“We Did Not Vilify All White Men”: Allusions to Other Tragedies

“we did not vilify all white men when mcveigh bombed oklahoma. america did not give out his family’s addresses or where he went to church. or blame the bible or pat robertson” (Hammad 3).

Such is the way in which poet Suheir Hammad describes the anger and pain she feels in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Throughout her poem entitled “First Writing Since”, Hammad channels the overwhelming amount of emotions she experiences in the wake of 9/11, such as in Part Five when she alludes to another terrorist incident in which people of the same color of the attacker did not become victims of unjust hate crimes.

Hammad’s use of allusion in Part Five on the third page of her poem highlights the way in which she feels about Muslim Americans being unfairly treated after the 9/11 attacks. In the second stanza of Part Five, Hammad mentions how “mcveigh bombed oklahoma” (Hammad 3). This is a direct reference to Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing of April 1995. Prior to the September 11 attacks in 2001, this was the deadliest terrorist incident in the United States. McVeigh was a white American who killed his own countrymen in a massive attack yet the world did not begin hating and discriminating against all white Americans. Additionally, Hammad alludes to Christianity, a major religion in white America, not coming under attack by stating that people did not “blame the bible or pat robertson” (Hammad 3) as reasons for McVeigh’s actions.

Aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing 

Hammad’s use of allusion drives her point home: by using real life examples and facts, Hammad is able portray the emotions that she feels in a relevant manner. She does not need to only rely on creative language or vivid descriptions to express her feelings: all she needs to do is bluntly point out hard evidence. Seeing Hammad do this in such a straightforward way is powerful because her frustration and anger is so clear. She laments how unfair it is for all Muslim Americans and Islam to be treated poorly simply because the terrorists of 9/11 were Muslim. She exclaims how white Americans and their religion didn’t come under attack after McVeigh’s awful actions. By openly challenging the racist notions of the hate crimes against Muslim Americans, Hammad brings immediate attention to contemporary issues.

No More Hate Crimes

Allusion is a powerful tool in writing and Hammad takes full advantage of its capabilities. By making references to real life events, readers are able to quickly understand Hammad’s point and think about shifting perspectives and irrational reasoning that exist in the wake of a tragic event such as September 11. Reading Hammad’s poem can help one realize how people are just people, regardless of skin color or religion.


Works Cited

Hammad, Suheir. “First Writing Since.” In Motion Magazine, 7 November 2001, p. 3.

“Timothy McVeigh.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 7 June. 2018, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Timothy-McVeigh.

Oklahoma City bombing image: https://goo.gl/images/8DaL8h

Hate Crimes image: https://goo.gl/images/jQeM4w

One thought on ““We Did Not Vilify All White Men”: Allusions to Other Tragedies

  1. Throughout your discussion of contemporary allusions in Hammad’s poem, I notice that you point to these allusions as functioning to provide the reader with a context to Hammad’s emotional state and to shed light on modern issues. And while I agree that this device produces those effects, I think the key impact of this device is to point to the contrast between how Americans treat two different perpetrators of two similar tragedies. This contrast indicates the difference between how Hammad fears on her family’s behalf and on the behalf of arabs and Muslims post-9/11 versus a total lack for any consequence toward whites and Christians post the McVeigh bombing. In my opinion, First Writing Since serves to point out these discrepancies and the inherent unfairness in how American culture as a whole treats tragedies.
    Allusion in First Writing Since also serves to indicate the repetitive nature of events, documenting case after case of white Americans failing to be classified as hate groups and assigned blame en masse in the way arabs and Muslims are. The reputation of injustice after injustice draws attention again to the sheer contrast of how similar situation with a key difference are treated.

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