September 11, 2001, Twenty Years Later: A Reflection From a New Yorker

The Tribute in Light in Lower Manhattan

Last weekend, we passed the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As a native New Yorker who was in New York on that day, I find it hard to believe that twenty years have already passed since then.

I talk about that day from a variety of different perspectives. I talk about that day from the perspective of someone who suddenly lost two friends, as two of the firefighters I used to talk with as a little child died on 9/11. I talk about that day from the perspective of a New Yorker, since I was a resident of Queens when the attacks happened (and even saw some of the smoke on my street). I talk about that day from the perspective of a seven-year-old, as there are certain things I remember vividly and certain things I don’t remember at all because I was so young when it all happened.

But in this blog post, I want to write from the perspective of someone who lives in a neighborhood and a city that became a ground zero for anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh violence ever since the attacks, even if I didn’t realize it for years.

I want to write from that perspective because I want people, including people who don’t think of Islam favorably, to realize just how destructive these anti-Islamic sentiments (and by extension anti-Sikh sentiments, as Sikhs are often mistaken for people practicing Islam) could be.

It is the sort of sentiment which led to someone trying to throw a Molotov cocktail into a mosque not long after 9/11.[1] It is the sort of sentiment which led to Muslims in my area being spat upon and harassed by passers-by, only to get unsympathetic responses from the very people supposed to protect their public safety (as well as others’ safety): the police.[2] It is the sort of sentiment that led my own mom to receiving dirty looks and muttered comments once when she wore her winter scarf in a way that some mistook as her being Muslim. And it is the sort of sentiment that became so pervasive in America that President George W. Bush felt the need to denounce anti-Muslim harassment happening in the days after 9/11.[3]

Sikhs have become victims of this anti-Islam sentiment, often because many Sikhs (and particularly Sikh men) wear turbans, and because of the wearing of turbans Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims. As a result, Sikhs have also been victims of anti-Islamic sentiment even though they don’t practice Islam. As a result, Sikhs in my neighborhood were beaten up over and over again in the months and years after 9/11. One noted story of a Sikh beating in my neighborhood happened while he was heading back from a Sikh temple where he prayed for 9/11 victims.[4]

The hatred directed at Muslims and Sikhs was so bad that people from those two religious groups honestly feared going out after 9/11, and at times still have to be cautious when they are out. It got so bad that some of the Sikhs in my neighborhood, after 9/11, felt they needed to wear buttons saying “I am a Sikh American” in order to try and “prove” to a skeptical audience that they were every bit as deserving of being out and about as anyone else. It was so bad that a kid who took karate with me—a kid from a Muslim family—had to drop out of karate classes and minimize the amount of time they spent out in public for months after 9/11 because the family of the kid was that scared of going out in public.

Do I mourn for all those lost on 9/11? Absolutely. I mourn for all who lost their lives on that day, including the two firefighter friends of seven-year-old me. But I also mourn because of the anti-Sikh and anti-Muslim sentiment that has been directed at so many innocent people since then, and still carries on to this day. And I believe others should mourn for that, too.





Twelve Years of Bloomberg as Mayor: A New Yorker’s Perspective (Part Two)

As I announced last Monday, I will be doing a couple of posts on what it was like to have current presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg as mayor (and particularly justice-related topics from his time as mayor). This is the first of two such posts, as honestly, I have too much material to fit into one post.

This first post will focus on his treatment of other people while he was mayor, particularly his treatment of people of color, Muslims, women, and the poor. Buckle up, because this is going to be rough…

While he has apologized repeatedly for the existence of stop-and-frisk under his police force while he was mayor, I think it’s difficult to talk about his time as mayor without talking about that practice. The practice, which allowed police to stop someone temporarily to search, question, and detain someone, disproportionately targeted people of color. Consider the fact that, in the 2010 United States Census, African Americans made up under 23 percent of the total New York City population[1] but consistently accounted for over half of stops.[2] My family’s experiences match up with these statistics—while my brother, and I, and our white friends, never got stopped-and-frisked, my younger brother heard horror stories of friends of color in middle school (kids who were 11 or 12 years old) getting stopped-and-frisked by the New York Police Department, even though they (like nearly 90% of those stopped at that time) were doing nothing wrong! Mayor Bloomberg may’ve apologized for the practice,[3] but the apology does not undo the damage done to my brother’s friends who were stopped, among many others. The apology does not take away the fact that his police force basically treated black and brown kids like accused criminals.

