Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Post 9/11 America

The following was written by: Neha Rayamajhi

Seven years ago years ago I would have never imagined myself being anxious about a date. I would have never imagined having to mentally and emotionally remind myself to remain calm and careful just because it is September the 11th.

The people killed in the incident thirteen years ago were not related to me. The killers responsible for these murders are not related to me. The political groups that have continuously abused this tragedy as a propaganda tool are not associated with me. The religion that is wrongly and continuously accused for all this is not mine. And neither is the land where this happened. Nor the people who witnessed that moment from a closer distance; geographically, politically and personally.

September 11th 2001, I was a little girl in Nepal almost twelve, almost eight –thousand miles away, almost oblivious to the disaster taking place inside the television blasting loud, surrounded by grownups in my grandfather’s house. All I understood was that some “evil men” had murdered innocent people in America. But then “evil men” were murdering innocent people everywhere, everyday, including my own country where Maoist insurgency had started taking a very violent toil. The unfamiliar face of an angry white man on the television told us to take a moment of silence in respect to the lives lost. And we did, that day for the people of America and the next day for the people of other countries mourning their and our own similar tragedies.

Seven years ago the same day as I sat in a classroom in my new American college, I was startled by subtle stares I received whenever the professor mentioned those”evil terrorists.” The class was full of American students who hadn't quite had the time to learn about my background, or the geography of Asia it seemed, but the stares made me uncomfortable. They were not hateful, at least not all of them, but they made me feel uncomfortable. I did not understand the connection.

“But you do look like an Arab.” Clarified one of my classmates much later. And I still did not see the connection.

The years following that have been different. Different in a sense that I have now become accustomed to the stereotypes and homogenization of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and of Arabs, Afghans, (South) Asians; and to the realization that in a post 9/11 era our status as immigrants from the continent has morphed from being “the other” to the “dangerous other.”

Irrespective of our diverse cultural, historical and geographical backgrounds, we have now been lumped into a single category. And to some extent it makes sense, considering the shared experiences of being welcomed with offensive names, remarks about our “barbaric” religions, “smelly curry,” funny accents and such. As well as the expectations that come with the myth of a model minority. The high expectations from us to be able to tolerate racism and xenophobia, while silently and submissively making profits for the boardrooms and classrooms seem to bond us together. We are a single category. And the last seven years have been different because I am no longer concerned about disassociating myself with this category, or any other group(s) I am generalized into.

I am however, still concerned about the fact that those subtle stares still make me as uncomfortable as before. I am still frustrated about the fact that “the others” in this society are unconsciously or otherwise, held responsible for harmful acts that we have nothing to do with. I am still angry about the fact that I find myself, and my kin, having to explain or apologize on behalf of murderers (or suspected murders) just because they possibly sound or look like us. It is ironic that immigrants and people of color continue to sacrifice for nations yet in any time of tragedy they continue to be the sacrificial lamb.

Things have changed since I was twelve. I can no longer look at 9/11 as an outsider. Official immigration policies, unofficial attitudes of people, stares I still get since my first September in America, the heated arguments with my cohorts, micro aggressions on social media sites, news of family and friends getting harassed online or in public spaces everything reminds me that I can no longer distance myself from the attack on America in September of 2011. And at the same time, all these things simultaneously remind me that I am an outsider as if I should be apologetic about my otherness.

All seven years of being here, I have had to remind myself to be calm and careful around this date. This year is no different.

Tomorrow another angry white man in the television will tell me to take a moment of silence for the lives lost this day on this land thirteen years ago. And I will take that moment, with all my sincere respect for them, but also for the millions of others who have lost their lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and other nations, because of this day thirteen years ago. May all of them rest in peace.

This reflection was written by Neha Rayamajhi you can follow her on twitter @NehaRaySays
Find a list of her contributions in the "About Us" section 

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