Tips for How to Prevent Hate Incidents Against Arab Americans in Schools
BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer
The Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a list of twenty ways to prevent and respond to hate incidents against Arab Americans in schools. The report also applies to Muslim and Sikh students, who are often targeted for their religious head coverings.
The DOJ released this report because of the drastic increases in school bullying against Arab American children and other minorities. Both students and teachers are guilty of contributing to the threatening environment faced by many Arab American kids today.
Arab American, Muslim, Sikh, and Latino students are all being mocked by classmates who are calling them anything from “raghead” to ‘terrorist” to “ISIS” to “illegals.” Children are being accused of having bombs and wanting to kill other students. Others, like Syrian refugees and Latinos, are being told that they will be deported once Trump is president. Muslim girls are being harassed into taking off their hijabs or having them yanked off by other girls. And when the students go home – a place where they should feel safe – cyber bullying takes over.
These incidents are changing American classrooms for the worse. Arab American parents are taking to social media and the news to try to stop these incidents from continuing.
The racist rhetoric has gotten so horrible that the DOJ needed to react. Cultural sensitivity training is no longer enough. Here are some of the DOJ’s suggestions for ways to prevent and react to bigotry in the classroom:
- “Treat all anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, or anti-Sikh incidents seriously. Issue public messages urging tolerance and restraint and pledge prompt, full investigation and action.
- Gather and disseminate accurate and current information on hate incidents and any official actions taken as a result.
- Reach out to potentially vulnerable groups in your schools. Identify special concerns by Arab, Muslim, or Sikh staff or students. Conduct a full assessment of tensions in your school.
- Hold open office hours for students to share concerns and perspectives with administrators, counselors, and other staff.
- Make periodic public statements about your school’s policy or policies against discrimination and harassment.
- Be alert to early warning signs that may indicate an escalation of racial tensions and conflict in your school including, student groupings, graffiti, increase in interracial fighting, and conflicts over language, dress or hair styles.
- Make cultural awareness learning opportunities concerning Arab Americans, Muslims, and Sikhs available to staff, students, and the general community. Use the leadership of these groups to help with the training.
- Train staff on the culture, language, and customs of racial and ethnic groups. Use “ethnic experts” to help conduct the training.”
Hopefully, these guidelines can be enforced in order to ensure that the safety of Arab American students is taken seriously, and the bullying can be prevented. However, there are doubts that the DOJ is capable of enacting any changes in the school system. Many Arab Americans are weary of the DOJ because of its Racial Profiling Guidelines, and the fact that they systematically disenfranchise Arabs, Muslims, and Sikhs.
The Racial Profiling Guidelines make it illegal for law enforcement to profile citizens based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, etc. However, the guidelines don’t apply to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – two federal law enforcement agencies that disproportionately target Arab Americans, Muslims, and Sikhs.
There is irony in the fact that the DOJ does not adopt its own guidelines, yet is trying to enforce them on schools. Many civil rights and advocacy groups have called on the DOJ to adopt these exact measures that they are offering to schools: education on culture, language, and religion; accurately identifying the difference between racism and real threats; utilizing community officials for awareness events; and being alert to true signs of danger, instead of making assumptions based on skin tone or ethnicity.
Furthermore, the need for guidelines on how to protect Arab American students would only be relevant if federal law enforcement practices were not so prevalently anti-Arab and anti-Muslim. When Americans, like Donald Trump and his supporters, continue to see Arab and other Americans racially profiled, it gives weight to their harmful statements. The idea that all Arabs are terrorists or all Latinos are illegal immigrants starts from law enforcement. The actions of one bad person, like Osama bin Laden, would not define all Arabs if law enforcement didn’t react to 9/11 as if all Arabs were then inherently suspect and treated as such.
Racial profiling makes it easy for presidential candidates like Donald Trump to spew seemingly justifiable hate, which children then hear and mimic in classrooms.
Instead of following the DOJ’s advice, we have curated a new list for department officials, law enforcement, teachers, students, and parents. Flip through the slideshow to find more ways to prevent bullying against Arab American children.
1. Don’t let your kid be a jerk
If your kid is a bully, find out why. It’s likely that kids are mean in school because they learned the behavior at home, so teach them this mantra and make sure it sticks: If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
2. Don’t let your kid listen to Donald Trump
It’s important for children to learn at an early age the importance of voting and finding truth in politics. We encourage children to only listen to Donald Trump as a warning for what the world could be, as opposed to an example of true leadership. Racism, sexism, and all the other “-isms” will never characterize a good person, so nip it in the bud quickly.
3. Fire the racist teachers who keep getting away with calling students terrorists and other horrible names
Why are teachers being let off the hook for being poor educators and perpetuating cruel stereotypes? Tenure, probably. But don’t let that continue. If enough people demand the removal of a bad teacher, it will happen.
4. Make Arab American history a part of American history
We’ve been in this country for a very long time – over 100 years! Instead of only talking about Arab culture as a reaction to discrimination like the DOJ suggests, simply put Arab contributions to America in history curriculum to begin with. We have a slew of resources for anyone who needs help!
5. But don’t teach false information about Arabs
Muslim women don’t need “liberation” from their hijabs by the West. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a religious dispute; it’s about colonization and occupation. And Arab Americans are one of the most educated ethnic groups, consisting of many professionals, intellectuals, and business owners.
6. Encourage your kid to make an Arab American friend
The best way to solve the issue of racism and fear in the classroom is to make a friend. Put the kids in a room together with activities and they’re more likely to find similarities with each other than differences.
7. Any method you use to teach about African Americans, Latino Americans, or Asian Americans should be used to teach about Arab Americans
April is National Arab American Heritage Month. Not many people know that, but it should be celebrated like all other heritage months. Put up posters of famous Arab Americans around school in April (Ralph Nader, Dr. Michael Debakey, and Edward Masry). Read famous passages by Arab American authors, such as Khalil Gibran or Edward Said. Take a field trip to an Arab American business, restaurant, or event. If students learn about Arab Americans the way they do about other groups, they will become adults who don’t discriminate against the community.