Tag Archives: terrorism

Voices Revisited: 9/11 And Communities Of Color

Twelve years after the September 11th attacks, we wanted to take this chance to revisit stories told from the perspective of Muslim communities and other communities of color dealing with the event. First, this episode of the Ask A Muslim webseries posted last year, in which Imam Murad Abdul-Zahir breaks down the backlash against Muslims following the attacks: “Anyone even resembling a Muslim were attacked and came under a lot of scrutiny.”

And two years ago, Latoya introduced us to the Unheard Voices of 9/11, a collection of short testimonials that included this one from Gigi El Sayed.

“They called you racist. They called you terrorist,” she explains. “I was still a child. I barely understood the words and I would ask my parents … My mom almost had her scarf pulled off in an elevator.”

There’s also this story by Amenah, a Staten Island resident, about her experience after telling classmates she was making her pilgrimage to Mecca:

“I remember distinctly that the boy who was behind me had remarks for me not to bring a bomb back,” Amenah says. “I remember that the whole class had heard his remark, and that nobody had said anything.”

But to end on a positive note, let’s also revisit this video by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) — particularly the young student featured around the :52 mark: “It’s time we raise our voices and return to our ideals — of an America that is open to diversity, accepts varied viewpoints, protects the rights of all and is tolerant of differences.”

Uh-Oh. The Pentagon Considers Well-Traveled, Broke Indian American Women Threats

by Guest Contributors The Aerogram Editors, originally published at the Aerogram

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The Huffington Post’s Matt Sledge recently introduced readers to “Hema,” a character in an online training given to Pentagon employees to teach them how to identify “insider threats.”

Writes Sledge:

A security training test created by a Defense Department agency warns federal workers that they should consider the hypothetical Indian-American woman a “high threat” because she frequently visits family abroad, has money troubles and “speaks openly of unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy.”

As you can imagine, reading that line caused all of us here in The Aerogram’s headquarters to have a “Hey! That sounds like me!” moment.

Sledge goes on to say that the training was designed to help catch future Bradley Mannings and Edward Snowdens, who are both white men. (Editor’s note: We think the training would have been much more true-to-life if Hema had been the child of a Welsh immigrant a la Manning.)

Visits twice a year; inadequate work qualityBecause the training is declassified, anyone can now take it here. Examining the slides, we were struck by the fact that a character that regularly plays high-stakes poker was considered less of a threat than Hema, and that Hema’s propensity of travel made her as much of a risk as a recently divorced man mired in debt who openly worries about paying child support. Hema’s foreign travel, the slide notes, is a threat because it “gives foreign agents a chance to contact foreign intelligence services. She also demonstrates possible divided loyalty and financial difficulties. She is a high threat.”

Emphasis ours. Let’s break down exactly why labeling Hema as a threat to security is problematic. Using this training’s criteria, in order to be classified as low risk (0 indicators) by the Defense department, one would have to:

1) Estrange oneself from family and friends, not to mention cultural connections and heritage by not going back to India regularly. (Besides, who needs grandparents or your aunties when you have Uncle Sam?)

2) Be politically apathetic or somehow always support U.S. foreign policy, even though that policy could vary wildly from administration to administration. But never mind that. U-S-A! U-S-A!

3) Be financially well off. (But don’t you dare spend any of that money on foreign travel or political causes, like other well-off people do. Always remember: brown-skinned individuals have to be extra careful.)

For us, the strangest part of seeing someone like the fictional Hema classified as a high risk threat is that traveling internationally, exercising the rights to free speech and having political opinions are generally indicators of a well-rounded, actively involved citizen. Couldn’t the government use more inspired young people who know that the world is a big and complicated place? Why are these traits considered undesirable and threatening when the person possessing them is a South Asian American woman?

Race + Film: Who Is The Mandarin?

By Kendra James and Arturo Garcia

Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin via Comics Alliance

If you haven’t seen Iron Man 3 yet and you remain blissfully unspoiled where it comes to the movie’s main villain, turn back now for there are major spoilers ahead. Unlike the marketing teams for certain other summer flicks (hi, Star Trek) Marvel and Disney did a good a job of hiding The Mandarin’s origins and plot line for you to ruin it for yourself now.

But here’s a clue: The Mandarin is not Khan.

