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Started by reader100 on Jun 17, 2012 3:45:53 AM
The business of remaking Arab-American identity

Do Arab-Americans have anything to gain by achieving minority status, or should they remain categorised as 'Caucasian'?

In January 2012, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's (ADC) Legal Director, Abed Ayoub, filed a petition with the United States Department of Commerce calling for Arab Americans to qualify for "disadvantaged minority" status. This petition would grant Arab-American businessmen and women access to coveted government contracts.

Are Arabs disadvantaged and thereby would qualify as a "minority" under American law?

Is this universally the position within the Arab community?

The vast majority of Arabs in the US are Christian, do they in agreement?

Is the issue related to being Arab or to being Muslim?

reader100 - 17 Jun 2012 04:05:08 (#1 of 1076)

In 2000, the US census put the number or Arabs in the US at 1.2 million. Arab interest groups such as CAIR use numbers put out by James Zogby which claims a population almost double.

According to American Arab Institute, two-thirds of American Arabs are Christian - primarily Maronite and Chaldean, while about 25% are Muslim.

89% of Arab American adults have a high school diploma. 45% have college degrees (compared to 28% of all Americans). And 18% a post-graduate degree double the proportion of all Americans

Median income for Arab American households in 2008 was $56,331 compared with $51,369 for all households in the United States. Mean individual income is 27% higher than the national average of $61,921. 13.7% of Arab Americans live below the poverty line, though the figure increases to over 28% for single mothers.

Source: American Arab Institute

yowsa1 - 17 Jun 2012 04:14:55 (#2 of 1076)

... access to coveted government contracts.

Yo' answered yo' own question right there.

MestangloMan - 17 Jun 2012 04:46:59 (#3 of 1076)

Arab, like the word Jew, is a broad category in terms of what most folks think of as race, especially the feds. It includes everyone from Northern Sudan to the Gulf to the Levant. Somalia is in the Arab League, just to add one more quirk to the picture. I've been doing a lot of research into racial categories in the last 18 months or so. The category known as Race/Color has included everything from Negro/Black to Mulatto to Indian/Native American in the modern parlance to White/Caucasian to Mexican, Greek, Italian, Bohemian, and, yes, American(One of my distant relatives on a death certificate in 1915). Add Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Hindu so as not to be confused with those listed as Indian.

Yes, as the man said in the article, it's very arbitrary. Yes, the government screwed the Pooch on race. My goodness, the Arabs agree with me on this point. Whoda thunk it? Good luck to the folks in trying to find their identity in this 311 plus million big daddy called America.

BTW, Reader, I linked an article on Inty/Arab Uprisings to the effect of "How I lost my Whiteness after 9/11" by a Palestinian/American who teaches in the UK. And, yes, the man is White.

For grins, I listened to an interview from Johnny Winter yesterday. He talked about his love for Blues. He said he could relate to the Black experience because he is an Albino, as is his brother Edgar. He was too White, as he described it.

MestangloMan - 17 Jun 2012 04:52:47 (#4 of 1076)

"9/11 Stole my Whiteness" by Tarak Barkawi.

Anyway, the Arabs are experiencing what many in America have known for 200 years or more, that between the darkest brown and the lightest shade of Northern European, there are many ways one can be perceived in this wild nation of ours. If it's more to do with religion, that may add another aspect.

My advice:

Know Thyself and Live your Life to the Full. Color thyself Arab, Palestinian, or, hell, Blonde as a Swede if you wish.

More than likely you will be walking that fine line. Enjoy it. Ambiguity has its plus side.

Nitey nite nite.

MestangloMan - 18 Jun 2012 17:07:50 (#5 of 1076)

Well, not shocking, but Michelle Obama has White ancestry that goes back to the state of Georgia, proving, once again, that many Americans with colonial roots are mixed as hell. And in other news, Rodney King is now one with the spirit world. And may he RIP.

Many folks are obsessed over this issue. That would include myself, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, and the young, Arab American man in the link. Others couldn't give five craps for this ancestral biz.

I don't blame folks whose roots in America may go back to the 1880s moving into contemporary times for trying to hold onto their immigrant heritage to the max. I'm including some of my relatives of Central European status on my mom's side through blood and my dad's side through marriage.

What's back there in the Old World, of course, may surprise you. Or, to put it in other terms, don't be surprised if your pure "ethnicities" ain't so pure. I'll say that to my Arab buddies, too.

We Americans of aboriginal, colonial, and pioneer heritage are always amazed at how impure our lines really are. I'm very much into the search for ancient anthropologies, but I do keep some distance viz a viz the claims.

And never confuse political power plays with genetics. That is the unfortunate original sin of the USA if there is one. And, of course, one in the present world has no power over our biological ancestors. We can only learn and grow.

To both the Old World and the New. Once again, new immigrants, or relatively new immigrants to the States, are learning what many have known for decades and decades. Enjoy the ride if you dare.


