September 11th is often remembered as one of those moments where we all came together as Americans in response to a horrific attack on our nation’s soil. However, the truth is more complicated. The enduring legacy of racism prevents many people from being considered as full Americans, and the years after the attack were marred with prejudice and hatred toward American citizens who were suddenly marked as different. We spend this day in remembrance, not only for those who performed everyday acts of heroism, and not only for those who lost their lives, but also remembering the way in which Americans have failed each other – for allowing an attack from terrorists to call into question our ideals as a nation. We may have lost the Twin Towers, but we did not lose who we are.
So, in true American fashion, we will continue to fight to be heard, ensuring that everyone’s American story is told.
Since many people were caught in the wave of backlash and discrimination post-9/11, the Sikh Coalition asked people to send in their videos about how discrimination has impacted their lives.
Shawn Singh talks about how suddenly, post 9/11, it impacted his understanding of his Sikh Identity:
Kevin Harrington talked about discriminatory treatment at the New York City Transit Authority – despite the fact that he helped to evacuate people on 9/11, Harrington was approached in 2004 and told he could not continue working in passenger service because of his turban:
Rabia Said remembers being 8 years old and being told by a pastor and by the police that her clothing was why she was targeted racial profiling:
SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together) released a video and campaign asserting what we all should know intrinsically: America is for all of us.
The National Coalition of South Asian Organizations released a statement explaining the changed landscape in the United States of America:
We join the nation in solemnly remembering and honoring those who lost their lives and loved ones on that day. We also take this opportunity to reflect on the events that have transpired in the decade since.
Like all Americans, South Asians in the United States were deeply affected by the events on and after September 11th. From the days and months following the tragedy to now, member organizations of the NCSO have addressed a range of issues arising in our communities in the post-September 11th environment – from helping individuals who lost family members or livelihoods to advocating for those who faced discrimination, hate crimes, profiling, and arbitrary detentions.
A decade later, many South Asians who call America home continue to be affected by unfair policies, xenophobic rhetoric, and discrimination. Now more than ever, members of the NCSO seek to ensure that our country remains true to its fundamental ideals of fairness and inclusion. Today, as we pause to remember September 11th, we also renew our pledge to work towards public policies and community-based efforts that will reaffirm our country’s commitment to human rights, justice, and equality for all.
At New America Media, Zaineb Mohammed released an article on growing up Muslim, post 9/11:
When asked if she had considered approaching the administration when students make jokes like “Are your family members in the Taliban?” she commented, “I didn’t think I could go to the administration with something like that – I didn’t think it was important enough.”
There are moments when O’Neal is still confronted with stereotypes. During her freshmen year another student passing her on the staircase called out, “What are you looking at, towelhead?” O’Neal responded by asking the young man to touch her scarf. He looked confused, but she prodded him, telling him it was not a towel and to, “never again use your ignorance to put someone else down.”
And El Diario NY has documented the Latino experience in a special package dedicated to exploring the Latino perspective on 9/11:
“Latinos are 30% of New York City’s population,” said Erica Gonzalez, Executive Editor of El Diario/ La Prensa. “They lost loved ones, they responded at Ground Zero and today they are helping restore lower Manhattan to its former glory. We want to make sure their voices are heard on this anniversary and beyond.”
The editorial team at El Diario dedicated months to researching and reporting for the project. The resulting archive of the Latino experience of Sept. 11 has major historic value, as it features the perspectives of individuals not found elsewhere.
“El Diario’s team was on the ground and worked around the clock to cover the Sept. 11 attacks-as we agonized over family and friends directly affected,” said Publisher and CEO Rossana Rosado. “With this project, we hope to show younger Latinos how the community showed great resilience in the face of such a devastating event.”
African Americans may have been left out of Time’s portrait of 9/11 series, but let’s end with Sophia Nelson, who composed a news tribute to the power of love in the aftermath of September 11th:
When we think of 9/11, we rightly remember the tragedy and abject horror of the day. Yet, I believe that the single greatest lesson and take-away from September 11, 2001 for us all, is the redeeming and nurturing power of love.
Love is what we were made for. It is the one thing that can lift even the darkest of clouds from our memory, and propel us to continue forward. Love sustains us, feeds us, and heals us.
After all, it was the love and dedication of brave firefighters that caused them to rush headlong into burning buildings to save complete strangers.
It was the love and loyalty of husbands and wives who called their spouses from cell phones to say “I am not coming home to see you one last time, but know that I am always with you”.
It was the love of the passengers on flight 93 that saved our nation’s capitol from yet another terrible blow.
It was the love of a grieving nation that caused us to take hold of one another across color, class and political lines.
But grief can only take us so far. Racial profiling is still happening – and Breakthrough released their documentary “Checkpoint Nation? Building Community Across Borders,” to showcase the cross cultural movements mobilizing to end racial profiling once and for all.
Remember, it is an act of love to resist racism, prejudice, bigotry. It is an act of love to move past stereotypes to see the person who lies beyond them. And while a decade has passed since September 11th, there is nothing we need more than people willing to acknowledge their pain and instead chose a more inclusive path.