Aftermath of a Tragedy: America's Response to Terrorism
Hello I'm Horace G Dawson director of the Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center here at Howard University. The bunch in the National Affairs Center promotes and coordinates programs in international affairs at Howard University in connection with today's events. It is significant that this center is named for Dr. Ralph Johnson Bunge the first African-American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He was rewarded in 1950 for negotiating a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. I want to thank it delegates you t for making this program possible and for airing it to its vast and various audiences. Today's subject concerns the tragic events of September 11 2001 one day in our history. Unlikely to be forgotten. We begin by acknowledging the great and wanton loss of life and express our sympathy for the victims and to their families
friends and loved ones. Our panelists today are Professor Frank Wu. Of the School of Law Howard University. Dr. Rhee may R. Jenkins chair of the Department of Pediatrics in the Howard University Hospital. And Dr. Russell Adams chairman of the department of African-American studies. Well perhaps we should begin by giving each of you an opportunity to recall. What was for you of the initial impact of the events of September the 11th. Our panelists today are Professor Frank woo of the School of Law Howard University Dr. in a.r and Jenkins chair of the Department of Pediatrics in the Howard University Hospital and Dr. Russell Adams chairman of the department of
African-American studies. Perhaps we should begin by giving each of you an opportunity to recall what was for you the initial impact of the events of September the 11th. What is your recollection and what was your reaction personally to these events. Well I was teaching class when. This all started and one of the deans came in and said that they were bombing the US. At first I thought he was joking. It was so unheard of. But after they cleared out the classroom and I went home and turned on the television and I think like many of us I sat and watched in utter shock. And I think this is a profound turning point in our nation's history it's the sort of thing that because of television we were all able to watch as it unfolded. And all the drama and and all of that pain in those few moments watching those towers come down. It's the
sort of thing that's hard to watch but it's replayed over and over just those images are burned in your mind. Did you know I was working at home in the morning and actually driving and while it all unfolding. At first like you say you don't believe it. You know you hear it. When they first said World Trade Center you know you remember the bombing from before so maybe the anniversary of the bombing of the World Trade Center. But clearly even through the radio you can get the events. And I was coming over the hill Riccardo as it is and you know you can see over in Virginia you can see the smoke from the Pentagon. And I was driving in and a lot of other people were driving out. It was a great deal of traffic being in the medical field. You know my responsibility is to drive in. And so when I got to the hospital we were already in code alert and you know people were being moved to away from the emergency area so we could be prepared to accept casualties if in fact that was going to be our role. So I think you know you sort of snap back into you
know where do I come into this. And I think after a while my next concern was I know where the planes came from Boston and I have quite a few friends of Boston. And I was concerned about you know our ANY my friends on a plane going to California. A lot of them travel quite a bit so I think you know once you got to where you're supposed to be and you're on duty you've got a little personal but fortunately I don't have anyone personally that was involved. Dr. Adams you know I had a very class that starts at 8:00 and then tonight at 40 and the class and my philosophy was the nature of evil. And so when I come out of the class and go to my office people tell me that people told me that the bombing had occurred in New York because the planes crashed into the buildings and as they were telling me be get the news out of the Pentagon. I was a gnome. Now I have a grandson who works at the Pentagon. My son works very close to the Pentagon. And it's lovely they don't he
told me that he's so within 25 feet the wing tip of the plane headed towards the Pentagon itself so I had a jumble of emotions. And only when I had a chance to sit at home and stare at the set that I see the gravity of all of this and started to be angry and disbelief and a little bit of what I recall from my childhood went oh a horrible baseball. So I had a Medline issue of feelings in the course of that day about all of this. But above all we were talking about the nature of evil in my black philosophy class and then this this event. And so those are my reactions from that day. Well we've heard of some of the reactions today from all around the country. Many things have happened in the country and Washington and throughout the country since that day. We were all surprised and shocked by these attacks. What do you think that they will have any lasting effect on our country and on our security arrangements here
in the United States. Maybe you ought to address that as well. Again with the deficit I think that we are in a new era and the static What is the quality of American life. And I suspect we will be all eight herbal of the new. There will be a chilling effect on the nature of freedom and the nature of it. They'll probably be for ethnic minorities. Ironically and perhaps sadly some lean times stereotyping the Enclave kind of mentality that will environments generate and so on and I don't expect that to change soon because we now know from these events of the 11th of September that America is no longer an island unto itself to which bad news comes as it comes to individual families isolated. And therefore we only hear it through a medium.
