Un-American America (Why Fear-Mongering is So Damn Frightening)

Freelance Journalist Nida Khan

We are living in precarious and dangerous times.  The economy remains unstable, joblessness is continuously skyrocketing, development is stagnant and unpredictable circumstances around the world are exacerbating the fears of many.  But what is also quietly bubbling underneath the surface is a far more treacherous and detrimental push for a shift in American psychology that in effect undermines the core principles upon which this great nation was founded.  It is the concerted, conscious effort to stoke the qualms of many with a great divide that is once again pitting ‘us’ against ‘them’.  Except this time, the ‘them’ could virtually be you, me or any one who slightly looks as if he/she doesn’t belong.

For the past few days, we have been inundated with images of the now infamous failed Times Square car bomb suspect, Faisal Shahzad.  What began as a thorough search for the person or persons involved in this foiled attempt has culminated into a drastic transformation in dialogue that is establishing dangerous precedent for many to be presumed guilty on the basis of their national origin, familial ancestry or travel records.

Faisal Shahzad

When authorities first released footage of an initial suspect over the weekend, the vast majority of broadcasters and reporters stayed clear of mentioning this man’s race.  Save for a few exceptions, the bulk of coverage on all three major networks – conservative Fox News, more liberal MSNBC and ‘fair and balanced’ CNN –  weren’t focusing on this man’s Whiteness, but rather leading with copy like ‘officials are seeking a middle-aged man seen here’ or ‘they are searching for a man in his 40’s’.  Fast-forward to Mr. Shahzad and all you see blaring across your TV screen is this man’s ethnicity and ties to another land far far away off in the distance somewhere.  But it isn’t only Pakistanis or Pakistani Americans that should be deeply concerned about this troubling imaging and change in verbiage.

This past month, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the most controversial immigration bill in our country’s history.  Literally institutionalizing and justifying racial profiling, this SB 1070 legislation transferred immense authority into the hands of local police that are often-times notorious for their biased behavior and poor judgment (one needs to only look at NJ were racial profiling was found even at the state police level).  But what is even more troubling than the potential backlash against all minorities in Arizona, is the ripple effects this is having across the nation.  Several other states are already pursuing their own versions of immigration ‘reform’ which amount to nothing more than criminalizing and dehumanizing certain groups of people.  The politicians and pundits that are pushing this anti-immigrant message need to be reminded of the intricate benefits that immigrants from all over the world have bestowed upon the United States and the plethora of ways in which they continue to do so.  If the backers of this SB 1070 wanted to be truly honest, they might as well say ‘if you’re not White, show me proof you belong here’ – because that’s literally what this bill means.


Everyone is familiar with the inscription on our symbolic emblem of freedom, the statue of liberty, that reads in part:  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.  But ask yourselves, how did we go from that optimistic, inclusive message to one filled with fear mongering, division and a sense of entitlement?  If you are Brown, Black or tan in Arizona, who’s to say your family members weren’t here before the area even received statehood in 1912?  And as some on the right push for all Pakistanis and all Muslims – whether citizens or not – to be monitored and watched, they are in fact turning back the clock on decades of progress.

If they espouse that we ‘end political correctness’ by questioning everyone who ‘doesn’t look like us’, what is to become of our inalienable rights that led the vast majority here in the first place? For those who do not see the ominous bias in our mainstream press when it comes to coverage of others versus coverage of so-called natives, just watch and observe over the coming days, weeks and months as Shahzad’s background is probed and dissected.  But unlike when Timothy McVeigh slaughtered scores and injured hundreds, the focus won’t be on his own troubled life (which includes the recent loss of his home and other economic troubles), but it will instead be on any ties to extremist elements.

Was isn't Joseph Stack considered a terrorist even though he flew his plane into an IRS building?

Now in no way am I condoning his behavior or stating that he didn’t have ties to any groups in Pakistan, but what I am doing is reminding people that when Joseph Stacks flew a plane into an IRS building less than three months ago and killed an African American man, he was not labeled a terrorist.  And yet this foiled attempt in Times Square, where nothing thankfully happened, will almost certainly create a backlash for Pakistanis, Muslims or anyone that resembles them.

As the jargon gains momentum with talk of homegrown terrorists and the cells within, we have to wonder, are we at stake here to slowly lose all of our basic fundamental civil liberties?  There is now even talk from politicians like Senator Joe Lieberman pushing for legislation that would strip anyone accused of terrorism of his/her citizenship.  But if terror and terrorism are terms used at our own discretion, do we now hold the power to determine one’s allegiance, patriotism or love of country?  If we can now be stopped in Arizona simply for jay walking and asked to ‘produce our papers’, isn’t that creating and justifying bigotry and racism?  Are these consistent regressive maneuvers a reaction to an ever-unstable economic future?  Or is it something more nefarious at play?  When did the United States of America became a land of ‘us’ verses everyone else?

These are indeed volatile times, and we should all be very, very afraid.

written by Nida Khan

Nida Khan is an independent journalist and producer working in both print and radio.  She is currently a news correspondent with WRKS 98.7 Kiss FM NY, and is a member of the production team of Rev. Al Sharpton’s nationally syndicated broadcast, ‘Keeping it Real’.  Nida previously served as the Editor-in-Chief of elan:  The Guide to Global Muslim Culture, and has contributed pieces for such diverse outlets as the Associated Press, Alternet.org, DUB Magazine, Lifetimetv.com, The Source Magazine, The Women’s Media Center and more.  hit her up at


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6 comments on “Un-American America (Why Fear-Mongering is So Damn Frightening)

  1. Fear-mongering seems to be an ancient con still being used by certain folks. While some of it it legit, the rest is a waste of time mostly nothing comes out of it…

  2. Davey,

    Remember the article by Newsweek tiltled, Should Joseph Stack Be Called a Terrorist (dated 2-21-10). The article talks about how editors and reporters determined not to label Jospeh Stack a terrorist. Reporter Dan Stone said,” terrorists have beards and live in caves”. It was clear that bias and prejudice determined the label of who is a terrorist and who is not. I guess the pen is mightier than the sword!

