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Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

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    Have you even judged someone on who he or she is or what they looked like? And have you ever had a bad experience or traumatic experience happens and you looked for someone or something to blame, but in reality there was nothing to blame? Well, a natural disaster can be blamed on no one, but in times like that emotions run wild and blame can be put on someone who fits a certain profile. Racism and Hurricane Katrina were two forces that clashed together to create an even bigger problem for the victims.

    This is caused by an insecurity of the situation at hand. In the book Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, racism and racial profiling is the underlying themes in the story. These themes are also the underlying themes of people who are subjected to this every day of their lives. Racism and profiling in America today are two growing factors due to the terrorist attack on September 11th, the war in the Middle East, and the fact that most people think that people from the Middle East are terrorists.

    Zeitoun’s story should be told so that the people who are not subjected to racism and profiling can get a taste of how a person who has done nothing but good for himself, his family and neighbors can just instantly be subjected to misperceptions of others because they are scared from a traumatic experience. To judge another person without knowing them is wrong, even though everyone does it, but to accuse a person of something without knowing is worse.

    Zeitoun was accused of crimes, thrown in jail, thought to be a terrorist, and treated not as an American citizen, but as an alien. According to Mollyann Brodie, Hurricane Katrina hit land on August 29, 2005, as a category four hurricane, causing great damage throughout the Gulf Coast region and also basically destroying the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Abdulrahman Zeitoun was a victim of this hurricane, making him a victim of racism. For Zeitoun, being a Muslim made him no different than any other person, except for some cultural differences.

    Zeitoun was a victim of hurricane Katrina and also a victim of corruption, racism, racial profiling, and distortion by the media, falsely incarceration and in a way a victim of society due to the fact that the government did not handle the hurricane situation well. The government did not handle it well because they did not make sure people were evacuated and also they did not have official law enforcement that would preform the correct duties and use the correct guidelines. The officials that they had were military guards and hat it seemed as regular people dressed in bulletproof vests, holding guns, and arresting people. All in all there was no order. In the novel, Abdulrahman Zeitoun was a Muslim man who came to America, lived in New Orleans and became part of the American working class. He owned his own business, had an American wife and children, lived well, and made money which is what every American wants. But after Hurricane Katrina hit, even though he knew he was looked at differently before, he soon found out that he was seen as the cause of the damage in the eyes of some of the people who did not know him.

    The story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun should be told because is shows two sides of the story. One side, Zeitoun, who is a humble, hardworking man loves America and those in it. Then there is the other side of the track, which involves racism and shows the side of the people who perceive Zeitoun and judge him based on his appearance. They see the appearance of a Middle-Eastern man who in the eyes of some people, is seen as nothing more than a terrorist who hates America. According to a CBS News poll, 51% of Americans believe that racial profiling is justifiable and is okay to do.

    So does that make it okay to be racist and discriminate against a person? No, especially when the racism is about an event that no person could possibly help. Despite the fact that if a person is racist due to coping issues it is still wrong. As for those who hear the story it might change people’s prospective on profiling those he or she doesn’t know. Abdulrahman Zeitoun is a Muslim man who lived in New Orleans with his family. When the Hurricane was coming his family left for a safer area, but Zeitoun wanted to stay with his house because he worked hard to get where he was.

    Zeitoun wanted to try to protect his house in anyway possible. After all the damage was done and New Orleans was submerged in water and nearly completely destroyed, Abdulrahman Zeitoun was asked by his wife to leave the area and go to a safer place. But Zeitoun being the person he is, decided to stay and to help out anyway possible. He canoed around helping those who needed it. When Zietoun was at his house after the hurricane and after he had helped all the people that he could help in the town, he decided that is was time for him to also leave the city.

    Zeitoun was confronted by National guardsmen and taken to a make shift military base. The entire ride he was treaded poorly, handcuffed, and pushed around. When he arrived at the Union passenger station used as a jail, he was told that he was Al-Qaeda and that’s why he was taken. The national guardsmen saw that Zeitoun was of a Middle Eastern culture and took him. There, Zeitoun was experiencing racism without even knowing it. Zeitoun was stripped searched and rectum searched, called racial slurs and treated poorly, but Zeitoun tried to look at the situation as mandatory protocol and not a racial discrimination.

    The place he was at was given the name “Camp Greyhound”. At this camp there wasn’t just racist acts towards Zeitoun, but there was racist acts to all those who were different. This racism did not just come from the guards, but from all those who were not locked up. For example, Zeitoun had an infected foot and needed medical attention, and when he saw a man in green hospital scrub pants and a stethoscope he asked for help. The man replied, “I not a doctor. ” Zeitoun was a victim of racial profiling.

    Zeitoun was perceived as a terrorist and treated like he was one. The fact that a hurricane just hit and caused trauma to people made the people of Camp Greyhound want to take their anger out on Zeitoun. America has been through a lot especially the terrorist attacks on September 11th. These Terrible things that happened to America are heavily put on the Muslim culture. Blame is put on the Muslim even if the situation did not involve them because past experiences, and its just someone to point at.

