- Posted September 7, 2011 by
San Jose, CA, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Share your 9/11 story
America vs. America: Sikh-American Recalls Backlash of 9/11
'It's hard to explain what emotions I am exactly feeling in the ten years since the attacks. I definitely am proud of our country, there are so many brave citizens who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect our country and truly I commend them for that. On the other hand, I feel ashamed. Ashamed, that there are so many people in our country who are willing to place 'blame' on innocent individuals by intimidating them and questioning how 'American' they really are. Although we have come far as a country in these past ten years, there is still much more that needs fixing. I tend to believe that time heals all, America just hasn’t healed yet.'
- zdan, CNN iReport producer
American vs. America: Sikh-American Recalls Backlash of 9/11
We all remember incidences that shape and impact our lives. I recall waking up on September 11th, 2001-give or take around 7:30am. The sky was blue and the sun was shining bright on that fall morning. In my life, it was just another day for a 12–year-old, Sikh-American teenager in 7th grade. At this moment, I didn’t know this day would change my life forever and the lives of many Americans throughout the nation.
I heard the TV blasted on the morning of September 11th but I didn’t pay much attention to it as I thought it was just a normal morning. I heard commotion coming from the TV set, then my dad called me over. We were watching coverage of Flight 175 flying into the South Tower; the coverage repeated itself, over and over again. I stood there in awe, shocked! I stared at the screen in disbelief, the attacks were more than 2,500 miles away from me – but I felt like it was in my own backyard. At that age, I didn’t even know what The World Trade Center was.
Living on the West Coast, students in California were still allowed and encouraged to attend school. While I sat in my 1st period Science class my school principal addressed the situation that had unfolded on the East Coast, hours prior. My classmates and I rose for a moment of silence for the lives that had been lost and we were encouraged to ask our teacher questions. At that moment, I felt like there was a period of unity throughout the nation.
America was brought together, old relationships had been reconciled, neighbors were united, and many cars & homes displayed the American flag proudly. On the other end of the spectrum, there was black smoke lingering in the air – a backlash toward people who “looked” a certain way. Days and weeks after the attack there was much animosity in the air. Middle Easterners and South Asians were being harassed, ridiculed and attacked.
At this time, I recall receiving emails from members of the Sikh community urging people to stay safe. They advised us to avoid being alone, walk away if somebody harasses you, carry a cell phone when out in public, and collectively monitor Sikh owned businesses and houses of worship. At that time, more and more news flourished, hate crimes were on the rise against Americans who didn’t “look American”.
I remember thinking about what was going on. I was an American and so were the members of the communities being attacked; Sikh, Muslim, South Asian, Arab & darker skinned Americans alike. My family had been in this country for a quarter of a century and we were being told to stay clear of attacks from people within our own country - Americans fighting Americans? How did that make sense?
As Gandhi once said “An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind”. Why couldn’t people understand that?
The last 10 years have been challenging for Americans in terms of coping with the aftermath of 9/11. It has been tough for families who have lost loved ones and for those affected by the backlash.
Since 9/11 - people of color are more likely to be racially profiled, searched, harassed and attacked based on appearance alone. Now that we approach the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, there is a lot that has changed and much more that still needs to be changed. I am happy to say that I hold a piece of that puzzle which will bring change upon America, to create a more accepting society where people of all faiths and beliefs can be treated equally.
Headquartered in New York, The Sikh Coalition is a non profit organization that works toward creating a place where human and civil rights are available for ALL people. I am a volunteer advocate for The Sikh Coalition, in the Bay Area. As a grassroots advocate, my duty is to fight for civil rights both locally and nationally.
I hope that in due time, all Americans will be able to peacefully coexist regardless of characteristics that may make us difference than one another. Our uniqueness is what defines who we are as Americans, be loud, be proud & embrace it!
- Saranjit Kaur Banga