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#ArabsAreNotWhite Twitter Storm Challenges Race Check Box

posted on: Aug 17, 2016

#ArabsAreNotWhite Twitter Storm Challenges Race Check Box
Image: Michigan Daily

BY: Alexa George/Contributing Writer

Throughout history, Arab people have always been subjected to challenges centered around their race. Today, it is no different. Trending this week on social media is the hashtag #ArabsAreNotWhite to showcase the level of upset Arab Americans feel being classified as white, but not treated like they’re white.

Dating back more than 100 years, Arab Americans have been classifying themselves as “White” or “Caucasian” on official forms. This simple act of checking off white in a box of options to classify race is causing endless grief and misrepresentation for many Arab Americans.

While formally, Arab Americans are classified as “White”, informally there has been little evidence to support the grouping. Arab Americans are not always given the same treatment as European Americans in all aspects of society: beauty standards; media representations; involvement in school curriculum; the amount of respect they recieve on a daily basis from strangers, co-workers, and neighbors; and so much more.

#ArabsAreNotWhite has been a subject of popularity on social media, providing relevant facts about Arab American reality and the continued biased behavior towards fellow “White” people.

This tweet one of the most important misrepresentations of Arab Americans and race. It also proves that if Arab Americans were considered white, the general population wouldn’t think twice about requesting additional security measures or feeling threatened by their presence on an airplane.

The tweet listed above references another completely applicable problem with Arab Americans being forced to identify as white. If society truly considered her to be white, there would be no discrimination due to her appearance and culture by other white people. However, societal norms prove otherwise.

America was founded on the principle of diversity and scolding people for speaking in a language other than English is not a crime or abnormal behavior. Like people of other races, Arab Americans should be free to converse in their respective dialect without oppression.

While flying, how many Europeans have been questioned or detained because they spoke their native tongue? This is just another hypocritical reason to express the inequality Arab Americans are subjected to, even while being considered  “White.”

The demand for inclusion is higher than ever, as well as the recognition of ethnic differences. Ethnicity is not one-dimensional and categorizations should fluctuate and adapt accordingly. Early Arab Americans fought to be recognized as white because they had socioeconomic conditions on par with white Americans at the time. Today, Arab Americans live in better economic conditions than European Americans, but worse social conditions because their civil rights are violated on federal law enforcement policies.

The white category should change to reflect those who truly benefit from being called white. Today, many Arab Americans do not relate to white American culture or traditions, making it that much more difficult being forced to identify as white. Rather, an ethnic checkbox for people like Arab Americans seems like the most appropriate way to end this identity struggle. Perhaps starting with this small recognition will diminish discrimination on a bigger scale.