I was in middle school when 9/11 happened. I remember our teacher stopping class to turn on the T.V. to see the Twin Towers crumbling. It was smoky and confusing, but the fallout was even worse.
The attacks changed race relations in America. It didn’t turn people into racists. Rather, it brought out the worst in people who were already prejudiced. In their newly imagined court of justice, it was somehow OK to scream at so-called “turban-heads” or assault someone who spoke with a Middle Eastern accent. Oddly, as dark-skinned people, we had to pay for the sins of the dark-skinned terrorists.
Nearly nine years have passed, but the wounds still haven’t healed. Attempts to build an Islamic mosque two blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center have been met with resistance from many in New York and around the country.
“This is demeaning. This is humiliating that you would build a shrine to the very ideology that inspired the attacks on 9/11,” yelled one protester at a community board meeting held last month to approve the center.
In a landslide vote, the board acted correctly to allow the mosque. It should be permitted near Ground Zero.
The war against terrorism is not a war of whites versus Middle Easterners or Christians versus Muslims, as rabble-rousers would like the public to believe. It is a war of ideas; it is of radicals versus moderates and of violence versus open-mindedness.
“That is what is of importance today: Who are we as a nation? After the horror of that day, we transcended all of the barriers that separate us and we came together as a nation,” Talat Hamdani, a Middle Eastern woman whose son died in the 9/11 attacks, said at the board meeting.
This may be a tired old message of racial unity, but some Americans need reminding. Pundits complain that the only response to the irritating trend of political hyper-correctness is to be deaf to all insults against egalitarian principles.
Some even believe in the illusion of a perfect status quo. A recent University of Washington poll finds that nearly three-fourths of Tea Party supporters do not believe the government should protect equal rights for minorities.
But Americans should be sensitive to bigotry. We ought to take the initiative to finally clear the Twin Towers’ smoke; we cannot be both tolerant and intolerant at the same time. By firmly advocating for the New York mosque, we affirm that America supports freedom through civil rights.
Neil Manimala is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.