Tram Nguyen On The Backlash Against Immigrants In Post-9/11 America
Really, unless you’re from one of the targeted immigrant communities, you have no idea what’s going on there. Streets are empty. Stores and businesses are closed because people have been detained or deported, or their customers have disappeared, or residents are just afraid to go out. These used to be bustling, vibrant neighborhoods, but if you don’t live there or have reason to visit, you would never know the impact homeland-security policies have had. In the two months following September 11, more than twelve hundred Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men were rounded up for indefinite detention. Then, starting in September 2002, there was “special registration,” where noncitizen males from Islamic countries were required to register with the INS.
On this particular day in 1987, as I bicycled home from the student rec center, no one mooed at me. Mooers seemed to have grown scarcer than they’d been in my fat years as a teenager, despite the fact that I was now even bigger than that and went outside more frequently.
Whiffing something straight up your nose into your brain seems a violation of human dignity, and crank looks nasty, like ant poison and pulverized glass all chopped up on that mirror. It tastes even worse. I try not to cry, the burning pain is so terrible. I am certain I will sneeze blood all over the curtains, that I’ve done permanent damage. But then comes the drip, drip, drip, that bitter, alkaloid savor the meth user learns to associate with pleasure, and I wander around grinding my teeth and feeling like Bruce Lee grafted onto Aldous Huxley for about twelve hours.
In 1984, the year vigilante Bernhard Goetz shot four black boys on a New York City subway car, I was nine, and I loved to ride the subway by myself. The dingy trains were spectacular space rockets to me. When I rode them, I wasn’t just going to Queens to visit my grandmother; I was saving the galaxy.
I was thirteen in 1956. There was a lot going on in the world that year. Elvis Presley released his first album, the U.S. exploded the first airborne hydrogen bomb over Bikini Atoll, and the Soviets invaded Hungary to put down an anticommunist revolution. There was also something going on in my house. I was only half aware of it, but it formed a kind of constant undercurrent, like a noise that your brain has not yet registered hearing.