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  • Last year,

  • three of my family members were gruesomely murdered

  • in a hate crime.

  • It goes without saying that it's really difficult

  • for me to be here today,

  • but my brother Deah,

  • his wife Yusor,

  • and her sister Razan

  • don't give me much of a choice.

  • I'm hopeful that by the end of this talk you will make a choice,

  • and join me in standing up against hate.

  • It's December 27, 2014:

  • the morning of my brother's wedding day.

  • He asks me to come over and comb his hair

  • in preparation for his wedding photo shoot.

  • A 23-year-old, six-foot-three basketball, particularly Steph Curry, fanatic --

  • (Laughter)

  • An American kid in dental school ready to take on the world.

  • When Deah and Yusor have their first dance,

  • I see the love in his eyes,

  • her reciprocated joy,

  • and my emotions begin to overwhelm me.

  • I move to the back of the hall and burst into tears.

  • And the second the song finishes playing,

  • he beelines towards me,

  • buries me into his arms

  • and rocks me back and forth.

  • Even in that moment,

  • when everything was so distracting,

  • he was attuned to me.

  • He cups my face and says,

  • "Suzanne,

  • I am who I am because of you.

  • Thank you for everything.

  • I love you."

  • About a month later, I'm back home in North Carolina for a short visit,

  • and on the last evening, I run upstairs to Deah's room,

  • eager to find out how he's feeling being a newly married man.

  • With a big boyish smile he says,

  • "I'm so happy. I love her. She's an amazing girl."

  • And she is.

  • At just 21, she'd recently been accepted to join Deah

  • at UNC dental school.

  • She shared his love for basketball, and at her urging,

  • they started their honeymoon off attending their favorite team of the NBA,

  • the LA Lakers.

  • I mean, check out that form.

  • (Laughter)

  • I'll never forget that moment sitting there with him --

  • how free he was in his happiness.

  • My littler brother, a basketball-obsessed kid,

  • had become and transformed into an accomplished young man.

  • He was at the top of his dental school class,

  • and alongside Yusor and Razan,

  • was involved in local and international community service projects

  • dedicated to the homeless and refugees,

  • including a dental relief trip they were planning

  • for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

  • Razan, at just 19,

  • used her creativity as an architectural engineering student

  • to serve those around her,

  • making care packages for the local homeless,

  • among other projects.

  • That is who they were.

  • Standing there that night,

  • I take a deep breath and look at Deah and tell him,

  • "I have never been more proud of you than I am in this moment."

  • He pulls me into his tall frame,

  • hugs me goodnight,

  • and I leave the next morning without waking him

  • to go back to San Francisco.

  • That is the last time I ever hug him.

  • Ten days later, I'm on call at San Francisco General Hospital

  • when I receive a barrage of vague text messages expressing condolences.

  • Confused, I call my father, who calmly intones,

  • "There's been a shooting in Deah's neighborhood in Chapel Hill.

  • It's on lock-down. That's all we know."

  • I hang up and quickly Google, "shooting in Chapel Hill."

  • One hit comes up.

  • Quote:

  • "Three people were shot in the back of the head

  • and confirmed dead on the scene."

  • Something in me just knows.

  • I fling out of my chair and faint onto the gritty hospital floor,

  • wailing.

  • I take the first red-eye out of San Francisco,

  • numb and disoriented.

  • I walk into my childhood home and faint into my parents' arms,

  • sobbing.

  • I then run up to Deah's room as I did so many times before,

  • just looking for him,

  • only to find a void that will never be filled.

  • Investigation and autopsy reports eventually revealed

  • the sequence of events.

  • Deah had just gotten off the bus from class,

  • Razan was visiting for dinner,

  • already at home with Yusor.

  • As they began to eat, they heard a knock on the door.

  • When Deah opened it,

  • their neighbor proceeded to fire multiple shots at him.

  • According to 911 calls,

  • the girls were heard screaming.

  • The man turned towards the kitchen and fired a single shot into Yusor's hip,

  • immobilizing her.

  • He then approached her from behind,

  • pressed the barrel of his gun against her head,

  • and with a single bullet, lacerated her midbrain.

  • He then turned towards Razan, who was screaming for her life,

  • and, execution-style, with a single bullet

  • to the back of the head,

  • killed her.

  • On his way out,

  • he shot Deah one last time -- a bullet in the mouth --

  • for a total of eight bullets:

  • two lodged in the head,

  • two in his chest

  • and the rest in his extremities.

  • Deah, Yusor and Razan were executed

  • in a place that was meant to be safe: their home.

  • For months, this man had been harassing them:

  • knocking on their door,

  • brandishing his gun on a couple of occasions.

  • His Facebook was cluttered with anti-religion posts.

  • Yusor felt particularly threatened by him.

  • As she was moving in,

  • he told Yusor and her mom that he didn't like the way they looked.

  • In response, Yusor's mom told her to be kind to her neighbor,

  • that as he got to know them,

  • he'd see them for who they were.

  • I guess we've all become so numb to the hatred

  • that we couldn't have ever imagined it turning into fatal violence.

