Underwear Bomber & 9/11 Culture
In my book, 9/11 Culture, I took note of the fact that the two most famous alleged terrorists in US custody (the so-called shoe bomber) and Zacarais Moussaoui are both Black Europeans. African American journalist Sheryl McCarthy suggested that the last thing African Americans need is to have the first guys tried in the US on terrorism charge look like “one of our own.” The arrest of Abdulmutallab extends this concern: one more young Black man on trial. This complicates what I see as an attempt by African Americans—from comic book artist Aaron McGruder to hip hop artists like Jay Z and Timbaland to reach out through their art to the people persecuted after 9/11 who belong to that group that came to be known as “looks Middle Eastern.” African American hip hop artists, I wrote, insisted “that their culture relies on cultural synergies created by reaching out to…the various cultures of South Asia and the Middle East.” My point was that a new math was created after 9/11 that made African Americans look better in comparison to these dangerous Brown people. But that new math is complicated each time the face of “Middle Eastern” terrorism looks Black.
Jeffrey Melnick, Associate Professor of American Studies