But then we are the medium itself. And so this sets up an open open review now where the threat is everywhere will probably change. Hopefully not a garrison state but certainly not the kind of. Kind of junky yelled welcome to having a party atmosphere that has characterized American life so much. We were kind of unrealistic in that Anyway I know you all travel extensively internationally and you know you go to other countries and it was so different. I remember going to Switzerland and seeing tanks outside the airport and people walking around with you know machine guns and you know security was so much higher in other places and we had just you know no real mystic approach to it prior to this time. But we thought the oceans would be good you know 3000 miles away. FADEL The other was so big that that nobody
would get that large just physical symbols that represent us would be able to build the war and we're a superpower but I think while everyone saying that these events this great tragedy has changed our nation for ever. I think that's true. One thing has not changed. We're still a diverse democracy. And my great fear is that we'll lose both of those will lose both her sense of diversity and our rights. I'm ready to bear what burdens may come from war and I think war is likely to come. My fear though is that some people will be asked to bear a greater burden and we're already starting to see that we're starting to see hate crimes attacks on people of Arab background who are loyal citizens from the United States people who are Muslim and even people who aren't Arab or Muslim but who look like they might be right Arab or Muslim in their view the very first hate crime where some was killed was in Indian seek. Now it wouldn't have been any better if you were of Arab descent or
Muslim faith. But that just shows that in our anger some people will lash out at the closest target. I think it's appropriate to take military action. I'm just worried that our patriotism will become tainted with prejudice that will turn on ourselves and that would be an even worse disaster. We will get back to that point but I'm. You mentioned traveled a lot in thinking and I just wonder if in all of your travels and I know that all of you have not traveled abroad extensively. Have you seen anything in the way of security arrangements in other parts of the world that have any implications for the United States. I'm not clear about what you mean in the security arrangements in and out of the airports for example on the streets and so on. Will they have any of those things that you've seen abroad and will that kind of thing arrive in how you think so. Oh I think definitely I think. First of all our whole idea that we've got 20 minutes to get to the airport and run on the plane I think that's over. I think he
delays the actual searches of your personal belongings which happen when doubly now will happen on a more regular basis. I have been in a stop over in a mill Eastern country you know essentially body searched. I think there will be times when that goes on more not just that little one they put up and down you but I mean people will actually pat you down. So I think one of the interesting questions is whether they will keep the security in airports in a private sector because it sounds like now they may be determining that the private sector is not the best way to do this. So I think I'll be considerable changes and I think we're all sort of bracing ourselves for those changes. But I think because of the fear factor people are not going to fight those changes a lot. I think people will feel as though they have some safety by you know putting themselves through this sort of safety precautions that will be ratcheted up the security precautions. You know I've been through the airport in Tel Aviv where for a long
long time with Israel of course we have probably the world's most. Complicated like the security apparatus in terms of people boarding planes where they tell you up front I arrive at least two hours in front. If your bag is left unguarded over five or ten minutes a robot might pick it up and test it and blow it up. And I recall my last visit there where people have probably had a lot of books. The inspector went through each volume looking for suspect material and so on. I don't know whether we'll get to that level but I agree with Dr. Jenkins and what she was saying especially about the question of the private sector security arrangements in the wake of all of this I've been watching like most of us various programs among programs dealing with the not only private sector quality of security but the lower quality of that. And that's security when you have to go through the X-ray parts but until
recently no real security for folks who don't work at a place where you drive up from the back up the side and if you're with a catering company and the president leaves us alone there's no check. Some people have jail records and so on. And it and they're working with. With with with some aspect of the fight I think that there will be this shop the increased level of expectations of space and supervision of that so they will have these stories of FAA investigators getting on planes with machine guns at dummy range missile and not be detected and so on I I think that that's a plus. But the by this is what your colleagues have suggested that is a reduction of some of the liberties that we have taken for granted on the ground that there was no need to be otherwise. That's changed. Well as one question it seems to me to hang over everything. Will we in this country
