ST PAUL, Minn — On March 31st, the Biden administration declared April as 'Arab American Heritage Month.'
In the proclamation, the administration clarified its hopes for the designation saying, "This Arab American Heritage Month, let us all strive to honor our fundamental values and advance equity and opportunity for all people, affirming once again that diversity is our country’s greatest strength."
So what do folks who identify as Arab/Arab American think about this newly designated month? We sat down with three people to pick their brains.
Kathryn Haddad identifies as Lebanese American, Arab American and SWANA (South West Asian North African).
Nour Hussein identifies as Egyptian.
Lana Barkawi identifies as Palestinian American, Arab and SWANA.
Haddad: I feel like I've been trying to celebrate Arab American heritage my entire life! Honestly, we deserve to have a celebratory month along with everybody else.
Hussein: Arabs in America have a long history of immigration. There were a series of wars in the Levant of the late 19th century and that precipitated a subsequent wave of immigration from countries like Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.
Barkawi: I think it's a positive thing for the community to have this kind of visibility.
Hussein: Arab as a term is a massive umbrella term that generalizes a huge number of different dialects, different cuisine...
Barkawi: different countries, so many different people groups, religions ethnicities, it's a complex heritage.
Haddad: If there is one month that is acknowledged as Arab American heritage, and say you know maybe someone who has never thought of us has some power, could be able to include our stories in their curriculums, to be able to open funding opportunities for our organizations. To me that would be a great byproduct of having a celebration of Arab American heritage.
Barkawi: I do have a bit of a hesitation around it. I wonder about acknowledging and celebrating Arab community and heritage while not really thinking about the fact that some of the challenges for our community exist. And that things like orientalism, Islamophobia, anti-Arab and anti-immigrant sentiments are very real and present.
Hussein: For Arab American heritage month, I think that's the one thing I would like people to remember is that the meaning of Arab American isn't set, it's not defined by any one group, nor does it center any one kind of Arab or Arab American. I think it's rather inclusive of anybody who legitimately can define themselves as Arab."
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