When You Are Middle-Easterner in the Post 9/11 USA
If one appears to be of Middle-Eastern descent, they are more objectified towards stereotypical and even racist assumptions related to "terrorist-like" activities, especially in areas such as the airport, subsequent to the 9/11 attacks in New York. My family and I have been considered a "threat" on several occasions simply due to the color of our skin, our last visit to Iran, assumed religion, and the "peculiar" spelling of our names. The aim of the present paper is to analyze the effects 9/11imposed on the American society and the implications stereotyping causes when society deems an entire group as dangerous of harmful; for example, extra precaution taken at airports and inequality among races.
The meaning of events of 9/11 was not only in assertion of terrorism threat to the security of the American citizens and country in general, it also imposed threat for every Middle-Easterner in the Western world (Spanos 293). Terroristic attacks on Twin Towers did not only cause destruction of the symbol of the American economic and financial strength and took numerous lives of innocent people; those attacks became a trigger of human subconscious suspicion to everything new and different (Silberstein 76). It is easy to live in a stable democratic society, with complete reassurance in invulnerability of your country and top safety from the external threats. Under such conditions, people tend to be more opened to the cultural diversity and differences (Gerber and Macionis 54). On the other hand, when Armageddon-like events happen, people tend to feel vulnerable and unprotected; they begin to look for the threat in everything and everyone. Finally, people begin to view diversity and difference as a feature of threat, especially when cultural and religious identity of hijackers fits into the profile of your neighbour. Thus, 9/11 had practically institutionalised and legitimised racism and new type of segregation in the American society (Spanos 293).
Strengthening of security would be comprehensible after 9/11 and could have been justified if it applied to all travellers and not just Muslim identity people. While all Caucasian identity individuals were passing border control within 30 minutes, Middle-Easterners could be detained for hours without water and food, abused verbally and sometimes physically, asked numerous questions, even strip-searched and finally when nothing else was found just let go without even an apology or assistance in packing the baggage which was ruined (Spanos 287). What was the attitude of other travellers? From my personal impression and comments of my friends, the faces of other people expressed either ignorance or triumph of justice – their attitude proved only one thing – return of racism and stereotyping into American society in the new dimension of threat to security (Silberstein 112).
Another concept explaining the issue is conflict theory, according to which certain event or constant inequality between social groups creates a tension and further conflict between socially-stratified classes (Gerber and Macionis 73). In the context of the current events, our social group of Middle-Easterners is not only treated inappropriately in the matters of security, but also in the context of violation of their human rights and privileges of American citizens. The new wave of racism follows the pattern of conflict theory, meaning it moves towards escalation. In this context, “threat factor” became influenced by economic, cultural, religious and general insecurity factors. In this context, is meant that, over the last ten years, racism has evolved from simply viewing Middle-Easterners as terrorists, to blaming us for economic crisis; taking jobs from Caucasian citizens or those who are third or fourth generation citizens; for devaluation of the American traditions, increase in crime rates and even floods (Spanos 294). In other words, one event and human predisposition to stereotypic thinking had resulted in certain marginalisation of our social group from the society as a whole (Silberstein 37).
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