Readers Want Justice for All on 9/11 Anniversary

A round-up of some of this week's best reader-lead conversations.

By Channing Kennedy Sep 10, 2010

Welcome to the weekend, all.

This week, we saw tensions rise unabatedly around the idea that Muslims can also be Americans, at a level unseen since September 11, 2001. Is the media fueling it? (Yes.) Is it election season? (Yes.) Is there a kernel of real anxiety in it, the same anxiety that our nation experiences every time its identity undergoes an inevitable expansion? Oh yes.

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We’ve gotten some great discussion on Rinku Sen’s "This 9/11, Let’s All Take Responsibility For Ending A Summer of Hate" — her reflection on her friend and coauthor Fekkak Mamdouh’s pre- and post-9/11 experiences, first as an employee at the World Trade Center, and later as an organizer and advocate. Commenter Hanuman speaks about his experiences as a Sikh who observes the five articles of faith:

I am Sikh and have been confused for Muslim a number of times and have been the recipient of hate rhetoric, once a half-hour-long tirade about how I was Bin Ladin, Arab terrorist bomber, etc., a rhetoric I was afraid to stop for fear of the violence the stopping might incite. First my reaction was self-pity, then pity for all the little Sikh boys who get beat up for wearing patkas to school, then pity for the actual Muslims who have to put up with this abuse every day. It is simply not right. People deserve the freedom to have a life and to go through it calmly, coolly, with expectation for a good day, not the expectation of abuse and violence. 9/11 was like ten years ago now. Time to get over it and let the vast number of Muslims who had nothing to do with it live their lives just like everybody else does.

And ColorLines contributor Victor Goode reminds us of our nation’s history with ‘others’ of any color:

In the later part of the 19th century it was Catholicism that was attacked as the foreign religion. As waves of southern and mostly Catholic European immigrants entered he US there was a backlash that bears striking resistance to todays Islamaphobia.

Numerous editorials ran claiming that Catholicism was a foreign religion incompatible with American values and that catholics could never integrate into American society. Sound familiar?

In a case called Pierce vs. Society of Sisters decided in 1925, a state law in Oregon sought to ban private catholic schools. The Supreme Court eventually overturned those efforts holding that parents had a fundamental right to educate their children as they saw fit, including sending them to private religious schools. But a little know fact from the case was that the anti-Catholic movement in Oregon was lead by the Ku Klux Klan. Xenophobia, anti-cathilc bias and anti-immigrant sentiments found a comfortable home in the racist politics of the Klan.

It took years before this bias against catholics, subsided. It is tragic that we see the same "them vs. us" bias rearing its head again, but this time the target Muslims. While much is being said about the importance of "religious tolerance" as an American value, we unfortunately ignore our history of virulent religious and anti-immigrant bias, and so once again we repeat it.

On Julianne Hing’s article, "Protests, Outrage after LAPD Gunman Kills Guatemalan Father of Three," Adam22 calls for solidarity across communities:

The Rampart district has long been a haven of corruption and police-sanctioned violence. Remember the Rampart scandal of the late ’90s which charged over 70 members of the department with misconduct? This looks like more of the same. I am a Black American living in the area where this happened. Although well aware of the divisions between Blacks and Latinos, I also understand the source of this division and refuse to play into the hands of the dividers, as many did when the LAPD used covert violence and underhanded tactics to bring an end to the L.A. gang truce of the early-mid ’90s. If more non-minorities and non-immigrants would speak out against this kind of abuse of official power, we all could enjoy safer, more harmonious communities. If more Whites would look into the history of official abuse of power by the LAPD, perhaps they would gain a more thorough understanding of why minorities tend to view police in an adversarial way. We, the targets, cannot end this abuse on our own. It takes people of conscience from all backgrounds.

We’ll leave you with a reader-made video posted on another of Julianne’s articles on police shootings this week. On "Seattle Demands Answers After Cop Shoots Native American Man," AngryBroomstick calls for the deaf community and its allies to formally denounce the actions of the Seattle police. She shares this short, powerful video made after the news of John T. Williams’ death, in American Sign Language with captions, that explains the shooting and its impact on her safety as a deaf woman of color.