Comedian | Professor | Writer
(& Smartest) Arab
I’m an immigrant, sort of.
I was born in Jordan in 1977. My mother came to America from her Palestinian hometown of Akka in the 1960s as a teenager with her family. She became a naturalized US citizen during that time. Then, she me met my father during college in California, and they moved to Amman after they got married in 1976. So, while I was conceived under the Stars and Stripes, I was born outside of the United States. But, since my mother had been naturalized, I was actually born as an American citizen abroad. I spent the first few years of my life in Amman, but after a “political misunderstanding” between my father and the Jordanian government, we moved to the Philadelphia area in 1980, when I was three years old. So I guess I’m an American who immigrated to America for political asylum.
But while I didn’t have to go through any nasty paperwork before I arrived on American soil, I did have an otherwise traditional immigrant story. I came here with no money in my pocket. I had no education. I couldn’t speak the language. (Ok, I was three.) And look how far I’ve made it. I’m a comedian. And I have a blog. I’m a true personification of the American Dream. I love this country.
Today, I live in Dearborn, Michigan, home to America’s largest Arab community. The east side of the city is almost entirely Arab-American. Our cuisine is everywhere. Squiggly lines and dots accompany the English on all the storefronts. It’s home to the Arab
America, as we often hear, is a “nation of immigrants.” According to history, that’s true. The first white people to arrive here were immigrants, inasmuch as they left their land of origin for another faraway place. But they didn’t ask the Wampanoags if it was okay if they showed up. In fact, they didn’t even tell them. They were undocumented and illegal. And after those pilgrim immigrants arrived, they committed some terrible crimes against the indigenous peoples. I’m assuming Donald Trump would not have liked them very much.
But after America quite quickly (and violently) turned from brown to white a few centuries ago, the trend is reversing. The United States of America has been undergoing a “brownification” for years now. It’s getting beiger by the day. In fact, as has been well documented, the Census Bureau estimates that whites will constitute less than 50% of the population by 2042. Is it this demographic shift that is really behind the current anti-immigrant sentiment? (I’m nodding my head.)
In any case, the wave of anti-immigrant fervor sweeping America has a particular thread to it. Whether it’s Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, or Donald Trump, the discourse always contains some strain of “they’re stealing our jobs.” Of course, what these “nativists” really mean is that immigrants are stealing the jobs of red-blooded, hard-working, white (“native”) Americans. While many others have debunked this assertion, I’d thought I’d take a stab as well.
I’ve pondered this, and I’ve realized something. Immigrants do take certain jobs in this country. But they’re not stealing anything from “native” (white) people. I’ve narrowed it down, and immigrants basically do three sorts of jobs in America.
The first kind is jobs that “native” people are too lazy to do. Before Mexicans (the same ones Trump goes on about) were working the fields in California, “native” people weren’t doing those jobs. Latinos didn’t steal those jobs from anyone. An elementary study of American history will tell you that. Furthermore, Ramon didn’t steal a dishwasher job from Duncan. Julio didn’t steal a landscaping job from Brad. And Shakira didn’t steal a singing job from Taylor Swift (though I wish she would).
The second kind is jobs that “native” people are too dumb to do. I know that sounds harsh, but unfortunately, it’s true. America is the dumbest industrialized country on Earth. We are the “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader” culture. We are the “buy a vowel” society. We are not only the land that elected George W Bush, we are also the land that reelected him. Go to any hospital, automotive company, or high-tech firm. You will be shocked at the “native to non-native” ratio. You are probably more likely to have your life saved by Dr. Lin than you are by Dr. Long. You are probably more likely to have your car designed by Ahmed than you are by Anthony. And you much more likely to have your “targeted ads” sent to you by Raj than you are by Roger. In fact, in Michigan, where we have lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs (which are never coming back), the economy has sort of recovered. Technology firms are being lured into the state by low rents and tax breaks. But Governor Rick Snyder has noticed a problem. There aren’t enough homegrown “natives” to take these new jobs. They’re not smart enough. As a result, he is asking for 50,000 extra visas to entice high-skilled immigrants to make the move. The jobs are there, but the know-how is not.
Finally, the third kind of jobs that immigrants aren’t stealing are the ones that “native” people are too scared to do, like opening a liquor store in Detroit. That’s a job for an Arab. If you tell him he needs to bring a gun to work, that’s no problem. He came from a place where he took a gun everywhere. “I have to bring a gun to work? Can I bring two?”
Immigrants put our food on the table. They rebuild our dilapidated communities. They raise our intellectual ceiling. How can you be against that?
Now, I’m not without sympathy for our unemployed “natives.” Every time I take the stage, I think of all the comedians who I’m stealing stage time from. So if there are is an out-of-work white performer who needs a break, I’m happy to have him open for me anytime, just as long as he has the requisite skills.