Chinese Progressive Association: To mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Asian American Leaders Table invited us and our colleagues in the Asian American and racial justice movements to remember and reflect on the past 20 years. We asked ourselves: How did the tragedy affect me, us, and our community? What are we still grappling with as communities of faith and communities of color? How do we use our collective power and resources to build a truly inclusive nation? Click the link below for some reflections that our Arab, Muslim and South Asian leaders offered and for the full statement of solidarity from the Asian American Leaders Table with additional resources:

STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY FROM THE ASIAN AMERICAN LEADERS TABLE ON 9/11

September 10, 2021

As a network of local and national Asian American organizations that convened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been working together to address the rise in anti-Asian violence. Together, our collective voice has been louder and stronger in uplifting the shared strength of our communities and speaking out against racism and violence.

It is in that spirit that we offer reflections and commitments upon the 20th anniversary of September 11th and its aftermath. 9/11 lives in our memories as a day of unspeakable loss and pain. In the days, weeks and years that followed 9/11, we witnessed an unprecedented rise in hate violence, bullying, profiling and workplace discrimination targeting members of South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh communities. In addition, government policies instituted in the US and abroad as part of the War on Terror led to war and torture, surveillance and profiling, and detentions and deportations. In response, South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh organizations and advocates organized, resisted, and strengthened the power of grassroots movements.

To mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Asian American Leaders Table invited our colleagues in the Asian American and racial justice movements to remember and reflect on the past 20 years. We asked ourselves: How did the tragedy affect me, us, and our community? What are we still grappling with as communities of faith and communities of color? How do we use our collective power and resources to build a truly inclusive nation?

Here are some reflections that Arab, Muslim and South Asian leaders offered:

“This narrative to fear and suspect Muslim and Middle Eastern communities has created this culture of scarcity that makes us think ‘well at least it isn’t us,’ rather than a culture of abundance that assumes there is enough freedom, enough humanity for all of us.”

“I’d like us to stop apologizing for 9/11. We were never supposed to have been apologizing to begin with. Stop forcing us to explain things we had nothing to do with.”

“We cannot continue to center our solutions around law enforcement. This doesn’t mean there’s no accountability when a hate crime is committed, but that as we seek whatever the currently available means for justice that do exist in our flawed system, that we also invest in creating the alternative.”

“Let’s start conversations, call each other in, and avoid engaging in the tactics used to divide us. Let’s have compassion as we work for accountability. Let’s listen more, empathize and work to build community and alliances across movements.”

“What we’ve become much more aware of in the last 20 years is an understanding of a history of state violence targeting immigrant communities of color in the US. We’re talking about immigration bans, surveillance, forced removals, mass roundups, detentions and deportations. We need to be prepared now, because there will be a racial backlash against Afghans here and we have to stand against that in solidarity and to protect the refugees arriving on our shores.”

“I’m hopeful that we will be able to continue to grow our communities’ power and do it in an intersectional, multigenerational way. The young people we’re working with now know nothing of the pre-9/11 experience. This is their reality, and that’s their future.”

On this 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Asian American Leaders Table recommits ourselves and our organizations to building deep and meaningful solidarity with South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh communities. We condemn the misguided policies and climate that have targeted and harmed communities on the basis of their faith, race, national origin, and additional identities.

As we reflect on our collective movement for freedom and justice, we also acknowledge that Asian Americans can do much more to advocate for the rights of South Asians, Muslim, Sikh and Arab Americans. This means that we pay close attention to our own rhetoric and messages to avoid falling into stereotypical language or national security justifications. It means that we do not compromise on the rights of Muslim, Arab, South Asian and Sikh communities in advocating for public policies. It means incorporating the histories and perspectives of communities targeted in the wake of 9/11 within Asian American movement curricula and political education. It means recognizing that we are working against a shared source of oppression, and finding the commonalities and connections between the Islamophobia that profiled Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11 to the xenophobia that incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II to the racism that’s driving the rise in anti-Asian violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We commit to learning from programs that are anchored in transformative solidarity such as Bridging Communities where the Japanese American Citizens League and Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (and later involved the Council on American-Islamic Relations) brought together Muslim and Japanese American youth to visit Manzanar, building connnections from a shared history of being treated as outsiders in their own homes.

We also look to Vigilant Love as another way to move forward. Created in a time of rapid response following the 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, this Los Angeles-based group of Muslim and Japanese American leaders are challenging Islamophobia through direct action, political education, and arts performances.

We look to the solidarity between the children of incarcerated Japanese Americans who stood side by side with Muslims and Africans affected by the Trump Administration’s Muslim and African bans.

Our work will continue beyond the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Today, we are witnessing another consequence of the War on Terror with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Our communities add our voices to the call for welcoming Afghan refugees to the United States.

As Asian Americans, it is our responsibility to step up and speak out. Solidarity in a post-9/11 America asks us to acknowledge the pain and injustice inflicted on Arab, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian communities; to stand together as Asian Americans, engaged in a steadfast practice of building relationships beyond our identity groups; and to commit to our collective movement for freedom and justice. We are here to answer that call.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES – We’ve compiled a list of additional resources and initiatives related to the 20th anniversary of 9/11. This is a non-exhaustive list; please further research and support Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian (AMEMSA)-led organizations.