Post by deleted user
reader100 - 19 Jun 2012 05:27:22 (#7 of 1076)

duorpdnatfel - 19 Jun 2012 03:27:06 ( #6 of 6)

Should South Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, Turkish-Americans, Armenian-Americans, Jewish-Americans etc. do the same?

Do any of these groups fall into the category of disadvantaged minority?

brooklyn - 19 Jun 2012 05:31:09 (#8 of 1076)

I don't know you, reader. but I suspect you are pretty new. let me give you a little advice? the poster you just addressed is a conservative troll who seeks to make fun of other posters by advancing stupid propositions and then awaiting the responses.


reader100 - 19 Jun 2012 14:06:44 (#9 of 1076)

brooklyn - 19 Jun 2012 05:31:09 ( #8 of 8)

One can argue whether whether the situation has changed today. However, it is undeniable that historically people of colour, particularly blacks and American Indians, had been severely discriminated against in, even, the recent past. Therefore, there is a justification for programs that attempt(ed) to rectify past injustices.

There are other groups that have not faced the same disadvantages, yet are attempting to obtain the benefits of these programs. I'm not deliberately picking out Arabs, it is just that this article in Al-Jazeera caught my eye and it was easy to pick up some supporting statistics. It is quite clear that the Arab community in the US is not disadvantaged. As a previous poster pointed out, obtaining disadvantaged status would allow members of the designated group a fast track to carved out government contracts. In other words, to obtain an economic advantage.

MestangloMan - 19 Jun 2012 14:35:40 (#10 of 1076)

Btw, there is also the issue of Blacks and Native Americans trying to "Pass," that is to say pass as White or blend into American society, very similar to Jews trying to "Pass" as Christians in much of Europe. That is a huge part of the hidden history of America in much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Very intriguing.

It seems the issue with discrimination against Arabs has its roots in the first World Trade Center bombing culminating in the bitter events of 9/11 and beyond; plus, like the "Indian Wars," which were bitter on all sides, the USA has engaged on many fronts in the Arab World. And, yes, like in the Indian Wars, the factions and loyalties are quite complex.

Plus the article you linked, Reader, plus the one I linked seems to suggest that there is an identity confusion and the passions may have as much to do with religion, especially Islam, as they do with shades of color. Whether or not that leads to job discrimination is another question.

I don't see Arabs, Turks, Iranians etc. having some of the same economic disadvantages of groups you mentioned, surely not in the states, but there could be other slights that are just as annoying.

But economically?

No. Add Indians from India, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, etc., called "Hindus" in older, governmental listings, aka the 1930 Census.

reader100 - 19 Jun 2012 15:01:17 (#11 of 1076)

MestangloMan - 19 Jun 2012 14:35:40 ( #10 of 10)

A few years ago, a university (I don't remember which one) conducted an interesting experiment. It trained a few people to speak with different American regional accents. Invariably, when the individual spoke with a deep southern accent, they were perceived to be slow, not too bright and unsophisticated. However, when the same person spoke with a northeastern Boston type of accent, the observers listed that person as intelligent and cultured. Interestingly this stereotyping was true also for participants who were originally from the South.

We can conclude from this that people from the southern US are slighted. So, slights are one thing. But is it the role of the government to rectify hurt feelings due to being slighted?

On the other hand, active discrimination which leads to disadvantage is something else.

MestangloMan - 19 Jun 2012 15:08:35 (#12 of 1076)

I read the article about the Arab American chap from California losing his Whiteness post-9/11, Reader. The title itself is a bit bonkers, especially when one looks at the chap's pic. He's a freaking Honkey. He even admits it. And I've been doing a crapload of investigations over the last several months. Many folks had to pass and survive in this country. The numbers are probably quite staggering. Hey, Arab Americans, welcome to the funky club. Don't feel alone.

I agree that Arab Americans attempting to get government contracts based on minority status looks very strange, but don't be shocked if it happens. Organization and loud voices can do a lot of things.

And let's not forget that Queen Noor is of Arab American heritage. We'd all like some of that disadvantage.

reader100 - 19 Jun 2012 17:26:08 (#13 of 1076)

MestangloMan - 19 Jun 2012 15:08:35 ( #12 of 12)

And let's not forget that Queen Noor is of Arab American heritage.

... and it was her grandfather who was one of those who filed suit in Federal Court in the 1890s to have Arabs defined racially as "white." I seem ro recall that we had this discussion before.

The numbers are probably quite staggering.

I suspect that there is no "probably" about it. Look at the numbers who suddenly discovered Jewish ancestry - Wesley Clark, John Kerry, George Allen, Madelaine Albright. There is quite a long list.

Twain satirized this in Puddinhead Wilson.

MestangloMan - 19 Jun 2012 17:31:40 (#14 of 1076)

Buddhist/Muslim sectarianism breaks out over rape charges in Myanmar.

