Monday, July 11, 2016

9/11: Stories From the Other Side

Today, like the previous week, I woke up and got ready for a busy day in class. I walked over to the McNeil Building and took a seat. Soon after, the professor started to talk about the meanings of the words migration, emigration and immigration. Migration is just the act of moving to a new place, emigration is moving out of a country and immigration is moving into another country. With this he gave us a break down of the history of immigration and how race and identity defined the interactions newcomers had with the “original” settlers of North America. I put original in quotation marks because they weren’t the first people in what we now know as North America. The Native Americans were but my point is that ever since then there has been a dynamic of what it looks like to be an American and that affects minorities even if they are born in “the land of the free.”
Valerie Talking to the class through Skype about her film, United We Fall

Our guest speaker, Valerie Kaur, was the creator of the film United We Fall. This film depicts the backlash that the Sikh and Muslim communities faced after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. At the time she was 20 years old and embarked on a trip all across America to collect stories of Sikh people that were being unfairly targeted by so called Americans because they looked like terrorist because of their skin color and the turbans on their heads. 

In her film she talked to many of the victims of hate crimes like a woman that when she was at a stop light, a couple of guys opened her door and threatened to slit her throat. Luckily they didn’t but they cut her head a couple times. This woman wasn’t a terrorist. On the contrary, she was a business owner that contributed to society. 

One of the big stories she focused on was that of a man that was shot outside of his gasoline station by a guy in a truck. He wasn’t as fortunate as the woman. He passed away leaving behind his grieving family and a multitude of people that respected him in his community. Valerie found her voice through the film and brought attention to the discrimination that her Sikh community was going through.

One thing that Valerie said that by recording what was happening around her, she became part of it. She was no longer a spectator but took part in the sad story she was reporting. She was harassed and discriminated against in her journey and at times felt in physical danger but she pushed through. She is an example for all the young people like me, to take action. She was 20 years old when she took a leap of faith and helped create awareness about violence and discrimination.

We talked about some of this in our small discussion groups but we mainly focused on race and policing. Regarding that topic, we talked about how white criminals get painted as having a bad life and having no other outlet for their feelings other than committing crimes but when it's a person of color they paint them as ruthless criminals even if it was a petty offense. This socially creates a divide in how we approach each case based off the color of the criminal’s skin and/or cultural background.

I really like today’s topic because it touched on the assumptions people make based on how someone or a group of people look. The Sikhs, just like the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, were deliberately targeted because of a crime they did not partake in at any point. Even to this day Islamophobia is deeply ingrained into the mindsets of many people. Maybe in not obvious ways but just by feeling insecure when someone with a turban walks by or having to do an extra search at an airport just because someone has brown skin and a beard. Racism is not about blunt expressions but about the micro-aggressions in everyday situations.  

Tomorrow we will be talking about sexuality and gender and how they are both a social construct yet they affect the lives of everyone. Mostly the people that don’t fit into a binary like gender is perceived.

1 comment:

  1. Something you might bring up in your class was how, through the years, recent immigrants turned on other immigrants. We’re not talking about today or yesterday but back in the 1800’s.

    In New York City there was a fierce backlash against the Irish that were pouring in during the 1860’s. Even though most of the ‘Americans’ had only been in the US for a single generation, they could not abide these new immigrants coming into ‘their’ country.

    Talk about how we discriminated against Asians from the 1850’s through the 1930’s. In San Francisco they used to burn down the Chinatowns and Japantowns and often lynched people with yellow skin. We had strict immigration laws against people from Asia. Angel Island was the Ellis Island of the West Coast and was full of Asians who were trapped here either being allowed to stay or having the means to return home.