    According to martin Luther King Jr. from The Letter From Birmingham Jail, Non violent direct action such as always questioning and trying to figure out situations, would caused tension and sooner or later the questions would be answered. Through all of this Zeitoun never raised a finger to any of the people who were treating him in a poor way. He knew that if he just waited patiently and tried to keep getting answers out of the people who were holding him, he would soon be okay and safe. People in hurricane-affected areas were exposed to many stressors, including death of loved ones, risk of death, property loss, difficulty obtaining food and clothing, and exposure to violence after the storm. Prior research has reported strong associations between severity of disaster-related trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Alan M. Zaslavsky). ” During times of disasters, such as hurricanes, when there is no one to blame, where the devastation is great, emotions are running high, and people do in fact look for someone to blame.

    As these emotions run wild and a person looks for something to blame, memories of a past traumatic experience are brought back up. Even if it did not affect the person directly, it is thought of. September 11th was a terrible day and from that day the Muslim culture was looked at as terrorists. When Hurricane Katrina hit and the people were traumatized, they look for blame. When the guardsmen saw Abdulrahman Zeitoun, their anger kicked in and automatically accused him even when they knew he did not cause the hurricane.

    Hurricane Katrina affected people in different ways, whether that is from a loss of a house, property, friends, family, pets, or more. All these things that people had to endure does not add up to the effects that racism due to the effects that racism has on people affected by a natural disaster. Every person has his or her own ways of coping with traumatic experiences, whether it be crying, not speaking, talking about it, or laughing. People also experience physiological issues such as PTSD.

    According to the National Collaboration Centre for Mental Health, PTSD can form from traumatic events and disasters, and cause people to become hostile due to their own inability to overcome what is bothering that person. Traumatic experiences, such as hurricane disasters, cause people to surface defense mechanism in their mind to try to block out or help deal with the experience that has happened. Racism is a huge effect when it comes to coping with traumatic experiences due to the fact that a person looks for something or someone to blame in order to be able to take out their anger or fear.

    Not to say the guardsmen had an excuse, but people who experience natural disaster are prone for PTSD, those who are in the military are prone to PTSD, and the combination of both has greater effects on a person, which could explain the terrible behavior of the guardsmen. According to Adams, Glenn, Laurie T. O’Brien, and Jessica C. Nelson “Threat to American identity may explain why many people vigorously denied allegations of racism in the aftermath of Katrina and labeled such allegations divisive, irresponsible, or unpatriotic. So the national Guardsmen who were giving Zeitoun such a hard time knew what they were doing, but they chose to ignore the truth, and just do what they wanted to do. According to Carl F. Weems trauma from natural disasters and stress from natural disasters often lead to posttraumatic stress disorder. Now is it that all these people are just racist, or is it that they are racist due to PTSD from the traumatic Hurricane that took place? You can see this with the National guardsmen who might of seen combat.

    For example, the national guardsmen referred to them as Al-Qaeda and terrorists, and also would not allow them to eat food, get medical attention or even have a phone call. Zeitoun was given no right despite the fact that he even had proper ID on him when they took him. Zeitoun was a victim of racism and social profiling due to the mistrusting mindsets of people. Despite the fact that they knew nothing about him, they stereotyped him and treated him as a non-American. The devastation from hurricane Katrina was terrible, but despite traumatic experiences a person should not forget that people are people and have rights.

    In conclusion, the experiences of the aftermath of the hurricane were different for everyone. Some experiences were better than others and some were worse than others. While some people tried to help create solutions to the problem, others were just out to find a scapegoat. Racism and Hurricane Katrina were two forces that clashed together to create an even bigger problem for the victims. Racism is the most powerful, destructive force. Racism is a killer, and it is experienced and given out everyday, and Zeitoun’s story should be told so that lessons can be learned for future times.

    Works Cited

    Adams, Glenn, Laurie T. O’Brien, and Jessica C. Nelson. “Perceptions Of Racism In Hurricane Katrina: A Liberation Psychology Analysis. ” Analyses Of Social Issues & Public Policy 6. 1 (2006): 215-235. Academic Search Premier. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. Alan M. Zaslavsky, et al. “Recovery From PTSD Following Hurricane Katrina. ” Depression & Anxiety (1091-4269) 28. 6 (2011): 439-446. Academic Search Premier. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. Brodie, Mollyann, et al. “Experiences of Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Houston shelters: implications for future planning. ” Journal Information 96. 8 (2006). Carl F. Weems, et al. Sleep Fears, Sleep Disturbance, And PTSD Symptoms In Minority Youth Exposed To Hurricane Katrina. ” Journal Of Traumatic Stress 24. 5 (2011): 575-580. Academic Search Premier. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. Eggers, Dave. Zeitoun. New York: Vintage, 2010. Print. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr. ]. ” Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr. ]. N. p. , 16 Apr. 1963. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www. africa. upenn. edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham. html>. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: The Management of PTSD in Adults and Children in Primary and Secondary Care. London: Published by Gaskell and the British Psychological Society, 2005. Print.

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