Arab Americans Getting Together
By Noor Almohsin/Arab America Contributing Writer
The Arab American community is an emerging minority in the United States. Many members of the community find it easier to assimilate into the American White society simply because the majority is racially identified as White Caucasian. However, the democratic American system and freedoms are designed to embrace diversity in the social structure of American.
Thus, the importance for Arab American people to get together lies in the strength of a fully functional united community and the support of its individuals.
The structure of civil societies encourages people to practice their civil rights by creating assemblies and associations to mobilize and act as an agent for change politically, socially, and economically. This article explores how to strengthen Arab Americans as a community, and examines ways that help unite the community from within.
Factors of Unity
The Arabs who have much in common, come from different Arab regions. This is also applied to Arab Americans. Therefore, many Arab Americans identify with the country of origin such as Lebanese-American, representing loyalty to both cultures. Arab is an inclusive culture of all Arabic speaking people including different countries, religions, and races. Thus, everyone from the Arabic speaking region who share cultural traits is an Arab. I wrote before about unifying factors in the Arab world. Although Arabs have language in common, they don’t have a single voice or narrative for the Arab experience in America. Identifying oneself as an “Arab American” will strengthen the tie between the Arabs in America; hence, having a stronger and effective community rather than fragmented Arabs in the United States.
Recognizing the Group
No doubts the Arab Americans are effective members of American society. However, they are not categorized as a racial or ethnic minority in the United States. This may be one of the reasons Arab Americans find self-identification with the country of origin. When Arab American becomes a politically and socially recognized group, the identification will blur the differences between different members in the Arab American community. Earlier, I wrote about the importance of “Arab Americans’ Identity”, and it becomes more effective when it is recognized. Similar to “Latino” in 1997, when Census Bureau created to group people who originate from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
Throughout history, religious institutes have been the most influential factor that mobilizes people. Because Arabs are characterized to be religious people, they regularly attend religious ceremonies and prayers. The mosques or churches Arab Americans go to play a tremendous role in educating young Arabs about the principles, values, and modesty of Arabs. Other than religious lessons and preaches, these religious centers become a social hub for Arabs from different faiths and those non-Arabs who have an interest in the Arab culture. Therefore, the easiest and the less costly way to get Arab Americans together is to be present at religious events, and that definitely makes Arab parents proud!
Most Arab Americans are completely aware of the power of education. Therefore, most of their parents put effort and money to educate their children well. However, putting an emphasis on enrolling children in Arab schools/after-school in America will strengthen their ties to the culture and people. In fact, bilingual education helps students to value their immersion in both languages and cultures. In fact, studies reveal that multilingual education is reemerging in the United States because having multiple languages is considered an asset, in addition to retaining the native language and embrace different cultures. Moreover, higher education can work further on developing the community through research, and specialized programs. These studies will help explain the dynamics and vitality of the community. In fact, the more Arab studies there are in American Universities and colleges, the better understanding there will be about the Arabs in the United States. It will also foster the Arab American persona as part of American society. Moreover, Arab students’ associations at American schools play a significant role in connecting Arabs together through meetings and different activities on and off campuses.
A major activity that helps Arab Americans get together is attending cultural events that tell the story and history of Arabs. Those include exhibitions, museums, arts, films, music, and dance. These entertaining activities create bonds and enrich the Arabic culture through learning and fun. Moreover, reading literature and having discussions and support groups grow a collective intellectual spirit for the culture and inspire productivity in the community. It also shows support and encourages more Arab Americans toward creating cultural products.
Volunteering and helping needy people in the community is always good for communal bonding. It becomes more effective when it is for people from the same group. Social services whether to support refugees, immigrants, or organizations provide emotional backing. Therefore, when Arab Americans invest time, effort and money to serve their community it strengthens the ties between people within the community. Such support could be becoming role models, mentoring, or guiding the younger generation through personal experiences. Such support grants belief and confidence in ones’ ability to become successful. Social support also includes mental healing from past traumas, anxiety, and depression, that Arab Americans encountered. Especially those refugees who went through a hard time such as wars. Mental and emotional support is most effective when it comes from members of the community, who completely understand the psychological and sociological conditions of Arabs.
The power of communities in the United States is most apparent during elections. The stronger tie between Arab Americans the more influence they have as a group. Therefore, informed decisions through related public figures will encourage more political participation from the community. Such public engagement will initiate communications with figures in the local government, the House and Senate to express issues that concern Arab Americans, and by that voicing the community. Therefore, discussions within the community about local and political matters will build political awareness and will create community leaders who are dedicated to helping people in the Arab American community.
Generally, Arab Americans make successful businesses, and they work hard to build their careers to improve their living and create investments. Therefore, they can help increasing financial literacy to the Arab American community by sharing experiences, making workshops, and coaching on the job market and career building in the United States. Moreover, another way to provide communal support to one another financially is by using Arab American owned businesses such as going to restaurants and shopping at local stores. When there is more demand for Arab products, more Arab American business will flourish.
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