Recently, my mom dropped off a plastic bin full of things I had left in her house thirteen years ago when I left for college. I found trinkets, pictures, and a lot of old school things. On top, was a pile of journals – the type we had to keep in elementary school to answer a daily question or prompt.
The first date I intentionally looked up was September 11, 2001. I was eleven years old and in fifth grade. I remember the day well. But I didn’t remember everything. I wanted to know if we mentioned anything about the terrorist attacks in our journals. We hadn’t. The prompt that day was boring — “what magical power would you choose if you could choose any?” I chose flying. Boring.
But a few pages later, eleven-year-old me did address 9/11. On Oct 5, 2001, less than a month after the attack, we were asked:
“If you had to give a ten-minute speech to your school on any subject you chose, what would it be about and why?”
My answer to the prompt surprised me:
“My speech would be about the terrerists (sic) who attacked the World Trade Centers. I would tell them that not all Afganies (sic) are bad. In some places people are hurting Afganies (sic) that they see on the street. If kids started doing that it would be horrible.”
Nevermind my poor framing and referencing Afghans as Afghanies (which is what the money is called in Afghanistan, not the people), those few short sentences made something abundantly clear. I knew, even as an eleven-year-old child, that Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent were being treated unfairly in the U.S. after 9/11. And if I could tell my entire school anything, it would be a defense of those people.
So why, over twenty years later, are adults unable to see how treating Russians in the U.S. unfairly is also wrong, and in hindsight, will be a mark of shame on the U.S. just like the hatred and mistreatment of Muslims and Middle Easterners after 9/11 were?