Bin Laden Is Dead....And? After Bin Laden-what?
/11 affected the whole nation in a profound way. This act of terror did not discriminate—there were people of all races, ages, religions, and backgrounds in the planes, in the towers, and in the Pentagon. While the pain was greatest for the victims and family and friends of the victims, people across the country felt a deep hurt and fear. The United States and its people were suddenly vulnerable and broken. Soon, the cause of this wound had a name—alQaida—and a face: that of Osama bin Laden. ate on May 1, 2011, a Sunday night almost ten years after 9/11, President Obama came on television to tell the nation and the world that bin Laden was dead. He had been killed in a raid on his compound in Pakistan. Almost immediately, the nation breathed a sigh of relief. People gathered in spontaneous groups in streets around the country and even in front of the White House. Within days, polls were reporting that Americans overwhelmingly felt relieved, or even proud. 1 But what about African Americans? Did this subset of Americans react any differently than the rest of the country to the news that bin Laden was dead? here are reasons that the AfricanAmerican experience after 9/11 might have been different than that of other Americans. The attacks were perpetrated by Muslims, and African Americans make up 35% of American Muslims. 2. Did African-American Muslims feel more discriminated in the United States because of this? Would that cause them to feel differently than other Americans about bin Laden’s death? hat about non-Muslim African Americans? Did they have different experiences than non-Black Americans after 9/11, and could that have affected how they responded to this latest news? President Obama, who ordered the attack on bin Laden’s compound, and who made the announcement to the world, is the first Black president. Do African Americans identify with him more than other Americans do, and if so, would that have
WANTED MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER, 2011
Thousands of jubilant New Yorkers flocked to the site of the 9/11 terror attack during the night to celebrate the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. troops, but for families who lost someone on 9/11 bin Laden’s death was greeted with a mix of elation and sadness.
changed how they reacted to the news? n the 2008 presidential election, African Americans turned out in record numbers and voted overwhelmingly for Obama. African-American voters were 12.1% of the overall electorate and had a voter turnout rate of 65.3%—almost 5% higher than in 2004. The highest voter turnout rate among any racial, ethnic, or gender group was Black women, with 68.8% voting. Among young voters, Blacks beat out all other racial and ethic groups with 58.2% voting. 3 According to exit polls, 96% of the African-American votes went to Obama. 4. And while the votes went to Obama, terrorism was not among the issues important to African Americans. A survey found that 42% of Blacks said the economy was the most important issue, with rising gas and energy prices, healthcare, and the war in Iraq being the next highest issues. 5 These issues were similar to the national trend at the time: 57% of Americans in general felt that the economy was the biggest issue. The war on Iraq and healthcare the next two most important issues with 13% of voters choosing each. 6. Was the African-American reactito the death of bin Laden very different at all from that of Americans as a whole? Did they
dance in the streets next to Americans of other races? Did they feel the same relief or happiness? What did the polls say about their responses? What did African-American columnists write in the days after President Obama’s announcement? What was the response of the “man on the street?” African Americans after 9/11 frican Americans were victims of 9/11 just like people of all other races. They were among those killed in the attacks. Survivors were physically wounded and emotionally scarred. Family and friends lost loved ones. Race played no part in that. The effects of 9/11 were much more than only the immediate death and injury of those in the buildings or planes. There were some great wounds inflicted on our national psyche, such as the realization that the country is vulnerable from outside attack. Emotional trauma like this is difficult to handle and, according to a survey by NORC, people around the country experienced psychological effects such as “having a reduced appetite, a greater tendency to cry, rapid heart-beat and an increased urge to smoke.” Interestingly, this survey and its follow up several years later found that African Americans felt fewer of these symptoms than other Americans, but those who