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African-American Scholars Look Back At September 11th - 2002-09-10

The September 11th terrorists attacks on the United States have made Americans feel more vulnerable. But some African-American scholars say that while the African-American community shares that feeling with the rest of the country, for them a lot more is at stake. They’re expressing concern over a potential loss of freedom, equality and civil liberties as the United States tries to protect itself against terrorism.

African-Americans are expressing the same sense of loss and fear that other Americans have experienced since the attacks. But some prominent African-American scholars say the effect on the African-American community may be even more severe. Dr. Ron Walters, Professor of African-American studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, says the black community has so much to lose.

He says, "One of the big reasons for this has to do with policies that are being pursued by the Justice Department, which appear to strike at the very heart of security for black people. Something that they felt during the civil rights movement when another attorney general also targeted the black community for all sorts of surreptitious surveillance, and dirty tricks. So, there is a concern about the problem about the balance of rights while protection against terrorism — that we not lose our rights as a vulnerable community."

Taking it a step further, there is also concern that the 9-eleven attacks have pushed social issues to the back burner. Dr. Ron Daniels is a scholar who heads the Constitutional Rights Committee in New York City.

He says, "Human rights leaders in the African-American community are also concerned with the deprioritization – an agenda dealing with social issues. Or using the war against terrorism as a mask for really dismantling some of the social programs like housing and other things that are important to particularly poor and working class people."

What the scholars find even more disturbing is the new attitude that some African-Americans have displayed regarding practices such as racial profiling. Julian Bond is a distinguished professor at American University, a history professor at the University of Virginia, and chairman of the board of the NAACP. He talks about how African-Americans now react to racial profiling.

He says, "I think you could argue before 9-eleven that the unholy practice of racial profiling was on the run. But, immediately after 9-eleven, Americans seemed once again to embrace this discrediting practice, and terrifyingly, even surveys of African-Americans said that as long as they weren’t being racially profiled it was okay."

Where do African-Americans go from here? The scholars agree, the black community must continue to voice its opinion by speaking out against injustices done to anyone, by voting, and by communicating with political leaders.

Mr. Bond says, "It’s in the interest of America to be just and fair, and to treat everyone equally without bias or prejudice. And if we can get America to live up to its ideals, then we’ll be secure from foreign attack. That’s not to say it won’t happen again, but we will be able to defend ourselves because we’ll be defending something we’re proud of and believe in strongly — something we want to see grow and prosper."

African American scholar Julian Bond, on the reaction of the black community to the September 11th terrorist attacks.