Arab people are among the most stereotyped and prejudiced groups in America today. Since the September 11th terrorist attacks, stereotyping of Arabs has increased, especially by the media (Said) and the government (Hassan).
This has occurred in conjunction with a large increase in hate crimes against Arabs (Cainkar).
Every ethnic group has its negative stereotypes and has experienced hate crimes. But almost every ethnic group also has positive stereotypes associated with it. For example, while Asians are stereotyped as being poor drivers, they are stereotyped as being highly intelligent. While African-Americans are stereotyped as being uneducated, they are also stereotyped as being athletic. While stereotypes themselves are a bad concept, the fact that there are positive stereotypes about certain groups indicates that Americans do consider these groups as contributing something to society, or that these groups are not entirely bad. Arabs do not have any sort of positive stereotype commonly associated with them. They are labeled as terrorists, or fanatical Muslims (McCarus).
Why the Arabs? Why are they singled out as the only completely negative group in America? Arabs are stereotyped against due to their portrayal in the media.
Arabs have been immigrating into the Latin America from the Middle East since the beginning of the 20th century. Some of them came following their dreams to establish a better life for themselves, while others were forced to flee the war-torn countries of the Middle East like Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, and Yemen. Those immigrants kept their traditions alive, and, like many other immigrant ...
It is a common idea that Arabs are stereotyped against due to the September 11th terrorist attacks. Though tension since the terrorist attacks has escalated, these stereotypes have been in place for quite some time. The Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995 was surrounded by them. Initially, Arab terrorists were the suspected perpetrators of the attack, which led to unjust harassment of Arab individuals within Oklahoma City (Blassing).
The first Gulf War created tension as well, and several Arabs were assaulted in America in 1991 and 1992 (Shaheen, Jack G. Part III).
There has been tension with Arab countries for several years, escalated by a bombing at the U.S. embassy in Beirut in 1983 and the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 (Shaheen, Jack G. Part I).
The American public could have viewed these incidents as unrelated to Arabism, but rather related to a small group of extreme individuals. However, the media has skewed the American perception of Arabs.
For several years, film and television have portrayed Arabs in a very stereotypical manner. There are numerous examples of this shown in Dr. Jack Shaheen’s documentary “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People.” Dr. Shaheen showed that Arab stereotypes have existed in film for over thirty years, especially throughout the 1990s and 2000s. In the film Rules of Engagement Arabs who appear to be normal citizens open fire on peacekeeping U.S. Marines. Other films like Delta Force and True Lies portray Arabs only as fanatical terrorists trying to inflict harm on innocent people. Video games, comic books, and television have also vilified the Arabs recently; the object of several games is to kill and/or capture terrorist Arabs, Batman is portrayed fighting against evil Arabs bent upon world domination, etc. (McCarus).
It is no wonder that people hold negative stereotypes against Arabs; Arabs are almost always portrayed as the unsympathetic villains.
The news media is also to blame for negative Arab stereotypes. In a July 2003 Counterpunch article, Edward Said wrote,
The media runs the vilest racist stereotypes about Arabs–see, for example, a piece by Cynthia Ozick in the Wall Street Journal in which she speaks of Palestinians as having ‘reared children unlike any other children, removed from ordinary norms and behaviors’ and of Palestinian culture as ‘the life force traduced, cultism raised to a sinister spiritualism.’ (Said).
... sends is that it enforces stereotypes, the idea that other people are inferior.Take Arabs for example. Arabs are the subject of many ... Association) has an eminent connection with the media as a way to portray and advertise weapons as valuable personal belongings.When ... films that are derogatory, ignorant, and harmful. They are shown as dirty terrorists, ...
An article in the Middle East Report by Louise Cankar cites other examples of stereotyping in the media.
A Wall Street Journal piece entitled “Under the Circumstances, We Must Be Wary of Young Arab Men” appeared on October 19, 2001. In her column, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan said:
‘In the past month I have evolved … to watchful potential warrior. And I gather that is going on with pretty much everyone else, and I’m glad of it. I was relieved at the story of the plane passengers a few weeks ago who refused to board if some Mideastern-looking guys were allowed to board.’ (Cankar)
Renee Dean’s AAPTIS 331.007 class discussed the portrayal of Arabs in the news. It was agreed that Arabs were overwhelmingly shown to be terrorists or in support of terrorism, rarely in a normal setting. The media, be it through television, film, games, or news, is the people’s window into the world outside. If that window is portraying stereotypes daily for several years, then it is no wonder that people also hold these stereotypes. In Renee Dean’s discussion section, it was said that several Americans live in an area without a large Arab population, so their only picture of Arabs is the one they got from the media. Until the media changes the way they portray Arabs, these stereotypes will continue to exist.
The only way to remedy this is for people’s pictures of Arabs to be changed from religious fundamentalist terrorists to normal, hard working people who contribute to society. Generally, though, people like to have a simplified view of the world, and do not like the world to change from how they think it is. The media is itself a business, so to earn the most profit (get the most viewers) it has to provide what the consumer wants. In this case, the consumer does not want their view of Arabs to be changed drastically. Some people want to blame September 11th, terrorism, and the Iraq War on Arabs. Until the media has an incentive to stop stereotyping Arabs, they won’t stop.
Blassing, Rick. “Islam: Stereotypes still Prevail.” Social Education .60(2).
Cainkar, Louise. “No Longer Invisible: Arab and Muslim Exclusion After September 11.”
Black Man Standing: The Media's Portrayal of African-American Men By Erin Donovan Documentation Style: MLA Name and Description of Target Audience: Readers of the Chicago Tribune Guest Editorial Section Forum/Genre Paper Would Take in Target Publication: Guest Editorial in the Chicago Tribune Brief Description of Assignment and Instructor Expectations for Critical Thinking: 4 page paper with a 2 ...
Middle East Report. 8/2002. (1/22/08)
Hassan, Salah D. “Arabs, Race and the Post-September 11 National Security State.” Middle East
McCarus, Ernest. “Arab Stereotypes.” Presented: 1/14/08, Modern Language Building, Ann
“Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People.” 2007. Media Education Foundation.
Said, Edward. “Rule by the Blink: Imperial Arrogance and the Vile Stereotyping of Arabs.”
Counterpunch. 7/21/2003. (1/22/08)
Shaheen, Jack G. “Part I: Introduction, Part II: Arab Muslims on Television and in the Movies.”
Arab and Muslim stereotyping in American Popular Culture, Washington, D.C. Center
for Muslim – Christian Understanding, Georgetown University, 1997. P1-20.
Shaheen, Jack G. “Part III: Print and Broadcast News.” Arab and Muslim stereotyping in
American Popular Culture, Washington, D.C.: Center for Muslim –Christian Understanding, Georgetown University, 1997. P29-37.