I’m finishing a great book that I received — either by coincidence or because the author’s publicist is on her toes — that addresses the issue of diversity. It’s called “New Directions in Diversity” and it is authored by Elon University Journalism Professor George Padgett. (Marion Street Press, www.MarionStreetPress.com.) Check it out. You might all learn something.
It’s an excellent book that seems to challenge the notions that we, as journalists, have about diversity. In particular, Padgett seems to take on the narrowness of how the term “diversity” is applied to the challenges we face in our society.
It’s only 214 pages long but clearly Padgett knows something that most other journalists do not. Diversity as we know it is not diversity at all. In fact, he carefully outlines the problems with how we, as a profession, fail to properly define and understand the very concept we are trying to achieve.
He courageoulsy includes in his book the notion that diversity also includes Arab Americans. And he writes, “The Arab American is probably the least understood.” In fact he dedicates an entire chapter, Chapter 10, to understanding Arab Americans. He refers to the broader concept as “diversity within diversity.”
If there is a criticism, it is very mild. Although he painstakingly explains, as have others, that not all Arabs and Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs, the list of common words he lists in the chapter are mainly Muslim terms. Still, it’s more than anyone else has tried to do.
He also notes, and I give him much credit, for pointing out that after Sept. 11, 2001, many individiauls were persecuted, assualted and even killed by rampaging American patriots. I’ll point out that these post-Sept. 11 victims are not even classified as victims of Sept. 11. (You can read my column on the post-Sept. 11 hate victims that the media and American society ignores — BECAUSE the mainstream American media has a “tahini” vision of diversity (explained in a prior post) that only sees one level of a multi-leveled topic.
The column is at: http://www.hanania.com/hatevictims.html
“Diversity within diversity.” The media doesn’t report on the post-Sept. 11 killing spree (if 14 people were murdered as a result of one conscious movement of anger, we might attribute that to a serial killer and consider it a major story … but not if they are Arab American, or, more aptly, are murdered because the ignorant assailants can’t tell the difference between a Palestinian and a Pakistani, an Iranian or an Indian, and Afgahn or an Arab. This is the most Educated country in the world and yet it seems as if we continue to try to prove that we have the most uneducated people living in it when it comes to some important topics like the MIDDLE EAST.
So read the book. I urge you to.
Finally, just prior to traveling in January to Israel to perform Palestinian-Israeli comedy, to break a hateful Arab taboo that prevents Arabs and Palestinians from appearing with “Israelis,” I was interviewed along with my comedy partner Aaron Freeman (a living icon of diversity being an African American Jew) by John Callaway on his WTTW Channel 11 Friday Nights program. Callaway made a keen observations. (A Kean observation might involve an act of governmental corruption — can’t help it that I am a veteran former Chicago City Hall reporter) Callaway said that while much bonds Aaron and I in terms of using the power of humor to achieve peace, one thing separated us. Freeman has been more subtle in addressing racism and bigotry while I have placed the crusade on my chest in life.
It’s true. African Americans, I noted, have a support system built up through generations of suffering. They also have the acknowledgment of the mainstream media. They don’t have to fight racism as a crusade screaming into the face of the attacking eagle, claws outstretched. As an Arab American, on the otherhand, my community has nothing outside of our own victimized, ostracized, stereotyped and misunderstood community. Literally in Chicago where Arab Americans have settled since 1869 — read my book on “Arabs of Chicagoland” (www.hanania.com/book.htm), we have nothing that we can point to as evidence that we even existed or exist. Not a building. Not a major elected official. Not a real holiday. Not a parade. Not a festival. Not an acknowledgment from the public or the media. Not a major reporter — since my ousting from the Sun-Times in late 1990.
Well, enough about me. Don’t worry. I’m only here until March 11 and then you can go back to UNITY, or, as I like to refer to the organization, the collection of the BIG FOUR (Blacks, Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans), from which Arab American journalists continue to be marginalized. Imagine, if journalists of color don’t recognize you how invisible you must be to the world.
Which (sorry, I can’t help myself) brings me to this last thought. Excluding groups contributes directly to their extremism. When you deny anyone the ability to vent and participate as an equal in the free expression of the mainstream edia (and Arabs ARE denied), then you are forcing them to turn to hostile and violent means to express themselves. The silent majority of Arabs remain silent knowing that no matter what they do, no one is out there to help. And the small handful of extremists (dangerous morons) appear to be larger than life, and claim the silent majority as a part of their grass roots base.
As an Arab, I feel like a reverse vampire. I don’t prey on anyone. But, when I look in the mirror, I see nothing. No Arab image in the media, in society, on television, on the radio nor in government. I start thinking that no one else sees me, except as a vampire threat. That’s how Arab Americans live in this country. We accept that we have no reflection in life, or we turn towards extreme measures to break the mirror of exclusion.
Thanks for listening