Today is 9/12, the day I think about what happened after 9/11. I’m from NYC, so I mourn all those who died during the attack. But there’s another part of the story, about how America reacted. There’s a dominant narrative that says “we all came together” which isn’t remotely true. Instead, it’s a story of how some parts of America came together against an imagined other, both inside and outside, creating a legacy of hate we still live with today.
Here’s Kiese Laymon talking about his experience:
On September 12, I watched my Pakistani neighbors plaster their Corollas in “I Love the U.S.A.” bumper stickers and dress their newborn in a red, white, and blue outfit I’d seen at Marshalls. I didn’t understand.
Three days later, on September 15, I decided to take the Metro North down to New York City to volunteer at Ground Zero. On the way to the train, I watched white folk in broad daylight grip their purses and bags, like they always did when big black boys like me walked by.
The Poughkeepsie station was packed with slack-faced soldiers holding M-16s who stood next to ignorant-looking German Shepherds. When I got on the train, a dark-skinned South Asian family was seated in front of me. The entire family wore clothing in variations of red, white, and blue. The father placed a suitcase above their seat; on it a sticker proclaimed, “Proud to be an American.” Now I understood.
“If they reach in that bag, I know something,” a young black man with green wristbands said to his friend.
“What you know?” I asked.
“I know they better not try to blow up this train,” he said, loud enough so everyone in our car could hear. “That’s what I know.”
A white man whose chest hair looked like it was soaked in curl activator nodded affirmatively across the aisle from us and gave the young brother a thumbs up. “U.S.A., right?” the white man asked.
“You already know,” he shot back. “U.S.A.” [link]