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Remembering 9/11: The day that changed for undocumented Latino immigrants

LatinaLista — There’s no doubt that the events of 9/11 changed our nation and the world. In remarks today commemorating the anniversary of the country’s worst case of domestic terrorism, President Obama told a somber crowd gathered at the Pentagon:

President Obama remembers the Pentagon victims of 9/11.

“When the history books are written the true legacy of 9/11 will not be one of fear or hate or division it will be a safer world stronger nation and a people more united than ever before.”

Unfortunately, the quote, which will undoubtedly read nicely in those history books of the future, isn’t telling the whole story.

Because of the events of 9/11, racial and ethnic intolerance soared to new heights. Anyone with dark features and an accent were subjected to outright suspicion, and in some cases, misdirected anger.

Whether due to media coverage or political rhetoric flaming the distrust of Middle Easterners or those who shared the same skin coloring and facial features, whole ethnicities were condemned for the actions of only a faction.

Racial and religious intolerance were justified in the name of the victims of 9/11. By the time the nation and the world came to their senses, prejudices and discrimination towards these ethnic and religious groups had become so ingrained in the mindset of people that it is hard to remember what life was like when we looked upon each other as only fellow travelers on life’s journey rather than potential threats to our personal safety.

Because of 9/11, the progress in relations that the United States was making with Mexico ground to a halt. Instead of seeing the virtues of Mexican immigrant labor, albeit undocumented, and recognizing that Mexican workers also lost their lives when the World Trade Center collapsed, Mexican workers were vilified as being accomplices to the terrorists. So much so, that the rumor that Al Qaeda is slipping across the US-Mexico border still persists among some groups.

Because of 9/11, it seems like overnight common people felt empowered to keep the country safe from immigrants. From Long Island to Pennsylvania, undocumented immigrants were brazenly targeted with unprovoked fatal beatings. Congressional leaders regurgitated falsehoods about undocumented immigrants from the floor of the Chambers — all in the name of keeping the country safe.

Latino immigrants were the new terrorists.

September 9, 2011 didn’t make the world safer; it made us acutely aware of one another and shone a spotlight on our differences to the point we become easily nervous when someone looks like the image embedded in our psyche of what a terrorist looks like.

In the process, we have lost sight of what holds the human race together during times of such deep hurt — our humanity towards one another.

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  • JoeOrtiz
    September 12, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Dear Latina Lista:I can understand and agree with you to a certain degree that 9/11 did shone a spotlight on our (ethnic) differences. However, I am compelled to take your observation a little deeper. Those who began pointing the finger at any (or all) dark-skinned people as being the culprits behind 9/11 actually were afforded a “free pass” to vent an attitude that has always been there to begin with.”See! See! We told you it was those dirty dark-skinned people who were behind 9/11, and every other problem we have had in this country these last 100 years!”
    Que sera, sera! 

  • Marisa Treviño
    September 12, 2012 at 4:51 am

    Exactly Joe. It served as justification for something that had already existed in our society for sure but because of it has now reached abominable heights.

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