Official Victim Status for Arab-Americans?
By Matthew Vadum
The Obama administration may soon classify Arab-Americans as a “socially and economically disadvantaged group” entitled to receive taxpayer-funded goodies and special privileges from the Commerce Department.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), founded by the Israel-hating far-left former U.S. Sen. James Abourezk (D-S.D.), petitioned the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) for special status on January 4 of this year.
Business owners of any ethno-cultural background are allowed to seek official victim status from MBDA, a unit of the political pork-dispensing Department of Commerce. Once awarded, that status, ADC acknowledges, would “create a presumption of eligibility” for Arab-Americans “thereby eliminating the need for amassing and producing evidence of social and economic disadvantage” by individual business owners seeking government aid.
This is out-in-the-open vote-buying facilitated by an administration that sprang forth from the bowels of Saul Alinsky’s Chicago. The petition, taken very seriously by the Obama administration, seeks to give Arab-Americans access to a race-based spoils system that seems more appropriate to Apartheid-era South Africa than modern day America.
If the status is granted, Arab-Americans will be able to join what National Review writer Alexander Kazam, an American with Iraqi roots, calls the “already comically long” list of officially-designated racial victim groups feeding at the MBDA trough. Right now the list includes Puerto Ricans, African-Americans, Hasidic Jews, Spanish-speaking Americans, American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, Asian Indians, and Asian-Pacific Americans. Some of these groups might be able to come up with a few examples of present discrimination but most would be hard-pressed to do so in 2012.
ADC claims prejudice in the marketplace and legislation such as the PATRIOT Act, whose enactment the group fought, make it difficult for Arab-Americans to compete.
Given that the overwhelming majority of Americans are not racist and aren’t quite certain what the definition of “Arab” consists of –and probably wouldn’t even be able to identify someone as an ethnic Arab unless the person were dressed in traditional garb– it is very difficult to believe ADC’s assertion.
Over the years most Arab immigrants and their children, despite the efforts of multiculturalism cultists, have easily been subsumed in the great American melting pot. Successful people of Arab ancestry abound in every field of endeavor in America.
Were successful Arab-American NFL players Doug Flutie, Jeff George, and Drew Haddad hindered by anti-Arab bigotry?
What about high-octane business leaders of Arab ancestry, including the late Steve Jobs, pollster John Zogby, Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, Accenture founder George Shaheen, Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea, billionaire attorney Joe Jamail, former Ford Motor Co. president Jacques Nasser, and former Goodyear CEO Samir G. Gibara?
How about public servants of Arab descent including former National Institutes of Health director Elias Zerhouni, the late astronaut Christa McAuliffe, retired Army General John Abizaid, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and current Energy Secretary Ray LaHood, University of Miami president and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, and former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu? And Arab-American journalists Helen Thomas, Jim Avila, and Hala Gorani, and activists Ralph Nader, Mothers Against Drunk Driving founder Candy Lightner, and late United Auto Workers president Stephen Yokich?
How about Arab-Americans such as designer Joseph Abboud, broadcaster Casey Kasem, and “Exorcist” novelist Peter Blatty? How about singers Paula Abdul, Paul Anka, Shakira, and Tiffany? And actors Teri Hatcher, Kathy Najimy, Tony Shalhoub, Wendie Malik, Salma Hayek, Shannon Elizabeth, F. Murray Abraham, Yasmine Bleeth, and Jamie Farr? How about Lebanese-born, Muslim beauty queen Rima Fakih, who was named Miss USA 2010?
Do most Americans even know these successful individuals have Arab roots? And even if they did what evidence is there that they would care?
But ADC marches on, undeterred, determined to secure the “victim” imprimatur from the government, arguing without much in the way of evidence that the “ubiquitous demonizing of Arab-Americans has undermined this community’s progress in American society.”
ADC’s petition is an ill-conceived document that takes the reader on a winding, politically correct journey through fantasyland. (Read the petition which is available here.) The document is incoherent and contradictory, presenting self-serving (and often very old) anecdotal evidence that proves, at most, that there have been isolated incidents of racial discrimination against Arab-Americans. It fails to produce proof of widespread, generalized discrimination against ADC’s constituency because none exists.
The petition treats counter-terrorism measures enacted by the federal government as racist because they supposedly “had a disparate impact on the Arab-American community.” Of course, all 19 hijackers who took over commercial U.S. airplanes on September 11, 2001, were Muslim Arabs. Of the 19, 15 hailed from Saudi Arabia. The rest came from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. After 9/11 it’s hard to fault government officials at airports for carefully scrutinizing people of Arab ancestry. (In any event, those days are long gone, having given way to annoying body scans and pat downs of all travelers, including 90-year grandmas in wheelchairs.)
And even though two-thirds of Arab-Americans are Christians, and just one-quarter are Muslim, ADC argues that non-Muslim Arab-Americans nevertheless suffer because Americans are afflicted by a make-believe mental illness called Islamophobia that makes them commit so-called hate crimes. “[M]any Americans still assume all Arab-Americans are Muslims and apply their Islamophobia to all Arab-Americans, Muslim and non-Muslim alike” (page 32).
Kazam rips that claim to shreds:
[I]f we are to use hate crimes as a proxy for “disadvantage,” then Jews would have to be the considered the most disadvantaged group in the country. Despite a significant uptick in “anti-Islamic” incidents in 2010, Jews remain the faith group most likely to be targeted. The nearly 900 “anti-Jewish” incidents in 2010 account for a full two-thirds of hate crimes linked to religion: nearly six times the number of anti-Islamic incidents, despite the fact that Jewish Americans outnumber Muslim Americans by a factor of only two and a half.
To ADC, rational responses to terrorism based on suspects’ common characteristics, including tightened port-of-entry controls, the creation of “no-fly” lists, and longer-than-usual questioning by immigration officials, were all examples of invidious racial discrimination.
One passage in the petition about small businesses stands out as particularly kooky.
At page 29, ADC argues that the very existence of Arab-American businesses is proof in and of itself of discrimination. “A large percentage of Arab-American workers are small business owners, which is convincing evidence of the discrimination against Arab-Americans.” Huh? It’s not at all clear how the ADC came up with this formulation.
The petition describes Arab-Americans at page 30 as “a well-educated demographic,” but then downgrades them on the next page to being “a relatively well-educated demographic” that “suffers from educational disadvantages as a result of discrimination and prejudice.” On page 34, the petition states that “government anti-terrorism policies” are discriminatory and this has something to do with the supposed fact that Arab-Americans are “under-educated.”
Obviously, the petition is loaded with many ridiculous assertions, Kazam argues. Arab-Americans enjoy a mean individual income that is 27 percent above what Americans typically earn. Their median household income weighs in at $59,000, which is more than 10 percent higher than the national average. Almost half of Arab-Americans hold a college degree and they are two times as likely as a typical U.S. resident to have earned a Ph.D. As Kazam notes, the American Arab Chamber of Commerce acknowledges on its website that “large business ownership” and “active political participation” are both “testimony to the power and development of Arab Americans today.”
There’s no question that Arab-Americans are immeasurably better off than residents of Arab countries.
Only in America.