ever feel safe again. That's an important question especially for our children and I think. It's important for parents to be paying attention to this and and securing the immediate sense of children's fears that you know these things happen so incredibly rarely that the likelihood that something is really personally going to happen to a child is is really in the forseeable future less likely. But kids see that on TV and they become very worried that it's going to happen down the street from them. And so I think one of the important aspects of this for our smallest children who've been watching this over and over again and the first thing they would say to parents is don't let the kids watch this over and over again that they don't really understand it especially young school age children. And they're only going to be confused and more fearful about it. I think parents are going to have to watch to see that their kids don't have any sleep disturbances that they don't start having other behavioral problems related to fear. So I think even though we anticipate a
lot of these changes in our lives I think the likelihood that something's going to happen so immediately especially for child's sort of environment is less likely and the kids need to know that we probably should get back to the questions. And the point that you made earlier is you know we always are conscious of the race issues here so I'd like to ask each of you if you see any racial backlash and coming as a result of the attack of September the 11th. You know I think it's important we talk about these issues to acknowledge this is a great nation but it's a nation in which every now and then it's capable of making mistakes and some individuals although there have been very responsible leaders. President Bush Mayor Giuliani have come out and said these hate attacks are wrong. You can't look at every one of the Muslim faith and think that there was a suicide bomber. We also hear radio shock deejays and others their audiences who are calling in and some leaders saying we should
deport everyone of Arab ancestry even people who were born here who are citizens or we shouldn't let anyone of Arab ancestry in. We should keep them out of certain sensitive areas. And the idea's even been made that everyone of the Muslim faith should be forcibly converted. And these things are very troubling here. I think I fear that our national unity will be purchased the cheapest way it can be which is by ostracizing a particular group. And nothing would better fulfill our enemy's hopes then if we returned fire not against the appropriate enemy but against ourselves. He began going back to children where his where once comfortable is that I think that message is important especially to children because in a lot of especially places like Washington and New York there are very diverse children in classrooms and you know it's very easy for kids to be mean to one another.
And so I think that schools are going to have to take a proactive stand in terms of really working with children about not responding in a negative way to children who look different than you. And I think that's really very basic. But certainly rolling back up on the agenda I think for a while be it sort of let that discrimination issue that we work with with children not really be at the forefront because for a lot of them because we were so diverse it wasn't occurring but I think there's a real threat of that now. And so I would hope that the education system would start to be more proactive about that. And I agree with Dr. Jenkins on that point. And I also feel that now it's a time more than ever for the kinds of black better word integrated thinking that we have talked about over the years and that various advocacy groups have tried to provoke to counteract what I see as. Only to some extent. A quote unquote natural the natural reaction. Of
diversity being a liability this is what some folks are saying now. Now we have said that diversity has been a plus and immigration policy has reflected that in the last 20 or 30 years. We should not go Fortress America in our thinking on that. Instead we should look for not only unity as a function of patriotism which is what I think we're working with now saying we're at war. Let's close ranks and we have a big thing in the black community and the First World War where black organizations were asked to close rights in the second world war two because what. It's written all of this. Do you have any business dealing with diversity. We used to have instigated a lot of nice modified. Race its behind categories we don't deal with. We deal with the individual. Well that was not true and that is not true. As a matter of fact some of our students have
been very careful to try to say what I think is really on their mind and they have said. Folks have come from other countries and through this sort of event Afghanistan and have had a better base ception into American culture than other folks who've been here three or four years and said if we don't. And so they have mixed feelings. Some will say My head tells me that the attacks are attacks on all of us. My heart tells me they were not aiming at that the black community and yet the black folks who have lost the lives of this so we have we have to continue to address this until his message not only on patriotism but on from grounds brother sisterhood grounds. And if you want to use religious language we want people who have our guards maybe and I want to go on like a Baptist preacher. But it is
