What September 11th Means for Black Americans

I want to start by say that I am deeply saddened by the lives that were lost on that dark day. Fourteen years ago last Friday, terrorists hijacked four planes and smashed two into New York’s World Trade Center, a third into the Pentagon, and the fourth crash/landed in field in Pennsylvania. By the end of it all 2,977 people died in those attacks. My heart breaks for them and their families.

My heart also breaks for the lives lost in the eight years of war that ensued after the attacks, especially the Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani civilians who committed no crime.

And now, 14 years after it all happened, I know that for a lot of Black Americans, life has gone on as if nothing ever happened. I search Twitter for the terms “Black #aftersepterber11” it turned up a lot of tweets which expressed the sentiment that life as gone on as usual for Black Americans ever since.  Not because they don’t care, but because it doesn’t feel like this attack on American soil feels like an attack on an America they are a part of.

Life has changed for White people. They have come together, I believe, in fear of people who are “different” or “other”. A lot of White American have become justified in their racism and their extreme Nationalism. They have found the excuse that will always work for why it is okay to treat dark skinned people with suspicion and violence. No, not all white people, but enough to make people who aren’t white take notice.

Life, I imagine, has changed most dramatically for people of Arab decent, or who appear to be of Arab of decent. They have been profiled, harassed, detained, assaulted, hated, and murdered, all because of a fear that they are all secretly planning to hurt (White) Americans. Even little kids have been affected by this, in fact it is often over looked that for young people of Arab decent living in this country, 9/11 will be the major defining event in your life.

While most of the reaction to 9/11 has been racial, a lot of it is also religious. Ignorance and fear has lead many Americans to have an false and dangerous view of what Islam is, which has led to widespread Islamophobia. Most Muslims practice a peaceful, loving and compassionate interpretation of Islam.

It has been said that Arab is the new Black and I have to agree that it is true. I get the feeling a lot of Americans, a lot of White Americans, would like to see them “go back to their country”. A lot of White Americans worry they will be the target of Arab violence, the way they do with Blacks. White Americans are in favor of incarceration for Arab Americans without due process. White Americans blame the Arab Americans for their own treatment. And they do not want to hear the ways in which their actions have hurt these people. They need to “just get over it”.

You would think that this would bring the two communities together, and maybe it has a little, but not as much as I’d like to see. Add to this that the fact that the plight of Black Muslims has been largely ignored by this and Black people just do not consider this to be their fight. I also admit that there are many Black Americans who treat Arab Americans with the same contempt that White Americans do. I see this as a means for them to elevate their own social standing and gain access to “Whiteness” which they see as “good”.

I’d like to see the two groups coming together more. Black Americans who are not Muslim should show more effort to include Arabs in movement like #BLACKLIVESMATTER. I know there are already groups of people who agree. I’d also like to see less racism from Arab Americans too. There has been a long history of anti-blackness in the Arab American communities. We’ve seen this story before as each new group immigrants to america they adopt the predominant view of Black people to gain social standing and better integrate with American society.

In a time when extremists are giving people a reason to fear black and brown-skinned people, maybe the legacy for us is not to try to be a part of the America that cries #NeverForget while telling us that the suffering of immigrants and minorities is nothing but us being sensitive and lazy. Maybe the America that says “See Something, Say Something” and speaks of terrorists in hiding around every corner while dropping bombs on civilians in other countries without a care isn’t the America we should even try to be a part of.

It’s not like we are being invited in with open arms anyway.

Black Americans have to work hard at letting our Arab brothers and sisters know we see them and their struggle and we will not take part in the growing racism and Islamophobia gripping this country. We have to also let them know that more than that we will help them fight! Their struggling is connected to that of Black Americans and we ought to feel more empathy and compassion for them.


So this 9/11 think of the dead, think of the heroes, and think about the ways in which this tragedy has affected YOUR life. Now think about the ways it has affected people who look differently from you. Think about the ways those people have been silenced and treated as second class citizens. If you are a minority, think about how similar that is to the way you and the people you know have been treated.

Now think about what you can do to help that.

In response to Daily Post’s Blogging U. course, Writing 101 assignment: Let social media inspire you


15 Replies to “What September 11th Means for Black Americans”

  1. I’m often surprised by how often my perception of things can be quickly changed by the right person pointing something out. Thank you for this post. It’s opened my eyes to a perspective I hadn’t considered.

    In truth I hate Sept. 11. It was a tragic day with even more tragic consequences. It’s a day when Facebook is flooded with memorials and commentary. Twitter is much, much worse. Filled with ignorant and comments about Islam. Every year the most hateful are the loudest. We have still so far to go in waging peace.


    1. I’m glad to have changed your perspective a little. Good to know someone out there is listening. I hate the ignorant comments as well. I hoped to make a tiny bit of change with this post. I’m afraid it will be a long time before it changes as much as I’d like.

      Thank you again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You make a good point that 9/11 was a terrible tragedy for many different communities. I believe that the human race has a future where racism no longer exists. Every person who stands up to be counted and clearly says racism does exist and is wrong brings that future a step closer.


    1. I hope you are right about the future, I really do. Some days it feels like we might never get there. I agree that we all need to stand up and say “this is happening and it is wrong”! That is what I tried to do here.

      Thank you for reading.


  3. I haven’t thought of racism and 9/11 except for the obvious one about the increased racism against anyone who could remotely be seen as Arab (regardless of where they are from, just being brown-ish). I’m having a little trouble with your clumping White American reactions together. As a white American, WA, ( :) )I haven’t seen what you are talking about (again, with the exception of brown-ish foreign types). As a WA, I have seen the economy get worse. That’s how 9/11 affected me the most, especially the years immediately afterwards, when companies restructured in very odd ways. (Like no longer using free-lance artists in advertising jobs, moving everything in house… like wtf does that have to do with 9/11? But it happened.)

    As a WA I have watched the Facebooking of 9/11. Throw up a picture of a flag with “never forget” and we feel all good about ourselves. Like that’s doing something. Fifty years from now 9/11 will be as commercialized as Christmas and we’ll have all sorts of lawn decorations. (They are probably available now…)

    I think you make some great points and observations certainly worth thinking about. I would caution against such rigorous type casting of us guys, the WAs, though. You aren’t speaking my reality.


    1. Of course I do not mean ALL White Americans, and I do not mean to say they haven’t been affected negatively as well. I only mean to say they haven’t been affected in this way. I also think they should be aware of the ways others are affected.

      I foresee a lot of 9/11 sales and cookouts in our future too.

      Thanks for reading :)


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