Acting Out of Fear

Freedom Tower

Photo by A. Yee (Flickr).

What 9/11 meant for hate crimes

By Sylvana Uribe Community Editor

In roughly three of my classes this semester, my professors have posed the same question: “are you guys too young to remember 9/11?” 

No, I remember it perfectly. Its aftermath taught me the dangers of acting out of fear. It was the first time I was introduced to the word “terrorist.” 

At six years old, I couldn’t connect the billowing clouds of smoke or dazed faces covered in debris with the realities of the situation. All I could process was that every day felt tense and hostility toward people whose skin was not much darker than my own intensified.

What I was most troubled by was how the pain of the events manifested itself into lashing out against those who fit people’s idea of the “enemy.”

I’d eventually come to learn that this behavior is deeply rooted in American history. This was the Pearl Harbor of the 21st century and the masses needed to direct their anguish, tears and anger somewhere else. 

These sentiments were the kindling thrown in to fuel the fire of Islamaphobia. 

Balbir Singh Sodhi was the first to lose his life in a post-9/11 hate crime. Residing in Arizona, Sodhi was shot and killed as he arranged American flags outside of the gas station he worked at. His killer justified his beliefs of shooting “towel-heads” because he was a “patriot and an American.” 

Fifteen years later, the antagonization of actual or assumed Muslims in this country continues. Does the name Ahmed Mohamed ring a bell? Last year, he was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school, which his teachers assumed was a hoax bomb. 

Solidarity against the racial profiling directed toward Mohamed was shown on social media through “#IStandWithAhmed,” and brought to the forefront the prevalence of Islamaphobia in today’s society.

Several of those concepts are rooted in Orientalism, which has shaped Western views of Eastern countries. Orientalism categorizes those in the East as exotic and devoid of structure. 

These roots are what have painted the people in these regions as barbaric aggressors who only understand concepts laced with violence and death. 

Fear is rooted in the very things we don’t understand. 

Fear centered around a society is what has led to the harassment of women on beaches for wearing burkinis. 

It’s what makes agents at airport keep a closer eye on some passengers more than others. It’s what led to Hollywood casting darker actors as suicide bombers or enemies in their films. It’s what fuels supremacist politicians to enter office and dismantle a society. 

Sept. 11 isn’t remembered for the sake of keeping this wound open. It is remembered as a moment in American history where time stood still. A time where we didn’t know what tomorrow would entail. 

We’ve spent the past 15 years picking up the pieces, yet there are voices invading the mainstream calling for a ban of Muslims and denying its existing issues with race. There is still so much more to mend.

So yes, I do remember 9/11.

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