.16 per 100,000 population (Eurostat)
      Germany — 0.80 per 100,000 population (Eurostat)

      New York – 6.3 per 100,000 population (FBI figures)

      London – 2.2 per 100,000 population (Eurostat)

      Of course there are countries with higher homicide rates than the U.S., such as South Africa (36.54 per 100,000 population) or Colombia (40 per 100,000 population). And Moscow has a homicide rate of 9.6 per 100,000, one and a half times that of New York. Is there reason to believe that any of those places would really lower their murder rates by following the US example and making firearms more widely and readily available?

    • Well, it’s a good thing there are community-minded thinking people around to set backward Muslim women right on their outmoded, unacceptable dress sense by savagely beating them to death, isn’t it!

  22. This is the most exercised I’ve seen your writing in a while. You are absolutely right in drawing comparisons between historical garb and the weird exertions folks are making to justify Travis’ shooting (the Sikh turban is especially galling to me.. that prejudice shows an extremely ignorant mindset. Do all Asians wear wide, conical hats?)

    But I’m waiting to hear more about the Travis shooting. On the face of it, it seems that both the Left and the Right are making assumptions before a full investigation. On the Left, we see an over-eager racist gunning down a kid because he looked like a gangster. On the Right, they see a law-abiding vigilante (ignoring the oxymoron) trying to keep his neighborhood safe.

    I’m just extremely suspicious that any of us have all the facts yet. And by vigorously pushing the racist line, we on the Left could be setting ourselves up for a huge embarrassment and loss of credibility.

    Let the police do their investigation. Let cooler heads evaluate what happened on that horrible night. Then we can begin to discuss what this tragic event means.

    • Great post, Brian. Regardless how things look on the surface, it is best to let the investigation play itself out before coming to conclusions. Remember the Duke University lacrosse players? Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, knew the lacrosse players were guilty. The D.A., the President of Duke, most columnists and pundits, and the average consumer of news knew they were guilty.

      Well, as we all now Know, the woman at the center of it was a pathological liar and concocted the story from whole cloth. The Duke lacrosse players were, in fact, innocent. The sad part was their innocence was established only after their reputations had been shredded by the rush to judgment. Everyone was so afraid of being seen as politically incorrect by challenging the woman’s story that they threw justice out the window.

      • The Duke Lacrosse team is an excellent example. Also Shirley Sherrod. The 24 hour news cycle and social media means the Tribes immediately take sides before all the facts are in.

        The big villain in this situation, in my opinion, is the “Stand Your Ground” law.

  23. “Let the police do their investigation.”

    They aren’t doing one. That’s the problem. Zimmerman shot an unarmed kid. Maybe he had reason, but no investigation was ever opened.

    • That’s a separate issue, actually. “Shooting an unarmed kid” is legal in “Stand your Ground” states, if you were scared of him.

  24. I have to say, this wouldn’t have merited a sidebar notice had the salacious possibility of a Jew (not) Zimmerman shooting a black youth not been the stuff of explosive news. And yes, that, too, is a tremendous bigotry in our society.

    It had already gone national by the time it was revealed that the shooter was, in fact, a Catholic Hispanic. Some of the zing was gone, but the liberals didn’t want egg on their face so they’re going to press thi,s certain that it is a hate crimes, sans the facts. Just enough facts for some radical Black panthers to call for a lynch mob, though.

    Jason is correct: The unjust exercise of violence hails from top down when he refers to “Mr Obama, similarly meting out ‘justice’ when compiling his latest kill list of US-citizens …”

    Per Zandru: The hoodie may be analogized to any hood, I suppose, but this 17-yr-old expelled from his school for possession of drugs is no icon.

    Juan’s lovely images failed to show the bottom half, where we might have seen Trayvon’s Sean John boxers revealing his rump hanging over the belt of his pants. Not that that’s an executable offense, mind, but it’s all part of the possible picture which helps reveal the rupture in our society.

    • My 6-ft+ 19-yr old son wears a hoodie sometimes; likewise, I’ve seen him walking in public with his bloomers showing.

      Unlike our President, I can’t really say “that could have been my son”.

      My son is white.

      I won’t say that Trayvon Martin was killed “because he was black”, but I do think that he would still be alive if he weren’t.

      • “Bloomers” sound very lovely, like something with frilly lace, but that’s not what we’re talking about. If your son avoided get into a tussle with a neighborhood watch person, that would be because he has learned to comport himself, especially in a tense environment.

        It is not Martin’s blackness, per se, but I’m sure we will discover it was his confrontational and antagonist attitude — his outright aggression — which caused this sorry result.

    • Lisa, have you ever stopped to think that in the eyes of African-Americans, they’re the normal Americans of twenty generations provenance and we’re the crazy aggressors?

      Freedom to only act white means there’s no freedom for anyone. And I guess even then a black man can only dress or talk white but not demand a white man’s wages or a white man’s elected office or a white man’s right to armed rebellion. Are there any black people who please you, now that the Pullman porters and shoeshine boys are gone?

