Commemorating 9/11 and aftermath: The South Asian experience

As we honor the legacies of those lives lost on September 11, 2001, we also reflect on the dramatic impact that day had on our nation and communities like ours

Ashni Mehta Sep 11, 2021
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September 11th attacks

As we honor the legacies of those lives lost on September 11, 2001, we also reflect on the dramatic impact that day had on our nation and communities like ours. In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, South Asian communities — especially Sikh and Muslim Americans — experienced a surge of hate crimes and discrimination. For many who came of age during 9/11, the years that followed propelled a lifelong passion for civil rights.

This week, the Associated Press published a story about Shahana Hanif from New York, who experienced a racist incident in the aftermath of 9/11 that spurred her determination to speak out for herself and others. Today, she is a community organizer strongly favored to be the first South Asian and Muslim woman elected to New York City Council.

On a recent event with our friends from SALDEF, Kiran Kaur Gill shared that in law enforcement implicit bias trainings, the first words law enforcement members in NJ shared when presented with a picture of a man in a turban were “terrorist” or “Osama Bin Laden.” After Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s appointment in 2018, that response changed to “Attorney General” 90 percent of the time.

These stories are proof that we’ve made progress, but we still have so much work to do. IMPACT remains committed to electing leaders that reflect the values of our community, fighting back against bias, challenging stereotypes, and advocating for the rights of our communities, as we continue to forge our path forward towards unity and healing.

If you are looking for ways to gather with our communities, we invite you to join events hosted by allied organizations commemorating and reflecting on the 20th anniversary:

Tuesday, September 14: 20 Years After 9/11: Lessons in Solidarity is a teach-in hosted by Building Movement Project and SolidarityIs featuring numerous activists to discuss the 20th anniversary and its aftermath. Register here.

Wednesday September 15: Digital Day of Action to honor Balbir Singh Sodhi, the first person to be killed in a hate crime after 9-11. Learn more at 911hub.com and spread awareness online.  

Wednesday, September 15: Honoring Balbir Singh Sodhi Through Shared Resilience in the Face of Hate is a virtually live-streamed event hosted by the Sodhi family, the Sikh Coalition, and the Global Sikh Alliance in Mesa, AZ

Monday, September 20: “Reflect, Relive, React” hosted by SALDEF, this free virtual symposium will explore the aftermath and lasting impact of 9-11. Register here.

Friday, September 24: “Realizing Justice for All” hosted by the Sikh Coalition invites lawyers and law students to join a virtual conference to explore the core civil rights issues facing Sikhs and other minority groups since 9-11. Register here.


Ashni Mehta
Digital & Communications Director | IMPACT, Washington DC