What Issues are on the Minds of Arab Americans?
By: Alena Khan/Arab America Contributing Writer
As Arab Americans growing up in a post 9/11 world, there are many challenges and topics to complain about. Whether it’s political or cultural, Arab Americans face many challenges and issues on a day to day basis. Here are some issues Arab Americans often complain about:
The United States is made up of all different kinds of people, many of which have immigrated from other parts of the world, in search of a better quality of life and ample opportunities. However, immigration is a common problem among Arab Americans. We’re now in a world where Arabs are feeling unwanted, by fellow citizens, and by the government. When the travel ban was initiated, it brought total chaos to the Arab American communities, never would you think living in America that there would be policies in place actually banning people from entering the country, especially from heavily Arab and Muslim populated areas.
If Arab Americans aren’t dealing with immigration issues here, they have general discrimination to worry about. With the help of news and media, there are plenty of stereotypes and misconceptions about Arab Americans that they need to combat day to day, which affects the Arab-American community immensely. In the political divide, we are in, in the US, discrimination against Arab Americans is at its peak as they try to oppose all these forms of racism and bigotry whether it’s going on in their personal or professional lives.
Conflicts in Their Homelands
Arab Americans have plenty to complain about when it comes to conflict in their homelands. There’s the recent passing of a nation-state bill in Israel, the shut down of the PLO Mission in DC, and the U.S. attack on the International Criminal Court, which have definitely brought up some tension. Along with the Iraq war, Yemeni civil war, 2016 West Iran clashes, the 2017 Iraqi-Kurdish conflict, there’s a lot to be concerned about. From 1902 with the Unification of Saudi Arabia to present day times with Israel and Palestine, conflicts in Arab American’s homelands have always been on the rise. In addition, some Arab Americans may find it difficult to properly deal with these conflicts when they currently don’t reside in whichever country. Being a citizen here in America, of course, there are plenty of organization and civil rights groups to help your homeland cause, but it doesn’t compare to being in your home country and really living through it.
There are Arabs from all different places around the world, and different places usually mean different languages, which has been something Arab Americans continuously complain about. Within the diverse spectrum of ethnic groups in the US, each community has their own groupings, and different views on language, whether Arabic or English is the main influence. Some Arab Americans would consider English as their first language, being more fluent as compared to Arabic. Whereas, some others could argue that Arabic is an ethnic language that can never die out, regardless of the influence that English has on Arab Americans in their lives whether it be through their community, education, employment or personal lives.
Many states in the US have a strong Arab American population, like Michigan for example. In most of these places, internal segregation has become a concern, stemming from religious separation, politics, etc. In addition, Arab Americans often find it hard for others to maintain their culture while growing up in America. With the younger generation mostly being from here, many Arab Americans get their Arab background through their parents. How to learn and practice that culture, while going to American schools, eating American food, listening to American music, etc. sometimes there could be some confusion on which culture to follow, or how to follow both.
With many Arab countries going through periods of civil conflict or political unrest, the issue of refugees and internally displaced persons is at the forefront of the minds of many Arab Americans. While Arab Americans have been concerned about refugees for years, especially since the Palestinian refugee crisis began in 1948, the issue has risen to new heights in recent years. The world is currently in the midst of a global refugee crisis with a record high of 65 million refugees in the world today, 7.5 million of which come from Syria and Yemen alone. The situation has been exacerbated by the United States strict policies regarding refugees. In 2018, the Trump Administration cut the U.S.’s refugee admissions quota in half to just 45,000. Arab Americans are especially concerned because projections show that the U.S. has admitted only 11 Syrian refugees as of May of 2018, with admission rates for other Arab countries following a similar, sharp decline. Arab countries like Jordan and Lebanon have been picking up the slack when it comes to taking in refugees, but they are struggling with the strain on national resources as many conflicts still prevent refugees from returning.
Negative Representation in the Media
One of the biggest issues on the minds of Arab Americans today is the way that they see themselves represented in American media. Major national media outlets either completely ignore or grossly misrepresent the Arab American community. The media is full of stereotypes related to terrorism and misogyny, portraying Arab American men as violent and women as oppressed. These negative representations are so pervasive that they have even made their way into classrooms and textbooks, which causes harm to many young Arab Americans.They are subject to things like jokes and rude comments about their culture, which causes many young Arab Americans to grow up denying their identity.
No matter how much time goes by, Arab Americans will always have something to worry about whether it’s their culture, discrimination, or international conflict. The only thing you can do as Arab Americans dealing with these issues is to find ways around it and ultimately stop these problems in the future. There are plenty of civil rights and Arab advocate groups which help solve issues in discrimination, immigration, or homeland conflicts. When it comes to culture and language, there are options for that too, whether it’s cultural organizations at schools to get Arab Americans involved or weekend Arabic schools, there are several groups and institutions which can help issues such as culture and language. Either way, no matter what the issue is, through these options, the key is to embrace both parts of being an Arab American, the Arab and American cultures.