As someone of Middle-Eastern descent, I am expected to check “White” as my ethnicity on government forms and standardized tests. Yet, when people see me, or just my name, they immediately recognize me as non-White. So why am I still required to check that box?
When the first Arab Americans immigrated to America from Syria in the 1870s, individuals who were non-White could not become citizens and could not own land in the United States. These Christian-Arab immigrants (mostly from Syria or Lebanese Maronites), wanting to have both of these privileges, thus lobbied to be recognized as White in America. The label has stuck ever since, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be changed.
We all perceive race as something monolithic, when in fact, it can often be fluid. For example, South Asians immigrating to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were also categorized as White. However, as many of these individuals were farmers and began to compete with White farmers, there was a push by White-Americans to no longer recognize these immigrants as White. If South Asians (at this point, mainly immigrants from the Punjab region of India) were no longer recognized as Caucasian, they would be barred from owning land and stripped of citizenship. This is precisely what happened in 1923, when the Supreme Court ruled that “Hindoos” were no longer White.
But apparently, my Whiteness is static. I have been accepted by my colonizers, so I should be jumping for joy. Whiteness has always been associated with success, so shouldn’t I be happy? I should be celebrating this false relationship, right? I have the “privilege” of being White, don’t I? Nope. In a post 9/11 world, my whole existence is politicized; can all my other “White” counterparts say that? What they can say is that their ancestors are part of a tradition of colonization and genocide that this nation was founded upon. Now I have been given the honor of being part of that tradition. Thanks, but no thanks.
If Islam is such a threat and there is such a class of civilizations, why accept the third largest American-Muslim demographic (in Arabs) as White? There seems to be an inconsistency there, no? Which brings me to an interesting question: to the Republicans out there, isn’t Barack Obama Arab? Does that mean he gets to check “White?” Damn, what does that do to the “Angry Black man card” the Right is trying to pull?
Side note: John McCain was praised for saying “Obama is not Arab, he is a good man.” What does that say about Arabs? I expected more from my “fellow” White-friend, Jonny Mac.
Back to the main point of this post. To “experts” like Robert Spencer, Bernard Lewis, Pam Geller, and other Islamophobes, I am a sex-crazed, women-hating Muslim man jealous of democracy and out to destroy the American way of life. To them, I am an obvious “other,” but they refuse to grant me my minority status. Something doesn’t make sense.
P.S. I am a bigger fan of democracy than many of those who say I hate it, since I oppose the NDAA and NYPD surveillance of Muslims. I am a Muslim who wants to see the “American way of life” actualized. Sorry to disappoint.