Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Anti-Arab Racism in American Society

Long before 9/11, Arabs by and large in this country were seen as terrorists, mass murderers, and at best exotic people. After 9/11, the view of Arabs in this country has not improved much. You are still more likely to see an Arab portrayed as a terrorist in a Hollywood production than a restaurant owner, football star, or just everyday people.

I have no illusions how most Americans feel about people of Arab descent. One of the saddest days of my life as an educator was September 12, 2001. The morning following the attacks, I was teaching a class, American Politics. I knew what was going to happen. On September 11, I had a class (back in my grad student days), and that evening there were several anti-Muslim, as well as anti-Arab attacks on or near the campus of the university I was attending at that time. It was beyond depressing for me, the sight of those buildings being destroyed, the feelings of sadness, anger, and sorrow. It required all of my efforts to check my emotions at the door the following morning, take control of that class, and calm my students just enough so they would not form a lynch mob.

Some of the language I heard from my students that morning hurt me personally ("We should kill those fucking bastards....let us nuke them all....we should exterminate them....."), it sank my heart in a way that still upsets me when I recall it. When I reminded my students of the Muslim victims of the Taliban, of how many more Muslims have been killed by acts of terrorism than peoples in the US, and that this is an issue that impacts all of us, not just Americans, I am not sure to what degree my words were able to sink in. I tried everything to be as assertive as possible in answering some of the more extreme statements with reason, not hatred, but I doubt that it changed any minds. If nothing else, there were no more attacks on Muslim students after that day. I would like to think that there were enough responsible faculty to try to calm the students before someone was killed (there were two mass beatings of a Pakistani and Egyptian student on campus property the evening before).

Except for gays and Mexicans, there is no more hated group in America than Arabs. Conservatives, in particular, although certainly not all of them, have been some of the leading supporters and advocates for mass internment or even a worse fate for peoples of Arab backgrounds in the US. Sadly, this is nothing new. During the First World War, German Americans were attacked, fired, and imprisoned for not speaking English or opposing American entrance into the war against Germany. German language public schools were outlawed, German composers were banned from orchestra halls, and sauerkraut was renamed "liberty cabbage." During World War Two, Japanese Americans were interned in concentration camps, and Italian Americans, including Joe DiMaggio's parents, were monitored by the government as suspected disloyal citizens.

Because of 9/11 and the hatred of Arabs in general in our society (much of this a product of the Arab-Israeli conflict [in which most people in the US openly sympathize with the Israelis]), our culture has descended to such a point that to even appear Muslim or Arab courts controversy. This is why it was such a big deal for Barack Obama to be portrayed as a Muslim by the Hillary Clinton campaign (i.e., the infamous African garb picture that her campaign sent to the Drudge Report). Not to be outdone, the newest victim of this racialist fraud is Rachael Ray. Her offense? She appeared on a Dunkin' Donuts ad wearing what some claim to be a
keffiyeh.



For normal people, this ad might not make sense. After all, people wear scarves, not just Arabs. However, this is 21st century America, and if you are an Italian with a cooking show, apparently the scarf is a sign of terrorist sympathies, so sayeth Michelle Malkin. Of course, for those of you paying attention, this Ann Coulter wannabe has made a name for herself as an apologist of racial internment of Japanese Americans during World War Two.

Of course, since Malkin is a Catholic, she might not like to know that there are numerous Catholic terrorists sympathizers. As you can see, these violent ladies are covered from head to toe.



Undoubtedly, they could be packing nail bombs.

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