Nor does the apology undo other racist practices under the Bloomberg administration. It does not undo the fact that Bloomberg’s education policies deepened segregation in New York City schools[4]—something he has not apologized for to my knowledge. He also has not apologized for the fact that his Department of Education created policies that denied educational opportunities to people who were thought to be black, including my brother![5] He has not apologized for the disinvestment in public housing in New York City[6]—relevant because the population of public housing in New York is overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic.[7] And he has not apologized for saying that the end of redlining, “a practice used by banks to discriminate against minority borrowers,” led to the 2008 economic crisis.[8]

People of color weren’t the only people the Bloomberg administration discriminated against. He had and still seems to have an Islamophobic streak, for Bloomberg’s New York Police Department also had extreme levels of surveillance of Muslims.[9] When he repeatedly says that his one regret is stop-and-frisk, it also means that he does not regret the discrimination of Muslims through this surveillance. That’s very telling.

For those of my readers interested in women’s issues and women’s rights, Bloomberg repeatedly struggled with sexism while he was mayor. Here’s an excerpt from an article at The Atlantic, a lot of which includes remarks he made while he was mayor:

There’s more: Bloomberg reportedly saying to a journalist and the journalist’s friend, as he gazed at a woman at a holiday party, “Look at the ass on her.” (He denied having made that comment.) Bloomberg, according to a top aide, seeing attractive women and reflexively remarking, “Nice tits.” Bloomberg, mocking Christine Quinn, the then-speaker of New York’s City Council, for going too long between hair colorings. (“The couple of days a week before I need to get my hair colored,” Quinn once said, “he’ll say, ‘Do you pay a lot to make your hair be two colors? Because now it’s three with the gray.’”) Bloomberg mocking Quinn again, she said, for failing to wear heels at public events. (“I was at a parade with him once and he said, ‘What are those?’ and I said, ‘They’re comfortable,’ and he said, ‘I never want to hear those words out of your mouth again.’”)[10]

The same article I just cited also went into the culture of sexism at his company, and it is no secret that Bloomberg faces numerous allegations of fostering a hostile work environment for women at his company[11] (something Senator Elizabeth Warren exposed in the recent debate). While my piece focuses on what it was like to have him as mayor, I don’t want people to forget about the workplace hostility against many women at Bloomberg, the company.

As for the poor, Mayor Bloomberg advocated for policies that hurt the poor. He argued for a tax on sugary soft drinks, which would have disproportionately affected the poor. He defended the proposed tax, even though he acknowledged that the tax would disproportionately hurt the poor![12] That, along with a lack of investment in public housing (which I previously mentioned) and the increasing unaffordability of the city while he was mayor,[13] show that he was not a friend of the poor.

There is probably even more that I’m missing here, but you probably get the point by now: unless you are white, somewhat wealthy, male, and not Muslim, Mayor Bloomberg was not an advocate for you.

And yet, I have even more injustices to say about Bloomberg as mayor even beyond his treatment of others. To be continued…


[2] Also, for those who deny the existence of white privilege, consider the fact that whites make up a third of New York’s population but only about 10% of stops.



[5] My brother is white, like me, but the education system in New York thought my brother was black. It’s a long story. Read this old post of mine to view the story:


[7] Even though this statistic was from 2017, a few years after Bloomberg left office, from my understanding, these statistics are also a reflection of what the demographics were like when Bloomberg was mayor: