Discrimination lingers in post-9/11 era

A decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, Yale students are still discussing their effect on the way minorities are perceived in the United States.

The South Asian Society at Yale, in collaboration with the Yale Chaplain’s Office and two other student groups, held a forum Monday night for reflection on racial profiling in the post-9/11 world as part of a series of University-wide events commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the attacks. The evening’s discussion addressed societal issues that have developed since 9/11, such as racial profiling in airports, and how those policies reveal that discrimination still exists against minority groups.

Speaker Deepa Iyer, who serves as the executive director of SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together), an advocacy organization with 42 branches in the United States, said she was an employee for the Federal Department of Justice at the time of the attacks. In the aftermath of 9/11, Iyer was charged with collecting reports of bullying, vandalism and discrimination that minorities suffered after the fall of the twin towers — a position she said made her increasingly conscious of how discrimination exists within governmental policy.

Lyer discussed the arbitrary detentions that thousands of Muslims and South Asians faced after Sept. 11, some of which resulted in closed immigration hearings and secret deportations. In addition to those clandestine proceedings, Lyer said the government also never publicly discussed its creation of the Special Registration Program — a 2002-’03 act that required 83,000 of immigrants of specific ethnic backgrounds to report to immigration authorities, and caused an estimated 30,000 deportations.

Vijay Prashad, a professor in International Studies at Trinity College who also spoke to the roughly 30 students in attendance, added that overcoming modern prejudices is not about transcending specific religious barriers, but rather altering structures and policies that inherently create discrimination within society.

Valarie Kaur LAW ’12, a filmmaker and minority rights advocate, also spoke about the social prejudices in America’s post-9/11 cultural landscape.

Kaur, who was a 20-year-old Stanford University student in 2001, said the attacks spurred her to leave college and travel across America compiling a documentary about hate crimes in post-9/11 society. Her resulting film, “Divided We Fall,” examined severe hate crimes committed nationwide, such as a Sikh man being beaten with baseball bats in Queens, N.Y. and Muslim men being gunned down on the side of the road in California.

“I wanted to answer the question, ‘Who counts as an American?’” Kaur said.

Kaur said that Muslim identity is often used today by politicians to win votes by creating a “common enemy.”

Despite ongoing examples of hate crimes and discrimination, Kaur said the “millennial” generation has the potential to make American culture more tolerant, and has shown “more open-mindedness and diversity” than previous generations.

In addition to the South Asian Society at Yale and the Chaplain’s Office, the Yale Asian American Students Alliance and Yale Muslim Students Association also hosted the event.

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