Sacramentan, A. J. L. says, “How the memory of September 11th changed me most is to make me think about the diverse and ancient Middle Eastern ancestry of my family members. It’s scary to think of the reaction of many people toward people of Middle Eastern ancestry who are Americans and yet still ‘look’ Middle Eastern.
“There are stereotypes that are ingrained and yet have to be to dealt with for example, when a colleague at work says in a group meeting, “You look like a…..” And you have to find a politically correct, socially respectful, appropriate answer that still leaves you proud that you come from one of the oldest civilizations in the world and at the same time are an American and the grandchild of an American as well as the grandmother of other Americans who make a difference by being hard-working physicians.
“In August 1964 I was beaten up by a total stranger who ordered me not to return to my seat in a public commuter train for looking too Middle Eastern. He shouted epithets also using a specific ethnic word. Sure, he was probably mentally disturbed. But I didn’t want this to happen again after September 11, 2001. Back in 1964 I was mistaken for one type of West Asian as I was riding back from New Jersey to New York by train. And I didn’t want to be attacked and beaten up 37 years later for looking too much like another type of West Asian. At the time I was 22, married, and pregnant. And the stranger seemed to just not like the way I looked–too Middle Eastern, perhaps.
“So why should I feel so scared of my looks after September 11th now that I’m in my seventies? What am I scared of? Not my dress. I dress like any other American. Is it my facial features? Am I so afraid I’ll be singled out and beaten up again just for looking well, Middle Eastern?
“The memory itself is difficult to deal with when you call your children and they won’t bring up the subject. Why is it important for total strangers to ask where my ancestors came from–in the past two centuries? And why are strangers such as food servers and people you meet at public gatherings so often telling me from what state my accent originates to make general conversation? Don’t they realize this makes a person feel singled out of the warm, cozy feeling of being part of the melting pot, the salad bowl, the anonymous crowd of comfort in being able to fit in and be accepted by any and all peoples?
“When you look Middle Eastern to strangers in the USA around you, it makes you wonder that since September 11th, how do you deal with the stares or comments from people you’ve never met who ask personal questions like where are you from or even what are you–as if you’re not part of the entire human race?
“The only way to deal with it is honestly saying that the diversity in the USA is about unity. We all stand together as a nation undivided. That’s what democracy, freedom, and human rights are all about. The September 11th date is a call for unity in diversity–out of many, one nation.
“Otherwise, you’re left to turn to numerology for the ‘noetic’ symbol of the number eleven, which stands for pairing up and togetherness. The moral compass in the symbol of September 11th is not to divide the nation into a concept of ‘them’ and ‘us.’ We are all members of the human race. And the greenest path is democracy, human rights, and equality for all.
“That’s how togetherness begins. If the ‘date’ makes you think of cultural clash or the concept that different cultures cannot live together, the memory is about just the opposite. On Sept. 11th, the entire country moved together in unity as one nation indivisible. We stood together for that moment. And it’s up to us to continue the concept of one nation indivisible. I look about as Middle Eastern as you can look as one example of diversity in Sacramento representing unity as we all stand together, one nation as Americans.”