Sabika Sheikh. Ann Perkins. Angelique Ramirez. Shana Fisher. Kim Vaughan. Chris Stone. Cynthia Tisdale. Christian Garcia. Jared Black. Kyle McLeod. All shot and killed on school grounds in Santa Fe, TX by another white male student.

One name in particular stands out:  Sabika Sheikh.

Why? Sabika was a Pakistani student visiting the high school for a year as an exchange student. She had a flight booked to return home to Pakistan to celebrate Ramadan with her family. Instead, she is among the 10 students shot and killed. To the rest of the world, the United States of America is known as a land full of endless opportunities and acceptance. A land that differs from whatever problems citizens have in their own countries because America promises to be different. America promises to be free. More often than not, the dream of many students in other countries is to study or work in America, as if working in America is a sacred credential to obtain.

America was built on the sorrows and vulnerabilities of others. And now, in 2018, nothing has changed. tweet

The harsh reality is, America is — and has been — falling apart. America was built on the sorrows and vulnerabilities of the marginalized. And now, in 2018, nothing has changed. Despite the statistics, the speeches, the protests, riots, and pleas for gun control, there is none. A country that claims to be “of the people, for the people, by the people,” has not been listening to its people. Sabika’s death is symbolic of that. Whether she persistently asked her parents to study abroad or whether her parents encouraged her to study abroad hoping it will expand her horizons and bring new opportunity back home, they were met with this harsh reality instead.

Of course, Donald Trump tweeted after the reports of an active shooter went out, saying, “Doesn’t look too good. God bless all.” Empathetic, sarcasm. But we will not let the lack of remorse from our “president” distract us from the people hurting at hand. America isn’t safe. We are held captive by corruption in leadership. We just know how to hide it better. Within a few days, the vigils will stop and the media will move on to other stories. Lately, I’ve seen CNN cover what the Kardashians are wearing more than I’ve seen them cover the problems that are killing us. They are distractions.

However, not all fall to the distractions. Megan Lysaght, one of the directors of the YES program — the educational program that Sabika was a part of that enabled her to study in the U.S — sent out an email to all its participants. She wrote about the devastation of Sabika’s loss and provided resources for other students in the program should they need additional support in processing this information.

The death of Sabika and nine other innocent children does not only further frighten students that are currently enrolled within the United States; it sends a message to the rest of the world that coming here for opportunities means risking your life.

I am very close friends with an international student at my university. She came here from Athens, Greece and has been living in New York City for three years. I asked her if anything like a school shooting or mass shooting has ever happened in Greece. “Never,” she responded. “There is nowhere else I’ve heard of this happening.” Guns exist everywhere in the world. So do people who wish to use them for ill. Where is the disconnect? The disconnect falls upon the government’s shoulders.

The death of Sabika and nine other innocent children does not only further frighten students that are currently enrolled within the United States; it sends a message to the rest of the world that coming here for opportunities means risking your life. tweet

There’s no way around it: our government sees more value in the money flowing into the gun industry than in the lives of its people. When they’re six years old and at Sandy Hook Elementary School; when they’re 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18 and in high school; when they’re 20 and in college. When they are a student like Sabika Sheikh, who came to this country expecting to learn and grow; now leaving in a casket. People in Connecticut, Florida, and Texas have been changed forever. People at concerts and at movie theaters look over their shoulder, fearing for their lives.

Students who survived the shooting were interviewed, and many expressed the sentiment, “I’m not surprised it happened here. It’s been happening everywhere.” For children to begin to accept that their schools can be targeted by a mass murderer is beyond disgusting and reveals where our society’s values reside. For Sabika’s parents to hear their daughter died thousands of miles away from them, in a country where she was supposed to be safe and prosperous, is more painful than anyone can imagine. If she didn’t fall to anti-Muslim violence, she fell to gun violence.

For Sabika’s parents to hear their daughter died thousands of miles away from them, in a country where she was supposed to be safe and prosperous, is more painful than anyone can imagine. If she didn’t fall to anti-Muslim violence, she fell to gun violence. tweet

She was not alone. She was not in a setting that was supposed to be dangerous. She was not doing anything wrong. She wasn’t out after dark.  She did not know she was going to wake up and go to school that morning, only to be shot dead by another child who made his choices for his own reasons; a child who was enabled by the government, and President Donald Trump himself.

Seeing other people commit these horrific, tragic crimes and gain sympathy on the news promotes these gruesome acts. People who are already likely to commit strong acts of violence now think they will be recognized or given attention or empathy should they do such a thing. They see other individuals their age on the news being labeled as “mentally ill” instead of labeled a terrorist. They see all of the external variables in that person’s life used as justification for their actions. They begin to desire having themselves valued in this way; to be recognized.

Meanwhile, innocent people, people like Sabika Sheikh, pay the price.

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Sabika Sheikh Came to America to Study. Instead, She Was Murdered.
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