Arab-Americans Aren’t White Anymore: Why?

arab american

As the US became a global superpower in the 20th century, anti-Palestinian stereotypes in the media spread to Arab Americans and made them look bad.

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Whether or not a person is “white” has always been an important social and legal question in the United States.

Over the 20th century, it became clearer that some groups, like Irish and Italian immigrants, were white. Sociologist Louise Cainkar says that during the same period, things went in the opposite direction for Arab Americans.

Before moving forward….

Let’s know about the Arab-Americans’ past in the United States

Arab-Americans have lived in the United States for a long time and have been through a lot. At the end of the 19th century, the first Arabs came to America in search of jobs and religious freedom. They came from places like Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq, among others.

Because of their race and religion, these early immigrants had to deal with discrimination and bias. Many of them were called “Turks” or “Moors,” which was an insult at the time.

Even with all of these problems, Arab-Americans built strong communities all over the country. They created businesses, cultural institutions, and political groups to fight for their rights.

Many Arab-Americans served in the US military during both World Wars I and II, even though they faced discrimination on both fronts. During World War I, more than 15% of all Syrian-American men served in the US Army.

Over time, the number of Arab-Americans has grown a lot. More than three million Arab-Americans are now from different places, like Egyptians in New York City and Yemenis near Detroit. They make a big difference in American society by starting businesses that help the country grow.

Cainkar says that most Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian people who moved to the US in the 1900s were from rural areas and had little education. Most of what these newcomers went through were similar to what “white ethnic” Europeans went through. They were mistreated and couldn’t do many things that Anglo-Americans could, but they could become citizens, get homestead lands, run for public office, and hang out with and marry white people who were born in the U.S.

But by the end of the 20th century, things had changed in a big way. Some things had changed about the new Arab immigrants. They now had more education, were more likely to be Muslim than Christian, and came from a different mix of countries. But Cainkar says that wasn’t what caused the change. She says that what was new was the United States becoming a global superpower.

During the Israel-Arab War of 1967, US media showed Palestinians as “inherently savage.” In the decades that followed, when the US was involved in the Middle East, Arabs were portrayed as violent terrorists, greedy oil sheiks, anti-Semites, and people who couldn’t democratically run a country.

“The Soviets, Cubans, and Sandinistas were enemies because they were governments and political ideologies, but the Arabs were enemies because they were Arabs—men and women whose culture made them naturally violent and hateful,” Cainkar says.

She also says that these stereotypes spread to Arab Americans, making them seem like “people whose values and personalities conflict with being American.” She uses the research of Shelley Slade to back up her point. Slade looked at a 1980 phone poll and found that Arabs were “one of the few ethnic groups that can still be slandered without getting in trouble in America.”

In the 1990s, changes in world politics meant that Islamist movements were more likely to challenge US power than Arab nationalism. At this time, and especially after the 9/11 attacks, bigotry was often spoken about as “Muslims.” But in the early 2000s, people with prejudice and government programs like mass arrests and secret detention could go after anyone who fit a “Middle Eastern” profile. This included Arabs of all religions.

Arab Americans were in a confusing place after the changes. They are still counted as “white” in things like the US Census. But between 2002 and 2004, a poll of Arab Muslims in the Chicago area found that 63 percent thought Arabs were not white, while only 20 percent said they were. Most of the people who answered said it was because of how Americans treat Arabs.

“In other words,” Cainkar writes, “they saw their racial place as not white because they do not benefit from the statuses, assumptions, and behaviors that come with being white.”

As a sum note- Why Arab-Americans can’t be called white anymore

Arab-Americans used to be thought of as white because they had lighter skin and came from Europe. But this has changed in recent years because of several things.

There has been a rise in anti-Muslim feelings all over the country, and this has led to many Arab-Americans being singled out and poorly treated. This kind of discrimination shows that even though people of color look like white Americans, they are still seen as different because of their culture and religion.

Arab-Americans are becoming more aware of who they are and where they come from. Many people are starting to be proud of their Middle Eastern roots instead of trying to become fully American. So, they don’t just think of themselves as “white” anymore. Instead, they identify with both their ethnic background and being American.

Political tensions between the United States and countries in the Middle East have affected how Arab-Americans are seen. In times of war or high-security concerns, people tend to be suspicious of people from these areas, no matter what they look like or how they act.

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Arab-Americans are no longer seen as white by many people in today’s society because all of these things have made a big difference.

So, Arab-Americans used to be seen as white, but now they are seen as a separate ethnic group. This has big effects on the community and on society as a whole.




Raven Ruma is a professional journalist with a keen eye on domestic and foreign situations. His favorite pastime is to keep the public informed about the current situation through his pen and he is fulfilling this responsibility through the platform of Arab News.

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