important to get that kind of goal a look at how to act is that a whole big isolationism that I see cropping up and that on that note maybe we should talk about the nation as a whole and ask if there. Are any implications here. For civil civil liberties that will be in effect in that area maybe the lawyers should address that first. Well I think what we find from our history is once you give up your rights it's very hard to get them back. That's why I think we have to be vigilant. It's possible to be a patriot and to say yes we need to take action on the one hand and still be vigilant about civil rights on the home front on the other hand those are compatible. Sometimes people think well if you're in favor of civil rights that must mean you're not a patriot or you're disloyal or or they don't welcome dissent. Well dissent is one of those American core values. We ought to be trying to protect. There were plans in 1996 of the federal government drew up
secret plans that they had that The Washington Post published a story on in 1901 when the Persian Gulf War was going on. They had plans to detain and set up quarantine camps even when to use the word internment camps because they knew that that was a no no but they used the notion of quarantine in exactly this type of case. And. When those plans were made public in 1991 the federal government said well that was just a draft. You know we didn't really mean to do that we wouldn't want to do that but it was a comprehensive checklist of things that would be done in case of terrorism. And I wonder if some of the things that are already being talked about might not hearken back to that document and to internment camps and the other sort of things that we've seen in our history that we've unfortunately done in the past. Now it might not happen but in order to prevent these sorts of things from happening we have to allow dissent. We have to allow all the voices to be heard to stand up and say just because
one maybe a handful maybe a few dozen people of Arab descent who lived in this country did something heinous and wrong. That doesn't mean that millions of people who share nothing in common with these wrongdoers other than skin color that they also ought to suffer from this backlash. Jane you know I was just thinking I heard the story this morning about for example this flight from that stop in Minneapolis or somewhere and there were three Arab Americans on it and the people would would agree that go take off without them getting off and on and again they were there a lot of discussion about whether that was fair to them or not but it seems to me that whole those kinds of issues will crop up where you're essentially cutting people off in a way that looks you know very legal and very appropriate but in fact you are encroaching on their civil liberties and it and that's likely to make people dislike and what better way to make people deluded than to the United States than to mistreat them.
And I think we need as you were saying to link this to other issues. This is like the driving while black issue right profiling. It's the same thing as a different face on it and now it's got the National Security montra that are the bottom line is that I think bottom line is the same We've been member this is a it's a common cause and it's not about Arab-Americans it's about American principles and our Constitution. Well said. And on that issue of the nation a little national reaction to this there is a tremendous educational challenge here. We have reaction to that. Basically I've been talking technical How to this and that's fair. How as we're sitting around this table have we all to relate to each other. But we also have to expand out. Rick you know to understand he says that generate persons
who are willing to wait five to six years and then die and carry out a mission that is a Worrell and a mindset that is alien to our general experience. And all of that before we probably could learn something useful about the motivation and the social factors said that supports that. The thing that distresses me to some extent is the for many of the public commentators highlighting some a bad lot as one person but I say youngsters have said in some of these clips from that from Afghanistan we will be the future better lives and that's a big if behind that. If there is not a re-examination what generates this strong and Americanism that is that there's no longer something that you see happening somewhere else whether it's Beirut
whether it's an embassy someplace because it's happening here. We need to learn more and not. Stop at technical analysis but go into a sociological mood to see to see what's driving this so that if there's something that we can do beyond protective reaction then we can start training people to do a lot of problems and then we're going to only one publish that is they don't have enough people to speak Arabic and that many of the writers of Arabic language just and so when we talk about even the technical side education is so thin despite the fact that this nation runs off of a whole lot of oh I'm from that part of the world and many other things. So be need to join an educational effort to have military and political effort in order to to to to broaden the basis of our reaction to all of this.
