Most of my life I never knew what racism looked like. Not from a first hand perspective. I understood what it was. I knew what it meant but I never really felt it. I was lucky enough to have attended school where I was just taught American History but my history. As a black person growing up in the United States, it was important to know that my history did not begin with slavery.
My elementary school, Cathedral Christian Academy did a wonderful job of teaching that. When I decided to attend an HBCU, Spelman College, I was given more exposure to my identity as a black woman. A required class called African Diaspora and the World out a name to my culture. I may not be African but I am a member of the Diaspora.
I grew up in the 90s, graduated from high school in the early 2000s. The beginning of my Junior year is when the attacks on 9/11 took place. The devastation caused that day will never be forgotten. The effects of 9/11 - mental, physical and other- grow stronger each day. The issue which, in my opinion, has snowballed the most is RACISM.
The Taliban, al-Quaeda, Osama bin Laden were all the enemy after 9/11. But what most of the general public failed to do was separate terrorism from religion. The extreme prejudice and violence targeted towards followers of Islam was unimaginable.The American people jumped on this anti-Iraqi bandwagon and persecuted people because of the country of origin. In ignorance, people from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries were also harassed. While I never actively participated in any racist activity, I will admit that I also held silent fears and oppressive thoughts about people I assumed may be terrorist.
That attacks of 9/11 made it okay to be racist, prejudice and oppressive. It gave the government permission to be slightly more drastic in its travel & immigration policies and policing (additional passport requirements, the formation of Homeland Security and TSA, the separation of ICE from the Department of Treasury). There was a lot going on during the Bush era of politics that made me realize racism was alive and well.
During the Obama era, we took a step towards more inclusive with policy while becoming more racist in practice.The disrespect towards Forever President Barack Obama was unprecedented. It doesn't surprise me that one of the most disrespectful of his critics is now Commander in Chief. Right now the White House and Senate are both controlled by Republicans and once again immigration and travel policies are being shifted.
For 2 months in 2017, Executive Order 13769 - also known as the Muslim Ban- temporarily suspended the US Refugee Admission Program, detained upwards of 700 travelers an revoked 60,000 visas. In the spirit of Making America Great Again, the debauchery at our southern boarder leaves me at a lost for words. When I watch or read the news, it feels like a 21st Century retelling of the Diary of Anne Frank. Instead of the Germans leading the Jews, it's America, leading the Hispanic people into concentration camps.
As Millenials, most of us were just coming of age on September 11, 2001. The world we grew up in was forever changed by the events of that day. What the effects of 9/11 has taught me is that the US is not the home of the free. There is a cost for everything and we are paying the price.