Last week, I wrote about how the challenges of this class extend far beyond anything that can be explained on a syllabus, and this week I suppose is more of the same. However, what I’ve been struggling with this week, or rather the past couple of weeks, is the comment Jordan had heard and brought up in class. The specific comment, which I believe she said was made by a fellow student in another one of her classes was something along the lines of “All New Yorkers have the right to hate Arabs because of September eleventh.”
When Jordan first reiterated the comment to us I was quite taken aback and found myself unable to contribute to the ensuing discussion that was rather brief but felt like an eternity. Before I could even think, the answer “yes” popped into my head, which shocked me even more than the comment itself. How could this idea, which was essentially one of a racism pass, be OK with me? I found myself wondering how I could have such an insensitive reaction after being exposed to everything we have discussed thus far in class and after having the experiences of multicultural psychology, social psychology, a class in African American studies, and working on a research project exploring the own race bias. If nothing else, I was able to take solace in the fact that I was disturbed by my reaction and was making an effort to understand it.
However, even as I’m writing this, I am finding the task of ignoring the emotions that come flooding back when I recall my own experience on one of the most defining days in American history to be utterly impossible. I live in northern New Jersey, about a twenty minute drive from where the towers used to stand and many people in my community were directly affected by the attacks. Initially our community breathed a collective sigh of relief at the massive gathering at our church on that day, as we thought that only five people had been lost. By no stretch of the imagination was this good news, but compared to the amount of people in our town who worked in towers and around them, it was relatively small. In the weeks following, however, we were all paralyzed by fear as it seemed that everyday we were getting news of more people who never came home. The final number was a staggering twenty people. The impact of this event on our town was so devastating and I can honestly say that trying to extinguish this bias is going to be an extremely difficult task but one that I do feel up to and one that I feel is worth working through.