The Backlash of 9/11
The events of September 11, 2001 left Americans shocked and stunned. As we were reeling from the shock, some Americans also experienced a backlash of discrimination and hate against immigrants. This backlash shook the foundation of our individual beliefs in the American Dream.
The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium reported that they received reports of nearly 250 ethnically motivated incidents of violence in the 3 months following September 11. As a South Asian immigrant, I have been deeply disturbed by these hate crimes directed at Americans who are members of my ethnic community, who are mistakenly blamed for the horrible crimes in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania. Sadly the targeting of immigrants is nothing new. The Italian Americans in the early 20th century, American Jews were often stereotyped as Communists in the mid-20th century and the Japanese Americans during World War II are some examples.
In this project, I initially decided to photograph people who were indirect victims of violence since 9/11 and live in fear, in the new reality after 9/11. In this new reality, some of us need to be conscious of the way we look and how others perceive us and our names, as these identifiers have taken on new and unintended meanings. As the project evolved, many people that I spoke to from the South Asian community said that they did not want their faces shown in connection with their stories. To accommodate this fear, I decided to use an icon that is unique to the individual yet unrecognizable to a viewer, the fingerprint. The fingerprint can be used to identify a person and is an important part of the identification process for immigrants, or for criminals. It is a trace of a person and yet from it, the racial identity of the individual is not recognizable. Interspersed with these fingerprints are images of the eyes of some of the individuals whose stories I am telling. The eye is also considered a “window into the soul” but like a fingerprint, can also be used for identification purposes through iris recognition technology.
The project gives insights into the lives of the innocent people who have been targeted because they look different. Sharing the stories and experiences of South Asians during this time will help Americans see beyond their fears to increase their awareness of and compassion for people who happen to look different, but are Americans themselves, experiencing the same collective pain we all share in the wake of September 11th.