  25. Why so many hand guns? They are profitable, and that’s about all you need to know. And, happily for our elites, the people use them to, mostly, kill themselves, their family, acquaintances. The threat of armed violence, or any violence, real or imagined, from others of our class, but marginally, superficially different (skin color, ethnicity, religion), keeps us divided, thus allowing the very few to rule the very many. You may say, why would elites tolerate an armed populace, isn’t it dangerous? Not really, certainly not enough to offset the real benefits set forth above. Koresh had 50 calibers, and look where that got him.

  26. Trayvon Martin deserves to be alive today, but I’m fairly certain that the sensational media coverage will be taught as an example of media bias in future journalism classes. I’ve noticed a number of inconsistencies in the coverage, to include:

    -The recent “discovery” of the local news affiliate interview w/the only eyewitness to the altercation. It was taken the day after the shooting and the witness backs Zimmerman’s version of events. Where was the video when the news of the shooting went national?

    -Downplaying the police report’s record of physical evidence (mud and grass on Zimmerman’s back, as well as a bloody nose and back of the head) that also back up Zimmerman’s version of events

    -Constantly mentioning that Zimmerman was significantly heavier than Martin, but rarely noting that Martin was significantly taller than Zimmerman

    -Reports that either explicitly say Zimmerman is white, or otherwise present the shooting as white-on-black violence. Zimmerman is Latino.

    None of that clears Zimmerman, and it sounds like he was way out of line when he followed Martin. But it is enough to raise some red flags in the back of my mind when this simplistic “modern-day lynching” narrative is presented. The investigation is ongoing. Don’t presume to know what happened.

  27. Good piece, but I’m still betting that Ms. al-Awady was the victim of an honour killing made – clumsily – to look like a bigoted hate crime.

  28. Brian: We and you have enough of the facts. The kid was unarmed and walking home from the convenience store with skittles and an iced tea. If Zimmerman had stayed in his car as instructed, the boy (yes, he was a boy. Not a man. Certainly not a troublemaker) would still be alive. I’m making no assumptions here.

    • It’s interesting how the claims of bias and prejudgment and encouragement to “wait for all the facts” seem to come mostly from the shall one say more reactionary side of the spectrum? From people who as a general rule, when the First Facts are reversed, are more than happy to form up a mob and hang first, ask questions later?

      The sick part of all of it is the degree to which tribal polarization is getting stronger, not weaker, and the amount of spinnery and trollery that is polluting what’s left of civic sensibilities and discourse. (Interesting how many comments at places like dKos are all about “Don’t judge Dick “I had other priorities at draft time, America First After Halliburton” Cheney,” and how he DESERVES a new heart.) Maybe it’s getting close to the time when the magnetic poles of the planet swap ends…

      • “It’s interesting how the claims of bias and prejudgment and encouragement to “wait for all the facts” seem to come mostly from the shall one say more reactionary side of the spectrum? From people who as a general rule, when the First Facts are reversed, are more than happy to form up a mob and hang first, ask questions later?”

        As you no doubt did in the case of the Duke University lacrosse players’ lynching.

    • When you say Martin was, “Not a man. Certainly not a troublemaker”, you have made assumptions.

      Did you know him? Then how can you state he was no troublemaker? He was 6′ 3″ and man enough to throw Zimmerman down and pummel him.

      By virtue of Martin’s size, he is considered an adult and not a boy.

    • Well, I’m glad someone has the facts. So tell me, did Trayvon attack Zimmerman? Did he break his nose? I’ve been curious about that. Thanks.

  29. Both the numbers showing that foreign lands have much lower total murder rates than the US, and numbers showing that the US gun-lover zones have lower murder rates than the more heavily regulated cities are true.

    The problem is, once you are raised in violence-loving American culture, guns are the only thing you respect. People in cities are ALWAYS more violent than people in suburbs and property-owning rural populations. Obviously in America we’ve had a permanent low-level race war going on for 400 years, and cities are where the combatants rub shoulders and paranoia against each other, from Irish vs Anglo to black vs Hispanic. In the boondocks, most people are white, are buffered by low population density, and don’t often feel threatened by people different than themselves. However, before 1940 rural and small-town whites and their guns were quite busy.

    It’s one of those things about America that it’s too late to fix unless a vast shock discredits the underlying culture. Note that 19th century London was so violent that all gentlemen went out armed. I suspect somewhere between the Bolshevik Revolution and two world wars, the rich all over Europe learned that they could not keep outgunning the poor without cultural and economic compromise. America has not yet had that shock.

    • “The problem is, once you are raised in violence-loving American culture, guns are the only thing you respect. People in cities are ALWAYS more violent than people in suburbs and property-owning rural populations.”

      As a liberal and pro-gun control guy, that idea has some resonance with me. But is it true? Are there statistics that show urban folks are more violent, let’s say per capita, than rural folks?

      I’m genuinely curious. With all due respect, super390, This is one of these mind-bogglingly horrible, yet complicated situations where I think we should all be speaking from facts, not impressions.

      I just don’t want some eyewitness camera-phone video to come out showing Trayvon beating the crap out of Zimmerman. If we jump to conclusions that are wrong, you know the Right’s gonna beat the crap out of us and nothing the Left says about racial profiling, or vigilantes, or Stand your Ground laws will have any credibility going forward.

      “Trust, but Verify”, to bend an old slogan into a shape it was never designed for.

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