by Dr. Asha M. Ralph
Sociology/Criminal Justice Concentration
On September 11, 2001, the country was in complete despair following the tragic terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of almost 3,000 people. The world watched as planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and crash into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Understandably, Americans were fearful of another attack and demanded the government to act. Soon thereafter, the military was deployed and the government enacted new legislation and departments to strengthen security measures – The Department of Homeland Security, The Transportation Security Administration, and The Patriot Act. While these measures where necessary to restore the trust and security of American citizens, this also contributed to the “othering” of those who identified as Muslim. Muslims have been stigmatized and viewed negatively far longer than 20 years, but the terrorist attacks heightened the discrimination that they have and continue to face within this country.
History has shown the bias and differential treatment against Muslims following 9/11 and made it easy to invade Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks. But even after this 20-year war, the U.S. has chosen to turn a blind eye to Muslim life with the recent Taliban governmental takeover of that country. Taliban control threatens human and women’s rights and political freedoms, yet the U.S. has retreated and withdrew support. Nearing the tragic date in September, a suicide bomber claimed the lives of least 170 people, including evacuees and 13 U.S. service members at a Kabul airport gate. As a country, we honor military personnel, while indirectly contributing to the erasure of the evacuees who desired freedom. Unfortunately, this is a similar portrayal seen following the attack in 2001 – dismissal of Muslim life.
To truly commemorate this day, America must memorialize those who were lost in the attack, survivors, their families, and first responders. However, we must also acknowledge the wrongful treatment faced by individuals of color and Muslims that resulted out of public fear of those who look differently than the “American norm.” Our disregard for Black and Brown faces has created a perpetual cycle of social injustice within the United States and abroad. To restore the harm caused by the United States and all other parties involved, we must accept our roles in the oppression of people of color and take necessary steps towards holistic healing to discontinue the likelihood of future attacks. Only then can we build healthy and trusting relationships with people of color within America and beyond.