9/11 from the Perspective of a Young Arab-American
Editor's Note: As a Kid Reporter, Charlie Kadado knows that he must always remain objective in his reporting. But on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Charlie asked if he could write an opinion piece about growing up as an Arab American in a post-9/11 America. News publications, print and online, often offer editorials or opinion pieces for their readers on current news topics. This week we felt there was place for Charlie’s opinion piece in our 9/11 special report.
What you're about to read is an editorial, not a reported story like we usually publish. It reflects Charlie's opinion as a kid, not a Scholastic Kid Reporter.
Terrorism, the Middle East, 9/11. They are words that have come to flow together after the tragic attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001. Now on the 10th anniversary, the words have become part of discriminatory and intolerant phrases, full of hate and prejudice.
As a young American Middle Eastern, I was raised to appreciate my heritage, but, at the same time, exhibit my American pride. I am American born, American raised, and a proud American. However, after the attacks on 9/11, my family and I became confused. We were confused by our surroundings, confused by media depictions, and confused by the new misconceptions of our race.
Before the attacks, we were proud to be Americans. We were the kind of people who had an American flag in our front yard, enjoyed the patriotic fireworks on the Fourth of July, and wore American flag lapel pins on our clothing. After the attacks, however, we felt a renewed sense of patriotism. We were not only demonstrating our patriotism, but we began to appreciate our country, appreciate our lives, and appreciate the hard work of the men and women in uniform.
As people came together to help those who lost family members, we watched in admiration. That sense of admiration powered our patriotism.
Unfortunately, our patriotism was not welcome by others. Our patriotism was met with discrimination. We were looked at differently when we walked into the grocery store and when we greeted our neighbors. We were no longer the American patriotic family who lives next door — we became the Arabs who live next door.
I was quite young when the attacks happened, but I can still vaguely remember my father's face and response to the media coverage of the incident. He was surprised by why it happened and how it happened. Like any other American, he was in shock.
As I grew older and learned more about 9/11 in school, I was forced to grow up in a different world. My elementary school was situated in Farmington Hills, Michigan, a diverse neighborhood in Oakland County. My classmates were a mix of Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Europeans, and many more cultures. Discrimination has never an issue at my school, but the news headlines, interviews, and opinions were hard to avoid.
Without question, the attacks on September 11th had a tremendous impact on the lives of Arab Americans. Discrimination became an issue that many Arab Americans now faced.
In 2001, my father was a community activist in the Oakland County area. As a precinct delegate, leader of political activities, and business owner, he was shocked by the effect 9/11 had on Arab Americans. Despite his public service, he still encountered discrimination.
Arabs who practiced Islam faced the most prejudice, but Christian-Lebanese families like us faced it, too. Our religion helped us connect with our community and disregard the intolerance.
The 10-year anniversary of 9/11 should be a time to rethink what we say, reestablish how we live, and remember those who died during the terrible attacks. It also should be a time to teach others about what 9/11 meant to the nation.
Teaching young people about 9/11 should also be a time to explain the meaning of discrimination. It is an issue that people should learn at a young age. We must learn that discrimination will get us nowhere. The world will change, people will change, issues will change, but the affects of discrimination will not. It will always be a problem, a problem that is tough to get rid of.
For more Kid Reporter stories about the 10th anniversary of 9/11, check out the 9/11: Ten Years Later Special Report.
Photo: Kid Reporter Charlie Kadado in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of Charlie Kadado)