Arab students face racism, prejudice
For the past 17 years, UH has been one of the few universities to participate in the national Model Arab League (MAL) conference. MAL was created to foster relationships between the U.S. and Arab countries, and to educate students on common misconceptions. In short, it is an exercise in breaking down prejudice.
In light of this purpose, you can understand my astonishment when, as an Arab-American student on the MAL team, I faced racism of the worst kind. I eventually quit the team when the head delegate posted a picture of the stereotypical flag-burning, gun-toting Arab to identify Model Arab League events online, refused to take my concerns into consideration and proceeded to launch a personal attack on me using private pictures without my consent.
Sadly, this incident is indicative of the Arab experience today. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights reports that in the years following 9/11, the number of hate crimes against Arabs increased seventeen-fold. This does not include less prosecutable types of racism at schools, in the workplace and in the public sphere. Even our government has enacted official racial profiling programs, such as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, to target Arabs based on their ethnicity and national origin.
Media pundits and conservative politicians have also made it more acceptable to make incredibly racist comments, and more often than not, get away with it. Ann Coulter, celebrated right-wing pundit, has unabashedly supported that the government “spy on all Arabs, engage in torture as a televised spectator sport (and) drop daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East.” Newt Gingrich, along with a slew of other politicians and public figures, famously opposed the mosque in Manhattan by comparing those who supported freedom of religion to those who supported Nazis in World War II. In the wake of vitriolic rhetoric from insensitive politicians, it seems like no Arab-American is safe from vicious racism and hurtful alienation.
You would think that in this day and age, this type of racism would begin to diminish as people learned to be tolerant of diversity and more sensitive of other people’s experiences. For Arabs, the trajectory has been the exact opposite. The only form of acceptable racism today is racism against Arabs, and this should not be the case. It is never acceptable to make stereotypical remarks, inappropriate jokes, or racist accusations passed as opinions. Prejudice against Arabs is not a sub-form of racism; it is racism.
All I ask, and all my community asks, is that we be treated with the same worth as any other human being and that we be accepted as a part of this country.
Dana El Kurd is a political science and economics junior.