American



Since the tragedies of Sept. 11 there has been a storm of emotions, reactions, counter-reactions, retractions and ultimately the talk of war. Right now, I don't know what to feel or how to feel. There are those who want the terrorists to be eradicated. And there are those who see it fit for the healing process to start now. It seems, however, that the media, especially television, is more concerned about the nation's pursuit of war and the obvious crimes committed against the United States.

Sadly, Americans are deprived of the horror that it is doing to itself and its own countrymen. There are American citizens who are scared to go out into public for the simple reason of being hated: just because they are or seem to be of Arab descent.

Aren't we living in the same country that just released a new single that re-mixed Marvin Gaye's classic "What's Going On?" Dozens of talented artists from all different racial and cultural backgrounds singing about "unity and peace." One can make the statement that those who feel this hatred for the Arab-Americans are ignorant; but is that a valid excuse for their actions? In my opinion, these people, these Americans, are racist.

I try to stay away from vocalizing my opinions on the subject at hand, for I know my viewpoints are not those of the majority. I feel, however, it necessary that I speak out to shed light on the topic. What hurts me the most is that even in a university atmosphere, people still listen or hear what they want to hear.

Recently, I gave a presentation in my pluralism class about racism in the media. My professor thought it would be best for everyone to write an essay about my presentation. To my surprise, a lot of the feedback I received was criticism on the students' skewed perception of my presentation. It made me realize that the students, similar to the media, hear, see and feel what they want to.

As the professor read out the essays I felt like a villain. Or maybe a lot of the students thought that I was a villain for the simple reason that I was pointing out norms in our society that are wrong and racist. To debunk my presentation and my train of thought, some students felt it best to take words that I have uttered and situate them into different arrangements. I sat there during class, listening and smiling because I knew I had had an impact on those students.

You as the reader of this article will question what does my experience in my class have to do with the whole Sept. 11 tragedy. Well, the simple correlation I like to make with these two events is that America is still racist. The students in my class would like to feel that racism is not such a big problem anymore. But open your eyes to something more than what the media feeds you. In the wake of a movement where American citizens are uniting, we are hurting and sometimes killing our own people. Why must Muslim Americans be scared to be who they are in public or in private? Why must a Hindu be run over by a car on Long Island?

Everyone in America is hyphenated. You are either African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American or even Arab-American and so on. But after the tragedy of Sept. 11, the Arab-Americans have lost their hyphenation to American society. Now they are viewed as Arabs. The hyphenation has this effect of causing me to feel half American, as if I am not equal to an "American." My citizenship or even my birthright cannot extinguish this feeling of this institutionalized racism. I am and want to be recognized as an American.

Citizens of the country should treat each other equally. Everybody's ancestors immigrated to America; neither you nor I has a lesser or greater claim on America. The usage of hyphenating American citizens is pure unadulterated racism. I am an American of Asian descent, specifically Korean. Am I not your equal?

In Talib Kweli's album, "Reflection Eternal," there is a song titled "Four Woman." In this particular song, Kweli meets an elderly woman and she speaks to him about her life, in which she was labeled as "nigger, negro, African-American, black and nigger again." The point is, America as a nation and as a society labels its people, especially minorities, to make them feel like minorities or unequal to the "Americans."

Those of Asian descent are called chinks, gooks, japs, slant eyes, pang-pangs and so on and so on. Whereas those of Hispanic descent are called spics, wet backs and on and on for other minorities in America. Many Arab-Americans are feeling the backdraft of the recent tragedy. In my opinion, a lot of our fellow Americans of Arab descent feel less of an American today; because many "ignorant" Americans feel that they are responsible for the tragedy of Sept. 11.

A friend of mine, Lenee Dancey, who is a junior accounting major said,"without unity, we cannot have peace." Let that quote marinate in your mind. How can we have unity in America or even UB when there is someone who hates African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and especially Americans of Arab descent?