And in everything I assume you mean that we want to protect our civil liberties not to give them up of course and if I'm hypothesizing if we learn what drives the legate if we can decide what we want to do on our side to change it so that we didn't have to. Put our civil liberties in the politics of the fiche. Well you know that kind of analogy. Well this is it didn't it. People are doing like the intelligence are gathering some of that at some level. But the concern you know is if you understand it it seems as though the motivation is so ingrained and intense that the likelihood of making a change in some major way is so limited. I would think that the intelligence agencies may be able to identify someone within a cell as they call it who may not have as strong as an intense or feeling then some of the
other people and maybe that's a way in to intelligence but in a large cultural way it seems to me that this is this is something you know sometimes I think we think we can do too much. OK. That this is such a long standing sort of cultural way people have lived and believed that the likelihood that they'll take and some adaptation to this that's different. I still think that's pretty farfetched. Could could be could be. But it's better than doing nothing. OK. And the other and the other is that. America has economic ties with the prosperous parts of the Arabian world that are necessary in our judgment. I'm going to back to oil. And the best one public can hope for. It's not a look at present security which no nation has really but to create a climate where the French musette the awful age groups will no longer find support and up most of what they do
and that way we think reduce the likelihood we can't eliminate. You know I think that we can create a climate where they will say what's the point and dancing ends on top of that I think this crisis shows two other things. It's important to have this training learning this exposure to other cultures because many Arab nations are allies. You know we in with all this talk of war many people are thinking that we're just going to go to war against the entire world. Far from it. The Arab world we hope will join with us in fighting the fringe groups so to understand our allies and to work with them. We need to understand at least their language a little bit at the canter and most people I think probably don't realize that not Arabs are Muslims. You know there are Christians there are all sorts of Arab cultural variations that we've just not not paid any heed to. But this also shows the
second thing I think. Profiles don't work. You know one of the the problems with the profiling they found is that these hijackers didn't fit the profile. They were young they were impoverished. They weren't disgruntled. This is cause people go back and say well we have to throw out that profile and maybe revise it. What I would suggest it shows is that really you can't profile you can't generalize and have something useful. Records case by case analysis and if we're going to fight an effective war. And I think everyone who wants to fight a war wants to fight a war to win. We have to have the facts we have to have knowledge we have to have the intelligence and then understand. I think you're absolutely right about. But I think I'm I would say then the broadening sort of where you might have started out in that. Understand that how we understand your conversation from understanding the terrorists sort of where the mental motivation for people to do negative things I think to a context of really understanding of the broader
culture. And as you said having more people who spoke the language in addition to begin to understand a culture better. I think that probably brings on a response that may have some preventive element down the line because again you're allies. I think look at you differently if they feel you really have some capability to communicate and understand culture. As a reaction to what happened at the unit at the hospital we actually had. A service put together by the chaplains office where one of the speakers was someone actually from my department who's a Muslim and he talked about the Muslim prayers and the interpretation of the Muslim prayers and he gave it in Arabic and he also said it in English and I think the message that he gave is this. What happened is not something you should associate with Muslim ism that's not where we are. These are the things that our prayer say. And I think that in many ways was sort of a healing and sort of the beginning of the kind of process you were talking about but
it's not sort of understanding the terrorist capacity to understand the broader culture yet right. And I think that probably is going to buy us a little more down the pike in terms of relations and Prevention perhaps than than any in a row we might be able to make with people who are really bent on doing that if they're bred on it. There is very little one and two in terms of what I call anticipating right. For example some folks are saying this time by air next time by something else. If there's a next time and certainly when you have not just extremist but death cult virtually like groups know those groups can imagine Usman are very difficult to contain because you can't find them generally speak until after the fact so to speak. But if you create a climate where they see
- Contributing Organization
- WHUT (Washington, District of Columbia)
- AAPB ID
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/293-20ftth75).
- Director of the Ralph J. (Johnson) Bunch International Affairs Center at Howard University, Horace G. Dawson hosts a panel discussing the sociological impacts of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Panelists include: Prof. Frank Wu of the School of Law at Howard University, Dr. Renee R. Jenkins the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Howard University Hospital, and Dr. Russell Adams the Chairman of the Department of African American Studies at Howard University. Together, they discuss the issues facing American society as expectations of security surpass those of civil rights. They briefly talk about the psychological and emotional effects the 9/11 footage will have on children. They talk about the concept of diversity as a liability in America due to racial backlash; reaffirming that racism is not a resolved issue in America. The issue that profiling only encourages domestic terrorism instead of patriotism is also looked at.
- Asset type
- No copyright statement in content.
- Media type
- Moving Image
Host: Dawson, Horace G.
Panelist: Wu, Frank
Panelist: Adams, Russell
Panelist: Jenkins, Renee R.
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
WHUT-TV (Howard University Television)
Identifier: 1112 (WHUT)
Format: Betacam: SP
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Aftermath of a Tragedy: America's Response to Terrorism,” 2001-00-00, WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-293-20ftth75.
- MLA: “Aftermath of a Tragedy: America's Response to Terrorism.” 2001-00-00. WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-293-20ftth75>.
- APA: Aftermath of a Tragedy: America's Response to Terrorism. Boston, MA: WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-293-20ftth75