  3. Here’s your America:

    2 dead, 4 wounded after Oakland hip-hop event

    Victoria Colliver,Carolyn Said, Chronicle Staff Writers

    Sunday, May 9, 2010

    (05-09) 16:36 PDT OAKLAND — Two young men were killed and four women were injured, one critically, after a gunman opened fire early Sunday in a West Oakland warehouse that had been converted into an unlicensed music club, police said.
    More Bay Area News

    * 2 dead, 4 wounded after Oakland hip-hop event 05.09.10
    * Police: snipers had no choice in standoff 05.09.10
    * Violent home invasion in Mission 05.09.10
    * S.F. robber sprayed victim 05.09.10

    The shots rang out at 2:45 a.m. after a CD release party in a building of corrugated metal that has no sign but is known as The Ware House, at 34th and Chestnut streets near the California Hotel.

    Guests at the event – which was scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and had been publicized on fliers and the Internet – celebrated a CD by Oakland hip-hop artist Zulu the King.

    The performer, otherwise known as Xavier Lowery, said the release party ended peacefully and he left the warehouse to get something to eat. By the time he returned to socialize, he said, the assault had happened.

    “I feel bad for the families,” said Lowery, 28. “How do these mothers feel when their child is not coming to see them for Mother’s Day? It’s these senseless acts of violence we don’t need.”

    Oakland police said a 19-year-old man from Oakland and a 24-year-old man from Modesto were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. None of the victims have been identified.

    A 36-year-old woman was taken by ambulance to Highland Hospital in Oakland in critical condition, said Officer Holly Joshi, a police spokeswoman. She said three other female victims, two who are 20 and one who is 21, transported themselves to the hospital and are expected to survive.

    Police have not released any details about the suspect or suspects or determined a motive for the shooting. While saying the venue was unlicensed, she said she did not know if anyone affiliated with it would face punishment.

    Efforts to reach the building owner were unsuccessful.

    Adam Ivey, a jazz musician who rents studio space in the building, was in another room when he heard shots fired and described the ensuing scene as “pandemonium.”

    “I don’t know exactly what went bad but I heard stories about it being a turf war,” said Ivey, 29, of San Leandro. “I’ve never experienced anything like this firsthand.”

    Ivey said the warehouse had the potential to be a gathering place for people in the neighborhood to play and learn music. Recently, he said, the facility hosted a birthday party for a 13-year-old boy.

    “When you try to do something positive and you get this kind of result, it’s really sickening,” he said.

    Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Oakland police homicide section at (510) 238-3821.

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/05/09/BA4R1DBUGD.DTL#ixzz0nUOHDrbT

  4. This is un-American Jose..Our tax dollars at work… This is also the real world..now if u wanna play silly games and try to scour headlines for killing.. i have lots of stories i can post about police corruption..even more on corporate corruption… difference here some idiots shooting up a night club is not the same as cops terrorizing the community..just like a car accident is not the same as an airplane crashing…not sure of ur point.. are u trying to justify bad police behavior.. or are u saying bc we have killings in the hood we shouldnt focus on the bullshit shown in the film….maybe these cops shouldve been chasing real criminals a not beating innocents..

    Full report of Sanders shooting states ‘actions were reckless’


    New information on the May 2009 fatal shooting involving an Austin Police Officer has now been revealed.

    According to an article in Saturday’s Austin American Statesman, an independent review of the incident said officer’s actions leading up to the shooting were so reckless that they may have been criminal.

    The article quotes the report as saying that if former APD officer Leonardo Quintana had used the safety tactics he was trained in, he might have avoided shooting and killing Nathaniel Sanders.

    The article was based on a complete copy of a confidential report from an independent investigation firm. Until now, the media, and the public have not had access to the full report from KeyPoint Government Solutions. The report was completed last fall.

    “I think this undermines the credibility that the police chief has tried to build up over the years, and that he had done with a lot of success. Then, you turn around and see this. He’s the only one that has seen this. He’s the one who’s kept it from being released,” Director of Texas Civil Right Project Jim Harrington said. “This goes to the heart of the complaints that the minority communities have had about the police over the years. It’s just really sad. It’s a sad day for Austin that all of these folks: the chief, the city manager and mayor and council have all been engaged in this cover up.”

    City of Austin officials have only released portions of the report. The Statesman’s reporter said he obtained the full report from a man who refused to identify himself and only let the reporter see the full report for a few hours.

    “The reason that we pursued this in court was precisely because we didn’t trust the officials,” Harrington said.

    KeyPoint was hired by the city to look into the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Nathaniel Sanders by APD officer Leonardo Quintana.

    APD Chief Art Acevedo suspended Quintana for 15 days, for failing to turn on his dashboard camera, but after an internal investigation, the chief found that was Quintana’s only violation of APD policy. A grand jury also failed to indict Quintana for the shooting.

    Thursday, Leonardo Quintana was fired from the Austin Police Force after a drunk driving charge.

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