Arab-Americans need a box on the US Census Form!
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(& Smartest) Arab
July 4th, 2013 (10 Comments)
(This post has been slightly revised from July 4, 2012, and re-posted now)
I love America, but sometimes it’s hard.
America was built by white men fleeing religious persecution in Europe. They wrote an amazing Constitution, a document that both exhibits and secures our civic and political values. Within it they enshrined the doctrine of separation of church and state, as well as that of freedom of religious expression. In many ways, the Constitution was ahead of its time. Thomas Jefferson, our third president, once wrote that even “Mohammedans” would be entitled to the same religious freedoms meant for everyone else. Today, those religious freedoms are under attack, as the NYPD secretly monitors Muslim groups, legislators pass laws outlawing Sharia (which no Muslims in America have suggested implementing in any case), and Muslims are seen as a threatening group that needs to constantly prove its patriotism.
But my country has free refills on soda at almost every restaurant. So I love America, but sometimes it’s hard.
The colonial settlers who came to this land created a remarkable civilization. But it should not be completely forgotten that there was indeed a native population living here before them. Instead of granting these people the freedoms they exalted, they drove the natives from their land, killing hundreds of thousands of them along the way.
And now we celebrate a holiday called “Thanksgiving.” We all take a 4-day weekend, watch football, and overeat. All of these things are welcome developments for Arab-Americans. We're even genetically predisposed to overeating. But Thanksgiving also commemorates a when light-skinned foreign people pretended to make peace with dark-skinned native people, kicked them out and stole their land (and their recipes).
But the internet here is pretty fast. So I love America, but sometimes it’s hard.
Slavery was enshrined into our beginnings, and African-Americans were not granted any slivers of freedoms until almost a hundred years after our nation's founding. And it took another hundred years for any semblance of equality to start to emerge. Now we have a black president. Of course, racism is not gone by any means. Only a couple years back, conservative activists protested the policies of President Obama by holding up signs of him dressed as an African chief with a bone through his nose.
Barack Obama proved a black guy can become president… if he went to Harvard Law School, if he wrote three books, if he’s only half black, if his mom is Anne from Kansas, and if he’s one of the best political speakers of all time. George W Bush proved that any white guy can become president.
But here we have McDonald’s "dollar menu." This is the only country in the world where poor people can be fat. So I love America, but sometimes it’s hard.
Arab-Americans are part of the intricately woven cultural history of this country. We are active in the realms of politics, culture, academia, entertainment, and business. But we live a kind of weird existence. We are clearly a minority that suffers discrimination, yet the American government classifies us as “white." We don’t have a box on the census form! That makes it more difficult for us to demand our civil rights. After all, white people are doing fine in this country, aren't they? Of course, in reality, we are not white. So we live in a world where where are socially and politically visible, but legally invisible. And still, the Census Department doesn’t have a box for us. But it’s ok, I have been informed that the FBI definitely does.
But Dish Network has over a thousand channels, and 200 in high definition! So I love America, but sometimes it’s hard.
As a Palestinian-American, I constantly watch American media and politicians trash my people. We are branded as backwards terrorists and oppressive animals who are not worthy of any human rights. Newt Gingrich called us “invented.” I’m still not sure how to take that insult. Whenever I travel to Israel, I am welcomed with open arms and invited to stay in a VIP room at Tel Aviv’s airport. Sometimes I even get to stay there for five or six hours. When Americans of Palestinian descent are detained indefinitely and denied entry by Israel, their calls to the American embassy are disregarded.
And of course, America is Israel’s primary financier and defender in the world. You would think America would support the Palestinians more since Christmas, like July 4, is a federal holiday. And where was Jesus born? No, Sarah Palin, not in North Carolina.
I don't really know how to explain how I love the country I live in, even though it's bombing the countries I come from.
I love America… sometimes, I just wish she would love me back.