Living in fear

Why do people hate people they don’t even know? Why do people see other people with different skin color, culture, and religion as their enemies? Cultural differences and different appearances don’t make a person less capable or less valuable than others.

Racism isn’t new in the United States; the United States has a long history of stereotyping people of different ethnicities, from slavery to the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Although the Chinese Exclusion Act has been abolished and the Japanese have been released from the camps, racism has not ceased. 

Since September, 11, 2001, anti-Muslim sentiment has grown dramatically in the United States. The government and the people fear that Muslim people living in the United States could be potential terrorists. 

I interviewed Mr. Roth, a history teacher at Mission High School, about how anti-Muslim attitudes have changed. He said, “We are in one of the worst periods of racism in United States history. The government has identified Muslim people as their enemies, and there is a long history of stereotyping different groups of people. Now it has turned on people from the Middle East.”

The United States is a country known for its civil liberties and yet it has failed to fulfill people’s rights granted by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Shortly after the 9/11 attack, the government passed the Patriot Act along with a series of massive surveillance programs, which allowed the government to access citizens’ personal online data and phone conversations without warrants. Through these programs, Muslims are being monitored as a way to prevent terrorism, and often are detained without substantial evidence. 

According to Salon Magazine, “The Patriot Act changed surveillance programs laws to make it easier for the U.S. government to obtain personal information without checks and balances, and hundreds of Muslim, South Asian, and Arab community members were detained and investigated in connection with the attack.” There are countless cases of Muslims being unjustly and wrongfully convicted, and certainly there are other races that are affected by the surveillance programs as well. 

Also, as a student who has learned about the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality against black people, I think this is relevant to anti-Muslim sentiment since both involve stereotyping people based on their skin color. These actions that the government has taken only feed off hate and ignorance, and further mislead people’s perspectives toward Muslim people and other minorities. When I asked Mr. Roth what role social media plays, he said, “The social media on one hand spreads the hate, and it also spreads resistance. It spreads hate speech and stereotypes, so we have to be critical consumers. Don’t believe in everything the social media says.” Since Donald Trump was elected to be our president, I see more hate speech on social media. 

Philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who don’t learn from the history are doomed to repeat it.” After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, all Japanese-Americans living in the U.S. were forcibly moved into internment camps because of the fear that they could be spies from Japan. And the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first time the United States restricted the immigration of a specific ethnic group. Now people are calling Muslims “terrorists” after the 9/11 attack. The U.S. is singling out Muslims when Donald Trump attempted to ban people from seven Muslim countries from coming into U.S. Although now it is mainly targeting Muslims, if we continue making the same mistakes, the next target could be the Asian community or the Latino community.

How do we make sure that we don’t repeat history again? Start educating yourself, be a critical thinker, speak up against injustices, and spread awareness. As a young adult in Mission High School, it’s important that I know how to distinguish between what’s right or wrong, and be a critical social media consumer just like Mr. Roth said. Be a role model to others; learn to respect and accept different cultures. 

This entry was posted in Student Writing Gallery.

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