Students research hate crimes following Sept. 11
Editor's note: This is one in an occasional series of articles that highlights the teaching and learning integral to the University's rich academic core.
Arab-American-owned shops burned by vandals. People deported or detained without evidence of criminal activity. Verbal threats and physical assaults by strangers, friends and co-workers just because they don't like a person's ethnicity.
Amruta Mundade, a freshman from Canton, Mich., has read these and other stories of similar incidents in the Arab community following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Mundade is one of three Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) students researching these cases under the direction of a University faculty member.
"Although I (knew) that 9/11 changed the behaviors and attitudes of many, I did not understand the extent of it," Mundade says. "Reading the narratives of hate crime victims stirred my emotions and stimulated my mind."
Nadine Naber, assistant professor of American culture and women's studies, has mentored the students as they have collected and filed newspaper articles, organizational reports, legal documents, academic journal articles, and books about Sept. 11 as it relates to immigration policies, detentions, deportations, FBI investigations, racial profiling, hate crimes and discrimination.
"I hope the students will learn about the possibilities for transforming society through understanding the various forms racism takes in different historical contexts," Naber says.
The students will discuss their findings at UROP's spring symposium April 7 in the Michigan League. UROP creates research partnerships between first- and second-year students and U-M faculty.
Their work is an extension of Naber's research into the impact of Sept. 11 on Arabs, Muslims and South Asians in San Francisco. One of the findings indicates that the "war on terror" has affected the psyche of Arabs and Muslims.
"After Sept. 11th, persons perceived to be Arab and/or Muslim became increasingly vulnerable to the post-Sept. 11th 'culture of fear,'" Naber says.
For some, the paranoia led to increased isolation and unemployment, or leaving the United States altogether. For privileged Arabsincluding Christians, U.S. citizens and/or upper-middle-class Arabsit led to disassociating themselves from their Muslim, immigrant and/or working-class counterparts to avoid stigmatization, Naber says.
Ami Badami, a freshman from Saginaw, didn't realize that innocent people in the Arab community dealt with intense hatred.
"The amount of research collected on hate crimes alone is astounding," says Badami, who notes the vandalism of Arab-owned
Some students say they were surprised by the U.S. government's actions, including wire tapping and detaining innocent immigrants.
The research has made a difference in student Kapil Kella's life. "I've seen what happens when people are stereotyped, so I won't do that with other ethnic groups," he says.
Kella, a sophomore from Saginaw, also says he is inspired to join organizations that fight for the civil liberties of groups affected by Sept. 11.
Indeed, many organizations have formed to support the Arab community. "Learning about that was wonderful because it is reassuring to know that even though there is so much hate, pain and suffering going on during these difficult times, there is an equal show of compassion from others," Badami says. "It helps to restore our confidence in the people of this country."