Saturday, September 11, 2010
As we remember September 11th nine years after the horrific events, it is interesting to consider where we are now - nine years later, through the lens of sociology. Over the last few months a ground swelling of hatred has been building against Muslims. This has manifested in an opposition to the Muslim community center near the site of Ground Zero, and it has spread to opposition to Muslims across America and even to a Koran burning in Florida. September 11th, 2001 was a terrible day in American history. Thousands of Americans died and tens of thousands were changed profoundly for the rest of their lives, whether it is ptsd, losing a loved one, or any other huge loss or change in their life.
Many Americans rightly feel anger, fear and outrage over these events. But unfortunately, many Americans have confused their categories and their stereotypes (from Joel Charon. Using Charon's discussion of stereotypes and categories we can see that all of the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks were Muslim, but this was a small handful of individuals. It is hard to come to terms with the idea that a couple dozen individuals could so radically hurt this country so badly. However, that is the reality - it was a small group of individuals who could all be categorized as Muslim. But the opposition of Muslims all across America as well as the Koran-burning would have many Americans believe that the category of terrorists being Muslim applies to all Muslims. Thus, the category becomes the stereotype. This view could not be more stereotypical and more wrong. I have students and friends who are Muslim. They are loving, wonderful people. In fact many Muslims were killed during the 9/11 attacks and Muslims all over the world were saddened for America and they came to our aid. Muslims serve in the United States armed forces - on our front lines! Humans can't help but categorize, but when that category becomes a blind judgment, it becomes a stereotype.