Unwanted Refugees: Racism against Middle Eastern-Americans Requires a Public Response

Mr. Trump says he wants to monitor Moslem-Americans or bar Moslem refugees from entering our borders. Middle Eastern-Americans are removed from US airplanes ostensibly for speaking Arabic onboard. Moslems are attacked outside local US mosques. Where is the outrage of everyday Middle Eastern-Americans here?

It seems we are used to such political, economic, military, and cultural attacks. The Middle East has been the target of concerted Western aggression for hundreds of years, even well into the 20th Century via CIA operations in Iran that ousted the democratically elected PM Mossadegh in the 50s, and now in the last couple decades with exacerbating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the intense support given to Israel by US politicians on all sides of the spectrum, despite the virtual outdoor prison that is Palestine, the West overlooks the body count much the same way it does with the hundreds of thousands that perish in various Middle Eastern nations. When Iranians boldly marched for democracy in the 2009 Green Revolution protesting the corrupt election of Ahmadinejad, where was Western intrusion and support for democracy then?

What can we, as Middle Eastern-Americans, expect from our new home’s cultural perceptions of us but antagonism? Whispers and sometimes shouts of “terrorist” follow us in our daily lives. Our Middle Eastern ethnicity is used as a stereotype against us in our jobs, in courtrooms, in our relationships, in day-to-day business transactions, such that we are painted as dangerous, hateful, and backwards. When we are called ugly epithets, such as “sand-n****r” or “dune-c**n”, there is no public outrage. This is not hyperbole. I’ve experienced this in my life for decades as an Iranian-American, having to deal with this even to this day as a successful attorney. Some of us become Americanized. Others complain amongst friends. A miniscule and deranged fraction become militant.

Hateful policies and racism are not the answer. We know this by now. Middle Eastern-Americans have learned everything about American culture because it’s a matter of survival in our new homes. It must become more than a luxury for Americans to learn about us. More than just putting this onus on schools and the media, individuals must make an effort to understand our culture, history, and religion, and to no longer view such a notion as anathema. Racism is unpatriotic when viewed for example in the context of African-American rights, yet Islamophobia is espoused by alleged patriots. Unlike many minority groups in the USA, Middle Eastern-Americans have no real support system here. How many Persian or Arab politicians, CEOs, or entertainers can you name? Of the few that do exist, how many are not so Americanized that we’re allowed to overlook their Middle Eastern culture, as if to forgive that about them?

As Middle Easterners it’s time for us to form an outspoken community against such hatred on both sides. But I, like the millions of Iranians and Arabs living in the USA, rely on your humanity to think of us beyond the veiled or bearded images, beyond the anger and bloodshed you see in the Middle East, and foremost to publicly oppose not only the role the West consistently plays in creating the despotism and hellfire in our ancestral homelands but also in alienating or attacking us with words or actions here where we’ve sought refuge.