For those of you who don’t know anything about The Mandarin aside from the Ben Kingsley casting controversy, I’ll let the Marvel wiki  break it down briefly:

Born circa 1920, the future Mandarin was raised by his embittered aunt following his parents’ deaths, and as an adult he used his brilliance and family wealth to attain prominence in the Kuomintang Party’s reign over China. The Communist Revolution of 1949 cost him his position and power, although the population he had once commanded still regarded him with nigh-mystic awe. After years of seeking some means of regaining greatness, he ventured into the mysterious Valley of Spirits, where he discovered the millennia-old wreckage of a starship of the reptilian Kakaranatharian, or Makluan, extraterrestrial race, and the ten mighty rings which had powered the vessel

…Iron Man visited China to investigate the Mandarin for the U.S. government. Using the rings and his own combat skills, the Mandarin nearly defeated Iron Man, who nonetheless outwitted him and escaped. Soon after, the pair again clashed when the Mandarin pulled Stark surveillance missiles from the sky to use for his own purposes, then manipulated the Chinese government into test-firing a missile which, unknown to them, was intended to trigger world war, but Iron Man defeated him both times.

It’s your standard superhero/super-villain dichotomy after that. The Mandarin is to Iron Man as Lex Luthor is to Superman. China has always been an important part of his back story as his original base of power, and the Mandarin had always been portrayed as Chinese. So when it was announced that Ben Kingsley would be playing The Mandarin we were all, by rights, slightly perturbed to say the least. But after seeing the finished product, Arturo and I differed on how we watched it all play out.

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Being Brown After The Boston Bomb Blast

By Guest Contributor Deepak Sarma, cross-posted from The Huffington Post

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The bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon are a terrible tragedy and a chilling example of the worst kinds of misanthropic human behavior. I weep for the families and friends for those immediately affected and for those whose lives and memories have forever changed.

I hope that they catch the perpetrator(s) of this crime.

But I worry, especially after inciteful and potentially dangerous rumors, momentarily validated by the NY Post, that automatically point the finger at (an) international terrorist(s), who, is/are in the imaginations of those easily deluded, brown-skinned. The subsequent and unavoidable racial profiling is a slippery slope toward a lynching mentality where color/ethnicity/race (all imagined categories largely invented for economic exploitation and advantage) is proof of guilt, and where all who are imagined to be part of that imagined category are inescapably complicit.

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The Racial Legacy of 9/11 [Voices]

Superman and the Heroes of 9/11

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.

Let’s begin with a great video series on the Unheard Voices of 9/11 produced by the Sikh Coalition.

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:

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Open Thread: The Shooting in Arizona

By Latoya Peterson

So the United States has had its first act of politically motivated terrorist activity in 2011.

On Saturday, Jared Lee Loughner fired into a crowd of people gathered in support of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, killing six and wounding fourteen. Giffords, who was shot in the head, is in critical condition, despite the heroic actions of her intern. Continue reading

The Racialicious Review For My Name Is Khan

by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
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WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

The die is cast early in My Name Is Khan, when the titular lead, Rizwan Khan (Shah Rukh Khan), having already been identified as autistic, is snarkily asked by a TSA agent what he has to tell the President.

“My name is Khan,” he answers. “And I am not a terrorist.” Then the camera zooms in on the baffled agent and the score swells as if to kick him in the throat and yell PWNED!

The punchline is doubly appropriate, given the real-life Khan’s own run-ins with airport security, and a signal that, though it lacks the musical stylings of more familiar Bollywood fare, Rizwan’s story will not skimp on the melodrama on the way to making its point. But at least it does so effectively.

khan2As he learns after moving to America, Rizwan lives with Asperger’s syndrome. Still, during the first half of the movie, Rizwan’s condition makes him a wiz at repairs, and doesn’t deter him from working as a salesman for his brother (Jimmy Shergill) – or from pursuing a relationship with Mandira (Kajol), a hair stylist he meets during his rounds. The early scenes between Rizwan and Mandira are so bubble-gummy they threaten to make Slumdog Millionaire look cynical, but there’s enough of a contrast between theirs and other rom-com couples to keep the schmaltz from completely overwhelming the viewer.
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Extreme Bumbling: FBI Steals Image of Spanish Politician to Make Bin Laden Poster

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

Reader Carleandria sent us this sorry piece of news:

Spanish lawmaker [Gaspar Llamazares] was horrified to find out the FBI used his photograph as part of a digitally enhanced image showing what Osama bin Laden might look like today.

When I first saw this bit, it seemed like a pretty laughable piece of police work, to be quickly forgotten. But when I think about it more, it seems to exemplify the profoundly inefficient and superficial way that the US Government has carried out the War on Terror, usually to the detriment of Arabs & Muslims the world over (not to mention its own citizens) – or simply anyone who might look remotely like a “terrorist’.

I have to wonder if the FBI has done something like this before and no one has noticed.  It just so happens that this made headlines because the FBI – for some unthinkable reason – used the image of someone with rank; a leftist politician, of all things.

At a press conference last week Llamazares said:

“I was surprised and angered because it’s the most shameless use of a real person to make up the image of a terrorist…It’s almost like out of a comedy if it didn’t deal with matters as serious as bin Laden and citizens’ security.”


Image courtesy of AP Photo/Getty Images via ABC