Did you know?
We were assigned a month!
In theory: Arab American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and recognize the contributions of Arab Americans to the cultural, economic, and political fabric of the United States. However, like any “heritage or history” month, there are pros and possible cons to having it. We will be getting technical and as objective as possible with this today.
- Visibility: Arab American Heritage Month provides a platform to raise awareness and educate the public about Arab Americans, their history, culture, and contributions. This helps to promote a more inclusive and diverse society, and combat stereotypes and discrimination.
- Community building: Arab American Heritage Month brings together members of the Arab American community, providing an opportunity to celebrate their shared culture and history, and to connect with each other.
- Representation: Arab American Heritage Month provides a space for Arab Americans to see themselves represented in mainstream media and cultural institutions, and to challenge the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of Arab Americans in American society.
- Tokenization: Arab American Heritage Month can sometimes be seen as a token gesture, and not a genuine effort to address the issues facing Arab Americans. This can focus on the superficial understanding of Arab American history and culture (such as a massive focus on hummus and fattoush), and a failure to address the structural barriers and discrimination that Arab Americans face.
- Political maneuver: The recognition of Arab American Heritage Month can sometimes be a political maneuver, used to gain support from Arab American voters or to promote a certain political agenda. This can undermine the authenticity and sincerity of the recognition - especially if the recognition happens right before an election year!
- Oversimplification: Arab American Heritage Month can sometimes oversimplify the diversity and complexity of Arab American experiences, and fail to capture the differences within the community. Between 22 countries, and different areas of origin from the Arab world such as: Laventine, Gulf, or African - it is hard to smear those different cultures under the same umbrella without recognizing their unique differences and what brings them together; the Arabic Language.
So what does that mean my friends?
The Arab American Heritage Month can provide a valuable platform for raising awareness and promoting the visibility of Arab Americans. However, it is important to recognize the potential pitfalls and to ensure that the recognition is genuine, sincere, and comprehensive. We should strive to make Arab American Heritage Month an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the rich diversity and contributions of Arab Americans, while also working to address the challenges and barriers that we face.
We cannot keep mindlessly clapping and blindly follow the train. We must be truthful about the challenges that face Arab Americans everyday through stereotyping, discrimination, and hate speech! And yes we must celebrate our “Authentic Arabness” all year by being a true Arab: hospitable, highly educated, resilient, respectful and well mannered.
“When you are feeling depressed look at the mirror and say: I am looking at a star right now”
Arab American former head of JPL and VP of Cal Tech Astronomical Center; the person who was in charge of sending that first rover to Mars: Charles Elachi. Always celebrating you!
Full TED Talk