6 April 2015
Word Count: 822
Prejudice in Post 9/11 America In Sherman Alexie’s “Flight Patterns”, A common place cab ride is transformed into a deep, thoughtful, and eye opening perspective on how racial prejudice has affected the lives of two ordinary men, William and Fekadu. The common theme of racism is represented in both of their series of stories, as well as the negative impacts they have had on the two men.
Post 9/11 society in the United States has seen a degradation in relations between many
Americans and their Middle Eastern counterparts, as well as other minorities, creating many obstacles for their daily lives.
The comparison of modern racism between Flight Patterns, a work of realistic fiction, and real life, are very accurate, although the majority of these prejudicial incidents occur with a certain degree of subtlety. The passive aggressive nature of these racially driven confrontations in minorities’ daily lives makes it increasingly difficult for them to combat; living in a country where the mere sight of darker skin can draw unwanted attention in the form of security checks and casual discrimination can drastically decrease the quality of one’s life. In
Flight Patterns, William and Fekadu both share recollections of times they have been persecuted, and it is shown that William is prone to be a target for racial prejudice, as he appears to be of Middle Eastern descent. In one instance, William is told to “go back to his own country” (Alexie, 63) The irony of William’s heritage, seeing as he is of Native American
descent, shows how blind the hatred toward Arabic citizens and immigrants in the United
States truly is.
Racism is generally defined as “the belief that members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races”. This general definition of racism cannot quite capture the current tension between Americans and Arab Americans, and/or people that appear to be of Arab descent; racism is more commonly seen when one group of people believe that they are superior to another, and tend to discriminate based upon that assumption, whereas prejudices against the Arabic people stem from an underlying fear that they are a danger to our safety, and way of life. The tragedy of 9/11 ignited the American people’s fear of the unknown enemy, the concept that anyone who looks like a terrorist could be, and probably is a terrorist.
The sight of a dark skinned man wearing a turban in an international airport might make someone’s skin crawl, an uneasy feeling can be felt, stemming from the association with that appearance, and the appearance of a terrorist. The problem with this form of racism is that it is not based upon superiority, it is based completely upon fear, the thought of danger being right around the corner, hiding under a thick beard and a set of robes; the fearful nature of this type of discrimination makes it hard to combat, as it is harder to be accepting of a group of people when the belief that they are all out to hurt you is a possibility.
In Flight Patterns, William recalls instances in which he was insulted or stereotyped in his daily life, and while he dismisses it as ignorance, as well as finds it humorous, he realizes that many people around him genuinely think ill of him merely as a result of his Arabic appearance. In addition to being heckled by random members of the population, William is forced to endure tedious checks at airports, as well as other places where security checks are required. Polls show that after 9/11, 58% of Americans believed Arabs should undergo more
intensive security checks (Widner). The trust issues that Americans have with Arabic people are truly unjustified, as it is estimated that only 0.01% of Muslims in the world are prone to