It's the 147th anniversary of Juneteenth, the freeing of slaves in Texas. I skimmed a piece from the Dallas Morning News on Sunday describing a case where a Black man was severely tortured and killed for raping a young girl in 1890 or so. Even Blacks were utilized in the mob attacks to help bring "justice" to this man. Of course, it was a case of mistaken identity. The Sheriff in the case did everything he could to protect the man, but mob justice ruled the day. Some of that, unfortunately, is going on re: Zimmerman today, with the colors reversed, sort of(Not really). Say what you want about Zimmerman, his wife, father, mother, etc. shouldn't have their lives threatened. The Justice Department would do well to investigate the cops, the judicial system in Florida, as well as the New Black Panthers. But that would take a real "Post-racial" executive. Good luck with that.

Arabs and Muslims were definitely targeted after 9/11 in various attacks. And they've been under much suspicion.

But it's really just another case of being in that grey area between White and Black in the USA. Even many classified "Black" are in that zone.

I have no doubt that there will be organizations and counter-organizations re: this particular issue. Just a reflection of some of the bitterness around the world.

We cannot escape it in America, try as we might.

BritinSwabia - 19 Jun 2012 17:33:50 (#15 of 1076)

I always gathered that no discussion of arab american identity can be really sensibly tackled without talking about lebanese and non lebanese context.

reader100 - 19 Jun 2012 17:37:12 (#16 of 1076)

BritinSwabia - 19 Jun 2012 17:33:50 ( #15 of 15)

The earliest Mid-Eastern immigrants to the US came from what is now Syria/Lebanon.

These became code words where Christians, in large part, identified themselves as "Lebanese". While "Syrians" were Muslims.

MestangloMan - 19 Jun 2012 17:49:47 (#17 of 1076)

And certain Lebanese identified themselves as Phoenician rather than Arab.

One strange anecdote from a gas station run by a Lebanese American:

I remember asking a Lebanese gent, a Shiite, if he knew anything about the Aramaic language. A Lebanese Christian gent, with a huge cross dangling from his around his neck, said, and I paraphrase

There is no Aramaic. That doesn't exist.

OK, fine. Since I wasn't privy to either the politics or the particular development of the various languages on the Ground rather than in books and discussions, I dropped the moe foe like a hot potato.

I know the language has existed, but to what extent it is used in the Middle east beyond various holy circumstances or classrooms is beyond my pay grade.

And, fwiw, Lebanese folks, regardless of sect, know how to have one helluva good time.

reader100 - 19 Jun 2012 18:18:01 (#18 of 1076)

MestangloMan - 19 Jun 2012 17:49:47 ( #17 of 17)

There is a large number of Christians in the Middle East who follow Orthodox doctrine. Many of these identify themselves as Arab and speak Arabic. There is another group, primarily, Eastern Rite Catholics who defer to the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. Maronites, are one such group and though they use Aramaic in some of the liturgy, their language is Arabic.

However, in Iraq, you have a large group of Chaldean who though Arabic speaking, are also fluent in Aramaic. This is not unique. I have Kurdish friends from Iraq whose native language is Kurdish. They only used Arabic in dealing with government officials and in school. One told that only when he went to university in Baghdad, did he really have to use Arabic. It was also true of Jews in the region. Iraqi Jews would speak a Hebro-Arabic mixture among themselves while reserving Arabic to communicate with those outside the community.

MestangloMan - 19 Jun 2012 18:24:46 (#19 of 1076)

Incredibly interesting points, Reader. What struck me was the intensity with which he made his point. Maybe he was in the Orthodox grouping.

Btw, the President of Lebanon is the only Christian head of state in the entire region, and he is a Maronite Catholic. I'm sure he wears his Arab hat 24/7.

One anecdote via "From Beirut to Jerusalem" by Mr. Friedman:

Mr. Arik Sharon was doing a lot of biz with Bashir Gemayel prior to his day with destiny. And both were feeling the other out for loyalty, trust, things of that nature. According to Tom Friedman, Gemayel told Sharon in paraphrase:

Look, at the end of the day, we are Arabs. If we can't do business with you guys, we'll go somewhere else. Still, we are a part of the Arab people.

Sounds like a precursor to the modern revolt, Reader. Once again, excellent points. Ya know, pragmatism, even when deadly, has its upside. Haha.

MestangloMan - 19 Jun 2012 18:53:21 (#20 of 1076)

The numbers are probably quite staggering.

I suspect that there is no "probably" about it. Look at the numbers who suddenly discovered Jewish ancestry - Wesley Clark, John Kerry, George Allen, Madelaine Albright. There is quite a long list.

Twain satirized this in Puddinhead Wilson.

Add the late Robert Novak, btw, who positioned himself between his Polish Jewish roots and his choice of being an American Christian. He was called "The Prince of Darkness" by his friends, because he could take controversial positions and still get folks grinning. He didn't need to "discover" his roots, but he was good at playing the ambiguity game in terms of ethnicity. Quite brilliant, in fact.

The Arab Americans can learn from all levels of other groups in America and other places outside the Arab World. It's a virtual smorgasbord.

Once again, I was doing a bit of random stuff yesterday, looking at pics of various young women classified as "Mulatto" during a period of US history. Remaking or reshaping one's identity is a huge part of the American story. And it continues even today.

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