  • The man who murdered my brother turned himself in to the police

  • shortly after the murders,

  • saying he killed three kids,

  • execution-style,

  • over a parking dispute.

  • The police issued a premature public statement that morning,

  • echoing his claims without bothering to question it

  • or further investigate.

  • It turns out there was no parking dispute.

  • There was no argument.

  • No violation.

  • But the damage was already done.

  • In a 24-hour media cycle,

  • the words "parking dispute" had already become the go-to sound bite.

  • I sit on my brother's bed and remember his words,

  • the words he gave me so freely and with so much love,

  • "I am who I am because of you."

  • That's what it takes for me to climb through my crippling grief

  • and speak out.

  • I cannot let my family's deaths be diminished to a segment

  • that is barely discussed on local news.

  • They were murdered by their neighbor because of their faith,

  • because of a piece of cloth they chose to don on their heads,

  • because they were visibly Muslim.

  • Some of the rage I felt at the time

  • was that if roles were reversed,

  • and an Arab, Muslim or Muslim-appearing person

  • had killed three white American college students execution-style,

  • in their home,

  • what would we have called it?

  • A terrorist attack.

  • When white men commit acts of violence in the US,

  • they're lone wolves,

  • mentally ill

  • or driven by a parking dispute.

  • I know that I have to give my family voice,

  • and I do the only thing I know how:

  • I send a Facebook message to everyone I know in media.

  • A couple of hours later,

  • in the midst of a chaotic house overflowing with friends and family,

  • our neighbor Neal comes over, sits down next to my parents

  • and asks, "What can I do?"

  • Neal had over two decades of experience in journalism,

  • but he makes it clear that he's not there in his capacity as journalist,

  • but as a neighbor who wants to help.

  • I ask him what he thinks we should do,

  • given the bombardment of local media interview requests.

  • He offers to set up a press conference at a local community center.

  • Even now I don't have the words to thank him.

  • "Just tell me when, and I'll have all the news channels present," he said.

  • He did for us what we could not do for ourselves

  • in a moment of devastation.

  • I delivered the press statement,

  • still wearing scrubs from the previous night.

  • And in under 24 hours from the murders,

  • I'm on CNN being interviewed by Anderson Cooper.

  • The following day, major newspapers --

  • including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune --

  • published stories about Deah, Yusor and Razan,

  • allowing us to reclaim the narrative

  • and call attention the mainstreaming of anti-Muslim hatred.

  • These days,

  • it feels like Islamophobia is a socially acceptable form of bigotry.

  • We just have to put up with it and smile.

  • The nasty stares,

  • the palpable fear when boarding a plane,

  • the random pat downs at airports that happen 99 percent of the time.

  • It doesn't stop there.

  • We have politicians reaping political and financial gains off our backs.

  • Here in the US,

  • we have presidential candidates like Donald Trump,

  • casually calling to register American Muslims,

  • and ban Muslim immigrants and refugees from entering this country.

  • It is no coincidence that hate crimes rise

  • in parallel with election cycles.

  • Just a couple months ago, Khalid Jabara,

  • a Lebanese-American Christian,

  • was murdered in Oklahoma by his neighbor --

  • a man who called him a "filthy Arab."

  • This man was previously jailed for a mere 8 months,

  • after attempting run over Khalid's mother with his car.

  • Chances are you haven't heard Khalid's story,

  • because it didn't make it to national news.

  • The least we can do is call it what it is:

  • a hate crime.

  • The least we can do is talk about it,

  • because violence and hatred doesn't just happen in a vacuum.

  • Not long after coming back to work,

  • I'm the senior on rounds in the hospital,

  • when one of my patients looks over at my colleague,

  • gestures around her face and says, "San Bernardino,"

  • referencing a recent terrorist attack.

  • Here I am having just lost three family members to Islamophobia,

  • having been a vocal advocate within my program

  • on how to deal with such microaggressions,

  • and yet --

  • silence.

  • I was disheartened.

  • Humiliated.

  • Days later rounding on the same patient,

  • she looks at me and says,

  • "Your people are killing people in Los Angeles."

  • I look around expectantly.

  • Again:

  • silence.

  • I realize that yet again,

  • I have to speak up for myself.

  • I sit on her bed and gently ask her,

  • "Have I ever done anything but treat you with respect and kindness?

  • Have I done anything but give you compassionate care?"

  • She looks down and realizes what she said was wrong,

  • and in front of the entire team,

  • she apologizes and says,

  • "I should know better. I'm Mexican-American.

  • I receive this kind of treatment all the time."

  • Many of us experience microaggressions on a daily basis.

  • Odds are you may have experienced it,

  • whether for your race,

  • gender,

  • sexuality

  • or religious beliefs.

  • We've all been in situations where we've witnessed something wrong

  • and didn't speak up.

  • Maybe we weren't equipped with the tools to respond in the moment.

  • Maybe we weren't even aware of our own implicit biases.

  • We can all agree that bigotry is unacceptable,

  • but when we see it,

  • we're silent,