An Examination of Post 9-11 Attitudes towards Arab Americans

Article excerpt

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there has been a backlash of public opinion towards Arab Americans as a whole (Skitka, Bauman, Aramovich, & Morgan, 2006) that has only exacerbated the preexisting stereotypes of this population (see Erickson & Al-Timimi, 2001 and Nobles & Sciarra, 2000). While current national security measures have been put in place to make the country safer from future acts of terrorism (see Miller, 2004 for example), these same measures may indirectly reinforce long-held stereotypes and prejudices toward Arab Americans. For example, the Coalition for Secure Driver Licenses recently launched a billboard campaign in two states in which a blatant racial stereotype (an Arab individual in traditional garb holding hand grenades and sporting heavy weapons with Arabic script running along the border) was used, potentially inciting even more fear and distrust toward Arab Americans (Leinwand, 2005).

Crandall, Eshleman, and O'Brien (2002) found that people are more likely to express prejudicial attitudes if social norms are in place to indicate that such prejudice is acceptable. Although their data were collected before 9-11, Crandall et al. (2002) found that the group "terrorists" was very high on the list of personal and acceptable prejudices (5th from the top), but that the group "Iraqi soldiers" was near the middle of the list (right above "politicians"). When their data were

collected, it would not appear that their participants associated terrorists with Iraqi soldiers (the closest term they used for someone of Arabic descent). However, since 9-11, the rhetoric surrounding threats of terrorism has been such that the word "terrorist" is now often associated with individuals of Arabic descent. Therefore, it is likely that people may be more willing to openly voice prejudicial attitudes towards Arab Americans. In fact, Moradi and Hasan (2004) report that Arab Americans have experienced a much higher rate of discrimination and/or been a victim of a hate crime since 9-11. Furthermore, Adelman (2002) reports that many Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have reported being harassed at or terminated from work because of their religious beliefs since these attacks. Thus, it appears that prejudice and discrimination toward Arab Americans has become more prevalent since 9-11.

The current study explored how likely people were to express prejudicial attitudes towards Americans of Arabic descent in three areas: expressing prejudice and engaging in social interactions, targeting those of Arabic descent as terrorists at airport security and on the plane (profiling), and associating the term Arab with "hot" (inciting fear and distrust) terms. We hypothesized that participants would be more likely to directly admit feeling prejudice towards Arab Americans as opposed to other ethnic groups and that there would be greater prejudice expressed on the other indirect measures as well. Three mini-studies were conducted with the same group of participants to test these predictions.

GENERAL METHOD

Participants

One hundred forty participants from a small liberal arts university in the southeast were recruited to participate in the current study. Thirty percent of the participants were male and 70% were female. Participants ranged in age from 18-35 (M = 21.5, SD = 2.7). Fifty-eight percent of the participants identified as European American, 30% identified as African American, 5% identified as Asian American, while the remaining participants identified as Hispanic American, Native American, or other.

STUDY 1

Rationale & Methods

A 10-item survey assessed prejudicial attitudes. Participants made a series of ratings about how likely they were to feel prejudice towards or interact with a person described simply by their ethnicity (Arab American, European American, Asian American, African American, or Hispanic American). …