Arab Americans, Affirmative Action, and a Quest for Racial Identity

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................... 101

II. THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS ...................................................... 103

A. Post 9-11 Racism, Hate, and Discrimination ...................... 105

B. Discrimination, Racism, and Overt Acts of Hate on Campus ............................................................................... 106

III. OFFICIALLY WHITE; REALISTICALLY BLACK ................................ 108

A. Check it Right, You Ain't White! ....................................... 112

B. The Mark of Blackness ....................................................... 114

IV. RACE-BASED AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AND WHY ARAB AMERICANS SHOULD BE INCLUDED .......................................... 117

A. Arab American Students on Campus .................................. 121

B. The Campus Quad and Beyond .......................................... 125

C. Getting Outside the Box ..................................................... 126

V. CONCLUSION .................................................................................. 127

I. INTRODUCTION

"If I see someone come in and he's got a diaper on his head and a fan belt around that diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over and checked." - U.S. Congressman John Cooksey of Louisiana, September 17, 2001(1)

Sand nigger, camel jockey, towel head. Disloyal, threatening, foreign. Billionaires, bombers, belly dancers. Fundamentalist, extremist, militant. Dune coon, raghead, Mohammedan. Dirty, derelict, vermin. Terrorist.

Historically Arab Americans2 have been negatively stereotyped in a variety of ways. Today, Arab Americans have essentially been "raced as terrorists."3 The classification of Arab Americans as officially "white" in the census, while society perceives Arab Americans as socially "black," is problematic. It denies a group that is historically and presently suffering discrimination the benefits and protections of minority status, as well as the benefit of official recognition as a way of conferring identity. The main argument of this Note is that undergraduate colleges and universities should recognize Arab Americans as a minority for purposes of their race-based affirmative action programs since Arab Americans contribute to the diversity rationale as set forth by the Supreme Court. The purpose of this Note is not to analyze the pros and cons of affirmative action or the diversity rationale, but rather to argue that as long as such affirmative action programs exist, Arab Americans should be recognized as contributing to a race-based diversity rationale.

This Note first briefly outlines the recent history of discrimination, racism, bias, and stereotypes against Arab Americans, with a focus on discrimination and racism in the context of colleges and universities. Next, this Note describes how society perceives Arab Americans and why classifying Arab Americans as white in the census is both arbitrary and harmful. Then, this Note argues that Arab Americans have essentially been given the "mark of blackness," rather than a so-called "white privilege" in today's society. The Note goes on to discuss the diversity rationale for affirmative action as articulated in Grutter v. Bollinger, and to describe how enrolling a critical mass of Arab American students can contribute to diversity. Finally, this Note calls on colleges and universities to recognize Arab American students by giving them their own race "box" on college applications for purposes of their affirmative action programs, even if the census still officially classifies Arab Americans as white.4

II. THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS

"Arab spokesmen similarly argue that the Arab world is being branded anti-American because of the extremism of a few. But that's nonsense. In that world, hatred of the U.S. and antisocial international behavior are nearly universal. …