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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How has Sept. 11 defined us?

Over and over, television channels across the country replayed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Planes crashing into buildings. Osama bin Laden's mug shot. A smoking Pentagon. The faces of the terrorists plastered on television screens around the world. Repeat planes. Repeat Osama. Repeat Pentagon. Repeat terrorists. But eventually, the actual events flooded into the ignorant minds of many Americans and translated into destructive, unfair, racial profiling.

In Flint, a convenience store down the street from my aunt and uncle's house was burned down shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Why? Because the owners were Arab.

The December following that horrible September morning, a friend and I were shuffling through new airport security before a flight to Germany. A family sat across from us at our terminal. A mother. A father. Three small children running around playing games, giggling. All of them — with their dark hair and brown skin, the father's head wrapped up in a turban — fit the mold.

"I don't want to fly with those people," my friend said nodding in their direction, "What if they blow up the plane?"

And it turned out she wasn't the only one reacting to this family with blatant, ignorant racism. I sat there and watched, horrified, as an airport security guard, decked out in an intimidating uniform — guns hanging from his hips — interrogated this family and later led them to a room behind locked doors where I can only imagine what happened.

Eventually, the family emerged from behind the doors with exhausted, shocked looks on their faces. The children were silent. The mother and father held each other's hands. They boarded the same plane we did. Imagine this — they didn't blow it up.

These are just two isolated incidents that happened within my realm. But, of course, many more acts of racism and hate crimes toward Sikh, Muslim, Arab, Afghan and South Asian Americans were committed after Sept. 11. [Link]

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