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ARABIC

[Alan Brockway]

In our topics of Ethnic heritage, the groups from the Middle East have a unique position in American society now as an ethnicity under great scrutiny. Our understanding of what a Middle Easterner looks like, what he believes, smells like, or eats comes from a variety of influencial sources. Although it's a hard perspective to find, let's try to take a look at this heritage in the US to see what stirs them, what motivates them, and our understanding of people who we would put into this group, or would voluntarily identify with this group. Of all the sources of information (such as television, radio, print, our parents), let's first take a look at what groups are saying about themselves.

Let's investigate if these groups are defining their stereotype, or are assimilating into one already made for them.



[The Arab American Institute]

CONTENT

Arab Americans on Arab Americans

We'll start out with self identity concepts at The Arab American. Take a moment to look over and feel out this dialog.

What are they expressing?

The site's content says something outside the links. The site is requesting that the viewer get to know the group more, help those identifying with the group to focus their efforts (organize), and to build pride among the stakeholders. The site's content can be broken into:

What does the site's imagery say? We can see symbology of fashion (pictures of famous Arab Americans) & patriotism (flags, stars & colors). There are news updates & dealings about politics. I wouldn't say this is a fancy, expensive website, but it appears someone wanted to communicate through imagery a sense of pride, patriotism & affluence.

Defining the image (ie. stereotype)

Obviously, this page is an attempt to define (or redefine in some cases) what our image is of Arab Americans. Absent are traditional images of life back in the native lands. Here we are greeted with a face of a people who feel strongly enough about their heritage to identify with it, but remove the flavor reminiscent of the old lands, instead putting in it's place new imagery to help the viewer define the image of the American Arab. I found the picture of Casey Kasem to be a little more than disturbing. By the addition of some of his creations on this page I can see he's involved with the public relations end of identifying with his heritage. I must admit it is a little difficult to reflect on my concept of Arab Americans with the awful picture of Mr. Kasem. (They really could get a better-looking spokesman)

Motivation During this time of "The War on Terror" this group of Arab Americans appear to replace a (as I'm told) common sentiment that Arabs are somehow linked to extremist Muslim factions or terrorists. As is evidenced by the imagery and topics here, this group feels misunderstood and fearful of a larger ethnic group. Obviously, one of the best motivators is a little bit of fear, and I can see this page answering the authors fear by trying to re-educate and redefine their stereotype to the majority.

Accuracy and contradictions

I am a little disappointed to say I see many inconsistencies throughout this site. As the authors attempt to define a unique Arab American stereotype, I believe it's obvious they're still carrying baggage from older definitions. Motivated by pressures in Middle East politics, this group it trying to identify with American culture while retaining the sense of their heritage. In so doing, the contradictions rise even in their own minds about their self-identity.

Some simple examples are continued dialog of linking American Arabs and Muslims. The statement, "...have put together a packet of resources on Arab Americans, the Middle East, and Islam which you can download," or "If you took a poll of Arab-Americans and Muslims..." joins three different concepts together in a pervasive prevailing stereotype.



The contradictions of these competing stereotypes within the minds of the authors are seen in their own data. They neglect to address the large question about why American Arabs who are predominately Christian from Lebanon would identify with the topics they list (among them issues with Iraq and Israel). Perhaps the authors might be among the minority of American Arabs, and should somehow stay such with reservation for speaking for the whole group.

Summation

The site does a great job through pressure in current events to define a different blossoming self-stereotype. The authors use wonderful imagery and heaps of data to push their point home. I believe there is some intellectual dishonesty in some of the material, but recommendations outside of this are few. The index table on the left side of the page in several of the pages came out with a font size too large to fit nicely, and this could be changed.

Sources: Something should be said for the large amount of websites in Arabic that I can't get into here. In no way should The Arab American website reflect the self-identity of all Americans of Arab decent. This is just an example of some of the identities one might run across when trying to learn about the American Arab.

[TOP]

LINKS
Arab American Action Network
Arab American Chamber of Commerce
Arab American Chaldean Council
Allied Media Corporations - Arab Americans
The Arab American Mirror: A Critical Look at Contemporary Arab American Issues


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