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Arab Americans! Join the Rainbow!
Amer Zahr
by Amer Zahr
March 7th, 2014 (7 Comments)
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We Arab Americans are in the midst of a civil rights movement.  Profiling and discrimination are rampant.  We are victims of debasement in the media on a daily basis.  While we can find similarities between our struggle and the struggles of other minority groups, our situation is a bit more distinctive.

While the African American struggle, the Latino struggle, and other ethnic or racial minority struggles may have been predominantly defined by one element, whether it be bigotry, immigration, intolerance, or xenophobia, our Arab American struggle seems to be defined by all of those things at once.  In that sense, although it may seem like discrimination against Arab Americans is some combination of many components, it is actually about none of them in particular.  In other words, while those who see it fit to hate might find specific reasons to hate some other groups, they will find any reason to hate us.  We, for whatever reason, possess some special ability to be hated as a result of just about any motivation.  It’s not nearly as cool as it sounds.

Our Arab American problem is unique.  It is not one of poverty.  It is not one of racism. It is not one of undocumented immigrants.  No, our problem is one of identity.  It is one of belonging. It is an issue of becoming comfortable in our own skin.  It is a matter of doing away with that fear of being seen as unpatriotic.  It is a question of getting our fellow Americans of ceasing to see us not simply as different, or even as inferior, but as a danger.  I’ve often said that a white couple taking a walk might cross the street when a few black or Latino kids come their way because they fear those kids might steal their wallets.  But they cross when we’re coming their way for a completely different reason.  They see us a threat to their way of life, to their freedom, to their existence.

No other person could understand this.  Well, I should rephrase.  No other person could understand this, unless he or she was gay.  Yes, that’s right.  Arab Americans and gay Americans are both fighting for the same thing: to be seen as human beings.

We Arab Americans have generally done a very bad job of showing solidarity with other minority groups.  Part of this is because we have always endeavored to be accepted into white America, but that door will always remain closed.  But it is also because we have looked at other struggles as though those fights had nothing to do with us.  If they hate blacks because of their skin color, well, my skin is white.  If they hate Latinos because they’re all illegal immigrants, well, I’m here legally.  If they hate gays because they see them as endangering the American way of life, well, wait... that’s why they hate me too.

Arabs and gays remain the two groups against whom open bigotry is still completely acceptable.  The days are long gone when a politician could openly spew hatred against African Americans and still remain in office.  But voice disapproval of gays, Arabs, or Muslims, and you might win the next election.

And let us not forget, of course, the obvious fact that gays and lesbians exist in our community.  Can we really ask American society to treat us with respect and equality if we are not extending the same (and much more) to some of our own brethren?  We should openly accept and love everyone in our community.  And have you seen how some of these Arab American women have been decorating their gaudy houses for years?  They could use some help.

The gay rights movement is in the same stage as ours.  We should not miss this opportunity to stand right in the middle of their struggle to be accepted as human beings, as we are striving for exactly the same thing.  One day we might ask them to return the favor.

And for you Arab Americans out there, the next time you see two Arab men walking down the street holding hands, remember, they might be just be fighting more than one battle.

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* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."

Comments (7)
  1. Another absolutely fabulous post!

  2. Tanya Kasim ... March 8th, 2014 - 04:01

    We’ve done a poor job of showing solidarity with other minority groups because some of us were taught that we’re white. I had an enlightening chat with a black man about my experiences in college with my heritage, in which he said, “She didn’t ask whether you were a good person?” I said, “no, she didn’t.” On the part about bigotry towards gays and lesbians, someone at Regis College told me I shouldn’t ask a sister student to a semi-formal because “people would think I’m gay.” As someone of Arab heritage myself, I agree that we need to join the rainbow. Thank you, Amer.

  3. It is sad, people love to hate.. it is a worldwide problem. It is unnatural, I hate it. The only thing that I can do,is not be a hater, then to try raise my kids to not be haters… and not to partake in such hatred. Life is too precious!

  4. The hatred against gays and lesbians is rooted in religion. The hatred against Arabs is rooted in politics. Big difference. Although some claim that the Palestinian issue is that of religion, aimed at returning the Jews to their rightful home (gag), the majority of people who support Israel, support it simply because they are not Arabs. The Palestinian struggle has enough merit to stand on it’s own and demand attention and support. We don’t need to align ourselves with the gay struggle. Now if you are talking about a political, tactical option, to piggy back on their movement, then that’s an entirely different story.

  5. Chris, I beg to differ with you. For 30 million Evangelical Christian Zionists in this country, religion IS the motivating factor for their unquestioning allegiance to Israel. You can also throw in about 525 Congressional Reps and Senators and several times as many other elected officials. They wouldn’t recognize the politics or the outright land grab involved in the dissolution of Palestine and the elimination of the Palestinian people if you nailed it up on the cross for them. These supposed Christians absolve the Israelis of their inhumanity to their fellow man simply because the Bible and Pat Robertson tells them that the Jews must regain and control Eretz Israel before their Messiah can return and destroy all those who do not accept him as their personal savior. Coincidentally, that includes all but the first 144,000 (give or take a few thousands) Jews who will convert to Christianity. The rest of the world’s Jews are out of luck as are we Muslims, Buddhists, Roman and Orthodox Catholics, etc. etc., you get it! Islam is the pariah du jour because these so called Christians say it is. Israel spends hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars every year transporting to Israel and hosting these Christian Zionists. The Israelis even take them on a tour of the Holy Land and point out the few remaining Palestinian homes telling them that “This will be your home, when the messiah returns”. By the way, the Israelis are referring to the messiah that they do not believe in.

  6. Ron,

    I agree with everything that you have said. I am not naive to the Zionist agenda. However, I have met many non evangelical Christians who have deep prejudice against Arabs, incidentally, these individuals know nothing of the conflict with Palestine. I also know of many churches who raise money for improvised Palestinians. Not all hatred against Arabs is motivated by the blind support of Israel. Is it? Not all opinions have religious origins. Therefore, the powers that be made sure that all influential outlets were covered: via churches and synagogues for the ones motivated by religion, and through the media for those who are not. Just watch tv. Any channel, anytime. Chances are you will see Arabs portrayed as senseless savages pretty consistently.

  7. Not convinced ... July 13th, 2014 - 11:04

    Whether your skin is white or tan. you soon learn that in America, you are not considered white. You never will be.’ Chances are you will see Arabs portrayed as senseless savages pretty consistently…” Find a culture that has not been portrayed as savages by them. This attribute is always ascribed to groups to justify the taking of their resources, be it land,gold, or oil. Whites in hate anyone who pose even the slightest threat to their system of dominance. They hate arab americans because of skin colour, because of culture andreligion, because they say you are violent and low and because of fear and ingnorance.


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