This post is the fifth in a series titled Digital Archives Internship (also tagged as Archiving the Death Penalty) where TAVP interns publish their reflections on processing the TAVP collection.
Surviving 9/11 / Surviving Hate: Transcribing One Muslim American's Experience Surviving a Hate Crime and Resisting the Death Penalty
by Tu-Uyen Nguyen
Ten days after the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Aryan brotherhood member Mark Stroman attempted to kill three men he assumed were terrorists: Vasudev Patel, Waqar Hasan and Rais Bhuiyan. Only Bhuiyan survived to become a spokesperson against Islamophobia and the racial ignorance it represents. Ten years later when Stroman faced an execution date, Bhuiyan sued Texas Governor Rick Perry to stop Stroman's execution.
When my supervisor Rebecca first told me about the opportunity to transcribe eight tapes -- nearly eight hours -- of her interview with the Bangladeshi American, I was strangely ecstatic to volunteer because I knew I would be using my Asian American Studies major. It provides a critical framework for understanding what it means to be an American despite resembling the current enemy of the state. I had to learn how Bhuiyan's story is one representation of the Muslim American experience in the U.S. after 9/11.
At first, I was slow at transcribing and getting used to the narrator's voice. Now, my record is eight minutes of speech in one hour of transcribing! My efficiency depends on my energy level, how much I've slept, my posture, and whether the sun is out that day. I can tell when the narrator is getting tired when it becomes more difficult to understand their words. I am like an invisible ghost of the future sitting in the room with them, reliving the interview itself in the present.
By archiving this interview with Rais Bhuiyan, TAVP facilitates a global conversation about surviving the violence of racial hatred and engaging with the shared public memory of that violence. Now living in Dallas, Bhuiyan is as Texan as I am. I feel like I'm learning from a neighbor who has lived through so much. Although I have not technically "met" Rais Bhuiyan, listening to him share memories of his life before, during, and after the "shooting incident" has helped me reach new levels of understanding the American Dream, Otherness, and what it means to be human in a global community.
Rais Bhuiyan's full-length oral history interview will be available on HRDI sometime in Summer 2014.