After September 11, there were many documented cases of hate crimes against people who were vaguely brown:
The FBI data suggests a 1,600-percent surge in anti-Islamic hate crimes in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks. The research also found a similar increase in hate crimes against people who may have been perceived as members of Islam, Arabs and others thought to be of Middle Eastern origin.
“We knew that followers of the Islamic faith were victims of hate crimes, but other groups suffered just as badly,” Byers said. “That is the nature of prejudice. People perceived as being different because of the color of their skin or dress, or perhaps mistaken as Islamic, were immediately considered outsiders. They became the new enemy for some Americans.
“Some people reacted to it by physically attacking or harassing any person who they considered to be different, he said. “Only when there were calls for tolerance did the attacks decline.”
Remember Pearl Harbor!
And now, Remember Fort Hood!
(Link is to a billboard posted by a Colorado auto dealership that reads “President or Jihad? Birth certificate? Prove it! Wake up America! Remember Fort Hood!” You gotta feel sorry for another dealership called “Wolf Auto Group,” which has been receiving messages intended for the other idiots.)
Cue the rising American flag and the playing of the National Anthem. And bring out the scary white people who want to remember. And to have vengeance.
I find the rising tide of nationalism to be frightening, because it positions all those real Merkins against the rest of us. From the billboard, you can see that Obama is “not one of us.” He’s a threatening furriner. And this is tied up in the minds of people who also see the American-born Fort Hood shooter as “not one of us.”
The “not one of us” group is huge and all-encompassing, separating the vaguely brown and different folks from the white majority. And the fear and the hatred are driven by our governmental leaders. Recently Don Manzullo (R-IL) commented about the “savage religion.”
So is it a surprise that the general population feels it is acceptable to act out their anger? Valerie Kenney, 54, of [address redacted], a bank teller, has been charged with a hate crime. But apparently she should just get off with a slap on the wrist. Editorials in the Wall Street Journal and the Sun-Times have suggested that verbally abusing another person and yanking their headscarf is no big deal. Let’s address “real crime.” And “real racism,” if we can find any.
I don’t know that it’s possible for people in the majority to understand what hate crimes do to a community. Because they undermine any feeling of safety, and the reactions (“no big deal”) reinforce that nobody gives a shit.
But when we remember Pearl Harbor, we remember 9/11, we remember Fort Hood, we should be filled with sadness and not feelings of vengeance. We should remember that our words and actions can harm innocent victims. And we should remember that we should claim our voices. As true Americans. As patriots. As anti-racists.