I went to a primarily white elementary school. When 9/11 occurred, it was a shocking, tragic, and extremely scary time period for almost any American. Nobody knew if there would be a follow-up attack, and nobody knew where it would be. Living in fear was a reality many people had to face, and many schools had to consider. Aside from this chaos, I faced a very new challenge: prejudice.
I’m Iranian-American, meaning that I was born in the USA and I was raised bilingual and bicultural. I never really knew the implications of being “alienated” for race until the post-9/11 world. Though, my close friends didn’t change their attitudes toward me, other people did– there was a sense of fear I felt among my peers when my dad would pull up in the front yard to pick me up after class– there was a sense of fear I felt when people asked me if I was Muslim. I had to explain to them that I was technically born Muslim, but nobody in my family practices the religion– and in fact, we celebrated Christmas, Easter, etc.
Even as I grew up, I was always jokingly asked “are you a terrorist?”– I would laugh it off, but now that I’m almost 20 years old, this question is no longer something I can nervously brush off, it’s absolutely infuriating to be CONTINUOUSLY associated with terrorists.
One time, my mom was watering our plants out front, and as soon as one of our neighbors walked on by with her dog, my mom greeted our neighbor only to be responded to with “go back to your country, you damn foreigner!”
I’ll always remember that day, it’s the true epitome of how members of my family and family friends endured, and STILL endure to this day.
9/11 was a horrible event, I still get teary-eyed thinking about the lives lost, the trauma it caused those who survived, and the reinforced hope in humanity it displayed when others were helping others in NYC. But every 9/11, I am also reminded of how this day marked a new era of prejudice toward Middle Easterners, the way my mom was talked to, and the way my classmates acted around me.
Here is a great article that inspired this blog post