9/11 And Communicated Stereotypes: We Still Cannot Blame An Entire Culture

September 11th, 2012 | Categories: Religion

I was speaking with a friend of mine today about the events of September 11, 2001. Not the events of the terrorist attacks per se. Instead we were talking about the events we experienced as people who lived (and still live) in the immediate area surrounding the Twin Towers.

Over the years we seemed to have different processes for dealing with this specific anniversary. Her response tended towards reliving the experience through television coverage. My response has been to treat the day like any other, but with a bit more sobriety (definition #1) than usual. Still, somehow today my conversation with my friend reminded me that at one point I had a more emotional response.

Fear.

Not fear of terrorists. Actually, quite the opposite.

Fear of those who would label others terrorists without just cause. Emboldened by my fear I posted a plea on an academic teaching and research oriented listserv. I have been a member of CRTNET since before my first post on the list in 1997 but at no other time have I ever posted for emotional reasons as much as academic.

On this anniversary of 9/11 I thought I would share my post from the day after September 11th. I was commuting from Brooklyn where I stayed with friends for two nights, then later my mother-in-law’s for one night, and then my friend John’s house (with use of car) for a week while he was on a business trip to Germany. I occupied my time watching non-stop coverage on the news and overreacting to every airplane that loudly flew overhead. After we were able to come back to my dust covered apartment in lower Manhattan, it took months before we were able to sleep through the night without waking up from the sound of the screeching subway beneath us worried it was another attack.

Item #6464 (13 Sep 2001 06:09) – CRTNET 6245

Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 21:43:42 -0700 (PDT)
From: Anastacia Kurylo <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: We Cannot Blame an Entire Culture

Hello everyone. I am glad to see the list being used
to help us deal with our students and to help them
cope with what is going on. I am writing to offer one
strong recommendation for all of us. I’ll start by
saying I live four blocks from the twin towers. I saw
everything from my fire escape. Everyone I know is
accounted for and safe. I’m in Brooklyn away from the
crime scene. I’m telling you this so you know literally
where I am coming from.

The MOST important thing I think we can do is to help
curb the anti Arab sentiment that is sadly,
inevitable. We need to tell our students that a single
nation is not to blame. We cannot bomb the Middle East
countries, we cannot send the message that that is
what we want Bush to do and what we expect him to do.
Someone put a sign on the window in one of the closed
stores in downtown Manhattan: Bush: just bomb
Afghanastan. . . . I know my responsibility to
the students. We have a lot of power as instructors.
For every student we reach there are parents and
siblings other relatives and friends that they can
reach. The message is not to blame a culture. Blame
the people we know (will know) are responsible.

As interpersonal instructors most of us teach a class
on culture. We have to live up to what we say. Despite
their trauma. They need to know not to REACT with the
same hatred and prejudice that made these terrorists
bomb us. Already I just heard on the news one Arab
owned store was attacked by US citizens putting action
to their misdirected anger.

There are people responsible. We will find out who
they are. They will be punished. But every time a
negative comment about Arabs, or the Middle East is
allowed to go unchecked we are permitting the same
hatred. WE CANNOT BLAME AN ENTIRE CULTURE for this
horrific event. That will not bring the twin towers
back as they were before 8:50am September 11th.

I know this may be controversial for some of you. But
we need to put our personal beliefs aside and give our
best effort NOT to add to hysteria. We need to deal
with the grieving and devestated students. NOT incite
them with a misguided target for their anger.

Anastacia Kurylo
Rutgers University
New York University.

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  1. ercrodrig
    November 28th, 2012 at 16:15

    This is one of the most realistic issues on the expression of stereotypes that there is in our country; the arab terrorist. Recently I was made aware of an internet experiment done by an Iraqi artist in Chicago. the experiment was to give viewers the ability to shoot paintballs either at or around him. Out of 80,000 shots, 65,000 were at him. This number is as real as the racism that there is still present in this country. This experiment was done post-9/11 to test American people on how much they actually believed that a single nation should be blamed for this attack. This experiment was proof that al though people, like yourself, were so inclined to convince the public that a single country should not be blamed the media and the racism and all of the above are still at work making the American public believe otherwise. Now that it is instilled the next step is erasing these beliefs and now the question is 11 years later, how is that even possible?

    http://voices.yahoo.com/chicago-art-exhibit-artist-may-shot-paintball-368745.html

  2. Anastacia Kurylo
    December 5th, 2012 at 11:14

    Really interesting. Thanks for sharing the link!

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