Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A blot revealed

Turning out the Arabic-speaking vote.

For all the joy of this election season past, we do need to keep this in mind.

The deeper hurtful reality this election campaign has revealed is that Arabs and Muslims are the new Jews and Blacks in America, because they are treated today in the same way that Jews and Blacks (then called Negroes) were treated throughout the early- and mid-20th Century.

Legal action, political agitation, and civic activism brought an end to the public vilification of Jews and Negroes in the United States -- though racism and anti-Semitism continue to operate quietly in the hearts and minds of some Americans who refuse to see all their brothers and sisters as equal before God and the law.

It is neither legally possible nor politically acceptable today to treat Jews and Blacks in a racist, condescending manner in the United States, and that is now a considerable source of pride for Americans as a whole.

It is possible and permissible, though, to slander Arabs and Muslims in public -- even by candidates for president and vice president. ...

The new president will inherit this world where racism against Arabs and Muslims is the last permissible form of wholesale slander and denigration. This must be addressed through spirited collective activism in law, politics and society, so that Arabs and Muslims, like Jews and Blacks, can live like human beings in America, not like animals that can be caricatured, hounded, herded and hunted at will. The presidential campaign confirms much that Americans can be proud of today, along with some things that [should] still cause them real shame.

Rami Khouri,
Lebanese journalist,
November 5, 2008

That's my admonition added in the last sentence, not Mr. Khouri's.


Kay Dennison said...

Maybe it's because we don't have enough of any group except blacks but we don't seem to get into that here. Yeah, we have our share of bigots who say stupid stuff (and I land on 'em with both feet) but mostly we try to get along.

Samia said...

I may have misunderstood, but I would disagree that minority group numbers would have anything to do with the perception of the arab/muslim minority. I may be reading the misleading census numbers strangely, but from the 2000 census their are between 1.8(practicing) and 6 million (identifying) American Muslims, whereas there are between 4(practicing) and 7 million practicing American Jews. For comparison's sake, it doesn't look like U.S. Native Americans top 4.1 million, while there are 1.2 million Arab Americans.
What would the reaction have been if an angry lady had asked: "I heard Obama is a Jew" and McCain had answered: "no no no he's a decent family man". I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have been belatedly limited to the Daily Show.
This may sound blunt, but i think the reason the Arab/Muslim population is treated differently has a lot to do with long term bigotry that used to apply to many other minorities attached to various wars/stereotypes and which eventually became socially unacceptable, but was stoked in the case of Arabs/Muslims because of America's persistent exposure to a one sided account of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
From a purely first person perspective as a Lebanese-American, and as a testament to American fairness, anti-arab bigotry has decreased massively since 9/11. The blatantly racist commentary I was subjected to from 1997-2001 at a Liberal Arts College never repeated itself past 2001, ironically after I moved to a military town, although that might say more about our stereotypes regarding said liberal arts colleges and military towns ;)

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