In his article, Pyne writes that following the events of September 11, the highly anxious American public were looking for someone to tell them who to fear. The legislation and increased security actions taken against Arab and Muslim people had cued the public to fear those religious and racial groups. This had built up prejudice and discrimination against Muslims, Arabs, and related groups.
Orientalism is characterized by a number of prejudicial behaviors. It is the classifying of a group as “other,” based on prejudged characteristics like appearance, beliefs, or behaviors believed to be consistent within a culture. Because the group has been Orientalized, they have been stripped of their authentic identities and are now just symbols. This makes them easy targets for crimes of prejudice and discrimination, because they are no longer people, but objects.
Prejudice against this objectified other can take the outwardly blatant form of hate crimes or legislation directed against specific groups, or it can be found in the more subtle discriminations found in the workplace or travel sectors. Arab, Muslim, and related groups have faced the brunt of this Orientalism in America since 9/11. Pyne points out that previously otherized groups like Irish or Italian-Americans have now been brought into the fold of being “white.” The hardwired suspicion of humans toward each other is always present, but the boundaries of orientalism can shift.
To try to eliminate prejudice in our current world is a huge undertaking. Besides changing people’s perspectives of a race by forcing them to live together, it may also benefit those who have participated in hate crimes to learn about the culture they are targeting. Prejudice may be hardwired into humans, but empathy is an important force for change. We must teach our citizens while they are still young to respect and appreciate the multicultural face of America with racial pride parades, workshops about the food and culture of different country’s regions, and games and dances from other parts of the world in a fun and relaxed environment. Reaching into the future through our children today is the best way to try to eliminate prejudice within our lifetimes.