Nabra Hassanen is Not Being Protected: Why I'm Upset Her Death Isn't Being Investigated as a Hate Crime

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

By Donya` Price

After I initially learned of the murder of Nabra Hassanen via social media, I took it upon myself to search through the few articles and news reports about the event. A 17-year-old Muslim girl died on Sunday, June 18 of blunt force trauma to the upper body by a metal baseball bat three hours away from my home and, as a fellow woman of color, I wanted to know why.

Watching a recording of their press conference, I learned that Fairfax County Police Department stated that Nabra’s death was being investigated as the result of a road rage altercation – not as a hate crime. Julia Parker, The Director of the Relations Bureau of Fairfax County Police Department, ended her summary of the events leading to Nabra Hassanen’s death saying this: “There is nothing at this point to indicate that this tragic case was a hate crime. No evidence has been recovered that shows that this was a hate crime. Nothing indicates that this was motivated by race or by religion.” Later, Raymond Morrogh, Virginia Commonwealth’s attorney for Fairfax County said, “Everything is on the table until we get all the evidence,” when asked if he believed that hate motivated the crime.

Here’s why I’m mad:

Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, got into an argument with a boy that was a part of the group of Muslim teens, including Nabra Hassanen, and allegedly drove up on the curb towards the group. That move can be deemed as road rage. Torres’s decision to chase the group down by foot, which resulted in him catching Nabra and beating her over the head with a metal baseball bat, is what I believe to be an act of hate. Police even admit that there was a second assault on Nabra that occured before she was thrown into a nearby pond. With the provided accounts of the excessive violence that Nabra endured, it is hard to believe that this murder stemmed from anger caused by a mere argument.

Hate is an emotion. It is something that a person carries within themselves and is able to, sometimes with great self-control, suppress. However, even with the greatest self-control, hate can still find way to manifest itself through one’s actions. Though there are ways that hate can be verbally or visually portrayed, hate itself is intangible. Therefore, looking for evidence of hate becomes a tedious job, unless one can search and uncover a suspect’s incorporeal thoughts, feelings and ideologies.

Let us not forget the amount of anti-Muslim and Islamophobia movements that have gained an extensive presence in our country over the years since 9/11 and ISIS. This became even more evident when someone set fire to a vigil in honor of Nabra, to which the Police spokeswoman commented that “the memorial did not appear to be specifically targeted.” Yet another senseless and obvious display of hate said to be sheer coincidence.

The excusing of these two events just shows people that if they do not say or show that they possess hate, then it can be dismissed. It also ignores the reality of discrimination, prejudice and racism within our country. Ignoring these things does not erase their presence, but rather stunts the growth that could be possible with acknowledgement of their existence.

Just because Torres is a Latino man, a minority himself, does not mean it’s impossible for this to be a hate crime. Nabra's murder sparked a conversation on Twitter about Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia within the Latino community, especially among Latino Muslims. One user, @ErenArruna, tweeted, “We have a massive anti-blackness and Islamophobia problem in Latinx communities.” Hatred is very much existent among marginalized and minority groups also, sadly. 

I am mad at the dismissal of Nabra’s death as not being a hate crime, which reemphasizes the fact that our country has more progress to make, despite what we’ve already overcome.

I am mad because it shows that there are people who choose to ignore that hate is prevalent in our country.

I am mad because some people will think that I am overreacting, saying, "Everything isn’t about race or religion." To those I say: If you think injustice is uncommon here, you either aren’t seeing clearly enough or you’ve just chosen to ignore the obvious. If your understanding of something is limited, that does not equate to that thing being non-existent.

But, I am furious because a 17-year-old Muslim woman was violently and grotesquely assaulted twice and disposed of in a pond, resulting in her death being attributed to road rage as if she was road kill. Everyone should be able to feel protected by the same institution that would readily persecute them.

Nabra is not being protected. If they aren’t protecting her by rightfully getting justice, how can I expect them to protect me and all my fellow women of color?

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