Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists

By Joanna Kadi | Go to book overview

Arab-Americans:

Living With Pride And Prejudice

ELLEN MANSOOR COLLIER

After a whirlwind trip touring London and Paris a few years ago, my friends and I returned to Houston, exhausted. But as we filed through customs, an agent blocked my path. He pointed to me and my brother, saying, "Come with me." Our friends waited while two inspectors examined our luggage, demanding to know, "What was the purpose of your visit?" Was it mere coincidence that—with our Arabic looks and surnames—the agents singled us out? Not only was I angry, I felt humiliated that my friends and fiancé had to witness this degrading scene.

As an American of Palestinian background, I'm all too aware of anti-Arab discrimination. Since the 1973 oil embargo, Arabs have served as scapegoats for a number of world problems— everything from gas shortages to bomb threats. The recent Persian Gulf War incited a new round of Arab-bashing. In Houston, vandals often attack a local Islamic mosque, smashing cars and windows, throwing rocks and smoke bombs. Once they spray-painted "Death to Evil Arabs" in black on the walls. Such blatant acts of racism usually ignite a public outcry but in this case they did not. Why is it socially acceptable to defame Arabs?

Perhaps the media should shoulder much of the blame. As a writer and editor, I'm especially offended by derogatory images of Arabs in the media. In movies, Arabs appear as characters straight out of Arabian Nights. Notice the evil villains in "Aladdin" have stereotyped features and accents as thick as their moustaches. Handsome, heroic Aladdin looks and sounds more like a tanned Tom Cruise than an Arab.

Worse, the lyrics to the film's theme song "Arabian Nights" include: "Oh, I come from a land/From a faraway place/Where

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