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Are Arab Americans Disadvantaged?
Whatever the Commerce Department decides, the answer is No.

Rima Fakih, Miss U.S.A. 2010

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Nearly every social and economic achievement of the Arab American community is either brushed aside or, incredibly, treated as evidence of bigotry. So the ADC concedes that Arab Americans are “relatively well-educated,” but on the very same page declares that Arab Americans are “undereducated.” They are undereducated, we learn, because Muslim prayer times and the month of fasting are “not respected” in American schools, and students are not presented with “educational materials” that cast Arabs in a positive light. In another remarkable passage, the ADC states that the large number of Arab-American small-business owners is actually “convincing evidence of the discrimination against Arab-Americans.” Business ownership is not a indication of success and access to capital, the ADC would have us believe, but a mark of failure that demonstrates the prevalence of workplace bigotry. Presumably, whether Arabs are underrepresented in small business or overrepresented, in either case the ADC would argue that it is proof of racism: win-win.

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As evidence for rampant Islamophobia in modern America, the ADC cites data from the FBI that show a surge of hate crimes against Muslims in the wake of 9/11. But as the ADC is surely aware, only a quarter of Arab Americans are Muslim; 65 percent are Christian. Most are light-skinned descendants of immigrants from the Levant, which is why they usually have been subsumed under the “white” racial category. (It was a revelation that Steve Jobs — one of the most successful businessmen of all time — had a Syrian biological father.)

Furthermore, if we are to use hate crimes as a proxy for “disadvantage,” then Jews would have to be the considered the most disadvantaged group in the country. Despite a significant uptick in “anti-Islamic” incidents in 2010, Jews remain the faith group most likely to be targeted. The nearly 900 “anti-Jewish” incidents in 2010 account for a full two-thirds of hate crimes linked to religion: nearly six times the number of anti-Islamic incidents, despite the fact that Jewish Americans outnumber Muslim Americans by a factor of only two and a half.

Finally, even if there were discrimination against Arab-American firms in areas such as contract procurement, which seems unlikely, it would be exceedingly difficult to measure because Arabs make up such a small fraction of the population — less than 1 percent by the ADC’s own estimation, and just 0.5 percent according to data from the 2008 American Community Survey.

The ADC’s appeal for preferential treatment is obviously unjustified. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the MBDA will see it for what it is: a farcical attempt to hitch already-advantaged Arab-Americans to the nation’s ethnic gravy train (this just in: Elizabeth Warren has long, dark eyelashes). As the ADC is quick to point out, the list of groups that receive special benefits from the MBDA is already comically long: African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Spanish-speaking Americans, American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, Hasidic Jews, Asian-Pacific Americans, and Asian Indians.

Several of these groups, such as the two Asian categories, were included for historical reasons and surely don’t qualify as “disadvantaged” by any sensible measure today. And one can debate whether the MBDA, a legacy of the civil-rights era created under Nixon, is still necessary today, when affirmative action is widespread in both the public and private sectors. Especially at a time of fiscal crisis, the MBDA should be looking for ways to save money instead of extending its reach to another non-needy minority. The facts are plain enough; it is merely a question of whether the agency acts on them, or chooses to ignore them.

— Alexander Kazam is a summer intern at National Review.



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