Racial Ethnic Trends for the Millennium Between Arabs and African Americans Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2860 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race

Arab- and African-Americans and racial issues in the new millennium

America is the most unique nation in the world, from so many angles. First, of course, it is by far the wealthiest nation in the world: From moral and immoral, violent and nonviolent, justified and unjustified means, America has acquired massive quantities of wealth

However, amidst that wealth exists the reality that America is a melting pot. The motto of the nation brings people from all over the world to its shores seeking a better life, and often a better life is exactly what they get.

The flip side of the melting pot is the unfortunate tensions and complications that inevitably arise from putting so many people together in one place and refusing to name a "master race" as the Nazis infamously attempted to do in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Of course, different groups are impacted differently, but in America's history, for the most part, it has been each individual ethnic minority's clashes with the white majority over myriad issues. Of course, by the middle of the millennium, whites in America will actually be the minority, so it will be quite interesting to see if these trends change.

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But individual minority groups in America face different challenges. A perfect example is the contrast between the experiences of African-Americans and Arab-Americans in America. African-Americans in America had been enslaved for so long, and even after slavery was abolished, they were de facto discriminated against for decades, and then de jure discriminated against for decades more. By the dawn of the 21st century, however, African-Americans had gotten as close to equality as they had ever been in their history. Although there is still a large socio-economic gap between African-Americans and the majority in almost every relevant area, they definitely continue to trend toward equality -- whether or not that trend will wax asymptotic is yet to be determined -- five years into the new millennium.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Racial Ethnic Trends for the Millennium Between Arabs and African Americans Assignment

Arab-Americans, however, who have generally only faced the normal difficulties encountered by ethnic groups migrating to the United States, have, since Sept. 11, 2001, faced severe challenges to their freedoms and privacy. Unlike African-Americans, the challenges Arab-Americans face in America on a racial level are more sociological and less economical. Where African-Americans struggle to find jobs that will keep them over the poverty line, Arab-Americans encounter hatred and suspicion, both from their fellow Americans and from the American government. Unfortunately, unlike the African-American case, Arab-Americans in American are trending towards less racial equality on these grounds.

Arab-Americans lack fundamental freedoms

"Before September 11 we had almost succeeded in eliminating racial profiling, After September 11, it's a whole new world," says Michel Shehadeh of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in the western region of America. "One thousand Arab-Americans have already been detained and we don't know who they are or what charges have been brought against them." (Davis, 2001)

Of those 1,147 Arabs and Arab-Americans who had been detained at the time Davis did her research, precisely zero had been charged with any formal offense in connection to the tragic calamities of September 11. This number skyrocketed during the remainder of John Ashcroft's tenure in the Justice Department. (St. Petersburg Times, 2003) This awareness, however, has not at all retarded the pace of the detentions. What this process and understanding has done, on the other hand, is give moral, political, and truly for the nonce, legal sanction to stop, seize, search, and detain any person who appears to be Arab.

Prior to the tragedies of September 11, a full 80% of Americans opposed racial profiling. Since that day, "There has been an immediate reversal of public opinion," laments Michelle Alexander of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California. (Davis, 2001) Opinion polls now demonstrate that a disturbing 70% of Americans believe that some form of racial profiling is needed, and desirable and acceptable, to provide public safety.

In the weeks following September 11, The New York Times, Newsweek, and other mainstream news publications ran articles quoting scholars and average citizens alike commenting that even though they were slightly embarrassed to admit it, they felt that racial profiling was indeed necessary and acceptable. An ABC News/Washington Post poll on September 13, two days after the attacks, revealed that 43% of poll respondents were more likely to be suspicious of other people who they 'think are of Arab descent.' (Davis, 2001)

In later polls, 58% of respondents favored more hard-core security checks for Arabs, and 49% even favored special identification cards. Thirty-two percent of poll respondents alarmingly supported "special surveillance" for people of Arab descent. (Davis, 2001) Alexander continues to note that, "What was most disturbing was that African-Americans and Latinos agreed" that racial profiling in some form was okay. However, she also reminds us that few polls have been taken since the week of the attack, and wonders if those numbers have changed after some of the initial shock and fear subsided.

This is, unfortunately, not necessarily the case. The government has done little to dispel myths that Arab-Americans are to be held in suspicion by randomly imprisoning thousands of Americans of Muslim faith of Arab descent for no reason at all, and then holding them in secrecy, after splitting up their families. (ACLU, 2001)

What gave the famous "Driving While Black and Brown" campaign immediate resonance with many supporters was that it attempted to address the institutional aspects of racism. The goal with "Driving While Black and Brown" was not at all to fire individual police officers for unfairly targeting drivers because of their race, but rather to terminate a whole system of law enforcement premised on racial stereotypes.

DWB's success resulted partially due to its narrow focus on racial profiling while driving an automobile or truck. This was indeed a strategic decision on the part of the proponents to address the way that race was used by law enforcement ostensibly to fight the war on drugs.

Today, the much-vaunted war on terror is engendering a similar dynamic. "The war rhetoric is giving license to law enforcement to engage in racial profiling, just as it did in the war on drugs. Both wars create a 'by any means necessary' attitude that encourages law enforcement to target people based on race," says Alexander. She also recognizes the need to consider broadening the DWB focus in light of the recent increase in profiling of those who appear to be Arab. "Many Arab-American organizations were not involved in the fight against racial profiling as we defined it before September 11 because we were not addressing the form of profiling that effects those communities." (Davis, 2001)

According to Davis, Michel Shehadeh was racially profiled recently on his way to Washington, D.C. He was pulled out of line at the Orange County, CA airport, questioned, and searched. "It was done in front of everyone's staring eyes," he says. "That made it a humiliating experience. They want to give a message to non-Arab-Americans, that they're doing something about 'it.' This has nothing to do with security." (Davis, 2001)

Of course, both President Bush and former Attorney General John Ashcroft have publicly condemned hate crimes against those who appear to be Arab by physical characteristics, but the concurrent nervousness surrounding national security has actually sanctioned racial profiling. Passengers who appear "Arab looking" -- and this has included those who are South Asian and Latino -- have been asked to leave airplanes because both fellow passengers and crew members refuse to fly with them. Sikh men -- who literally have nothing to do with the middle east, as they primarily reside in India and have a completely different faith than Islam -- have been denied the right to even board aircraft because they refuse to fly without their turbans, something Harmeet Dhillon, co-founder of the Sikh Communications Council, equates with asking a woman to fly without her skirt. "It's humiliating and degrading," she says. (Davis, 2001)

The profile of a terrorist is a man in his twenties or thirties who comes from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Pakistan. He probably lives in one of six states -- Texas, New Jersey, California, New York, Michigan, or Florida. And he is likely to have engaged in some variety of "suspicious" behavior, such as taking flying lessons, traveling, or getting a driver's license. Conforming to one of these profiles is more than enough to get you questioned. Meeting all three is likely to land you in jail.

As Davis comments, Darrell Issa fit the profile. He is Arab-American, he is from California, and he was traveling to Saudi Arabia. The crew of his flight refused to allow him to board the plane. Representative Robert Walker (D-Florida) intervened on Issa's behalf, but to no avail. Darrell Issa, believe it or not, is a United States Congressman.

"Racial profiling hadn't been an issue for me before September 11," says Dhillon. "Now I'm confident in saying that racial profiling of Sikhs is happening in every airport across the country."… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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