Organizing around September 11, 2001

colist-admin at colist-admin at
Sun Sep 30 11:12:01 CDT 2001

[ed:  Laura's message contains some important strategy questions.]

From: "Laura McKieran" <lmckieran at>

Hi, COMM-ORG.  Randy's thoughtful editorial at the end of his last 
message finally pushed me to write, although I take sole 
responsibility for what follows.  This issue has been eating at my 
brain for the past two weeks, but I've hesitated to articulate it 
because it feels somehow disrespectful in view of the tremendous 
losses suffered.  Still, it feels important to me to clear space in my 
grief to ask this question of myself, and so I hope for folks' patience 
and understanding as I ask it of you, too.  

Lots of times we who are "multi-issue" activists and organizers get 
caught in arguments about the heirarchy (for lack of a better word) 
of oppression - what forms of oppression are worse?  Which groups 
have the most legitimate complaint? etc.  These kinds of 
comparisons among evils have always made me uncomfortable, 
and now is no exception.  

What I've heard a lot in the media's coverage of "the public's" 
reaction to the attacks is that we as a country just cannot 
comprehend that we are so hated elsewhere in the world, and 
certainly *why* we're so hated.  And with all the necessary respect 
and consideration due to the difference in scale and scope of the 
results here in America of this particular hate-driven action, the 
truth is that lots of Americans suffer the effects of hate on an 
ongoing basis, and are quite aware of being hated and what 
consequences that hate might have for them.  Racial minorities 
come to mind right away, as do women, as do Jews, as do many 
other groups.  (And at the risk of being even more provocative, it 
seems easier to list the ways the actions of *America as a country* 
have contributed to its being hated than it is to do the same for a 
whole racial or ethnic group or gender or whatever.)  

I actually find it more than a little disrespectful and offensive that all 
Americans are portrayed by our own media as complacent, always 
feeling all loved and protected and warm and fuzzy, when in reality 
many groups are fearful/careful/aware all the time, and so many 
people are injured or die every year in "bias" crimes.  

Has anyone seen any examples of using this new understanding 
that the "average American" (allegedly) has of what it feels like to 
be afraid of being attacked because you are hated for being [insert 
label here] to drive home how damaging hate and prejudice are, 
especially when combined with power?  Or do y'all have a sense 
that people are just too raw to make the connections, perceive the 

The only halfway-related parallel I've seen drawn in the media is a 
comparison of people's attitudes about the current backlash against 
Muslims and Middle-Easterners to their attitudes about racial 
profiling of African-American men.  Unfortunately, it appears that 
people are using the September 11 experience to 
rationalize/reinforce their own perception of racial profiling as 
"unfortunate, but justified."  

Sorry this got so long.  I'm curious for y'all's thoughts, wisdom, and 
take on strategy, particularly since there are probably 723 
complexities that I've failed to take into account.  


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