Are We Close to Seeing An Arab-American National Leader?

A recent study by a Washington based think-tank, Center for American Progress (CAP) had some revealing data on the changing demographics in the U.S., and it re-affirms the fact that the racial and ethnic makeup in the country is changing. The question remains, how much of this will reflect in the leadership of the U.S.? Will there be more leaders of significance from the minority communities, in particular the Arab-American community? I believe that this will be case, and shifting demographics are only part of the reason. 

Here are some interesting statistics from CAP that demonstrate that the demographics in America are changing towards a more racially diverse population. Some key highlights of this data:

- 14.6% of all new marriages are inter-racial marriages

- The number of people who identify as “bi-racial” has gone up by 32% since 2000 

I believe with increased diversity and given the immigrant history of the U.S, we will see greater acceptance of minorities, and specifically, Arab-American. While the opposing trend of racial hatred and ethnic exclusion may also rise, as we saw in the recent presidential election, when President Obama was specifically attacked because he was lack and also right-wing propagandists followed up on their attacks, which they started in 2008, he won because the American character intrinsically values talent, diversity and hard work.

I believe we are witnessing the rise of new role models who look very different from the typical white caucasian male that we are used to – an image that the media would have us believe is the one representative of a “leader.” A recent comment by Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal about Arab-Americans is telling. Speaking to a gathering of Arab-Americans, He is reported to have said: "You have proven that Arabs can be successful, and not only that, to be ahead of other ethnic groups."

Here is a list of over 40 who’s who in American sports, academia, politics,of people with Middle Eastern ancestry. While this leaves out a few others, who are not as famous as the people mentioned, this list is definitely representative of many of the movers and shakers in American public life. The Arab American Institute has compiled this list a while ago and it includes people such as Steve Jobs, Salma Hayek, Sen. George Mitchell, Diane Rehm, Frank Zappa, Ralph Nader, among others.

Steve Jobs stands out as one of the most famous Americans of Syrian ancestry. As this article in Huffington Post points out, Jobs‘s father was Abdulfattah Jandali, a Syrian national, who came to the U.S in the 1950s’s. He was abandoned by his father, since he was born out of wedlock. Though he never met his father and he personally never made a show of his remote ancestry, Syrians claimed Jobs as their own, after the discovery that he had Syrian roots.

Race and ethnicity have always been explosive issues in America. While the Civil Rights movement made sure that African-Americans were included in society, equality remains a distant dream. As Amitai Etzioni has pointed out in his writings, we continue to dream for equality for all and have laws ensconced to protect people of color, there is also uneasiness with what some people consider reverse discrimination. As he points in his essay in American Scholar: "Courts have limited its scope, politicians have made hay by opposing it and some of its beneficiaries feel that their successes are hollow because they are unsure whether their gains reflect hard-won achievements or special favors."

Despite the larger debates about race and ethnicity in our society, the daily successes and struggles of ordinary people give us reason to hope. Hollywood and media stereotypes notwithstanding, I believe the coming generation will see the rise of more Arab and Arab-American role models in America. With a long history of association, cultural and political exchange, it is but natural that there will be greater acceptance of the “other.”

Hind Sahli of Morocco and Hanaa ben Abdesslem from Tunisia, are the new super-models from the Arab world. They have not only defied stereotypes and made way for more Arabs in the public imagination, but also are very proud of their heritage. Need more proof of the emerging Arab role-models? 

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Sabith Khan

Sabith Khan is a social entrepreneur, researcher and founder of MENASA, a think-tank and policy shop engaged in issues related to MENA and South Asia. Sabith has worked for several years in the field of strategic communications, public affairs and nonprofit management, trying to understand and communicate issues pertaining to civil society, development and youth in the US and MENA region. Sabith has worked with several large global public affairs firms, on award-winning campaigns in healthcare, entertainment and government relations. During his stint at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, he ideated and executed a global award-winning campaign for Apollo Hospitals (Abby and Clio Awards). He has also worked in the Middle East managing accounts as diverse as Dubai Film Festival, Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation, Dubai International Film Festival, Dubai School of Government. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director of Muslim Public Service Network in Washington D.C, an NGO that engages and inspires young American Muslims to do public service. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Planning Governance and Globalization at Virginia Tech. He has been involved as a team member and leader in several international development projects including consulting for the Near East Foundation, in helping set up their Monitoring and Evaluation system for their offices across the MENA region. Sabith has a Master of Public administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. In Summer 2013, he conducted research on American Muslim philanthropy at the Lilly School of Philanthropy, Indianapolis, in an attempt to map giving behavior among Muslims over the last ten years i.e., 2002- 2012. Sabith’s research interests include Religion and Philanthropy, Youth issues in USA, Middle East North Africa and South Asia, Governance and Civil Society. Sabith is also the co-editor of Millennials Speak: Essays on the 21st century, a snapshot of the ideas and opinions of the global Millennial Generation. Twenty writers from five continents, a diverse mix of young academics, policy professionals, and future thought and creative leaders, cover topics from the legacy of the Arab Spring, the global food system, the U.S. student loan crisis, youth unemployment, to popular culture. Currently working: Founder and Executive Director, MENASA Publications: 1. Humanitarian Aid and Faith-Based Giving: The Potential of Muslim Charity - Unrest Magazine, George Mason University. May 2013. Accessible at http://www.unrestmag.com/about-unrest/past-issues/#sthash.GEqNfv0U.dpuf 2. Arab American Diaspora and American Muslim Philanthropy: impact of crisis situations on mobilization and formation of a “community.” American University in Cairo Press. Cairo. (NP). Expected Fall 2013. 3. Middle-East Peace Talks 2010: Investigating the Role of Lobbying and Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C. as Spoilers. Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Spring 2011. Accessible at : http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/parcc/Research/intrastate/Spoilers_of_Peace_Project/ Blog: www.sabithkhan.wordpress.com

MORE FROM

Alton Sterling’s children sue Baton Rouge over shooting, alleging racism and excessive force

The Sterling family alleges that police officers sent racist text messages about people who protested the black man's shooting death.

3 Chicago officers charged with conspiracy in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald

The three Chicago police officers allegedly conspired to prevent an independent investigation and prosecution against Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Video shows officer threatening black man for jaywalking without an ID

The officer is not currently under investigation.

Black teens handcuffed for selling water on National Mall are now getting job offers

"I feel like it was a bad situation turned into a good situation."

3 of the Central Park 5 men just received honorary high school diplomas

All of the men in the Central Park Five will receive the diplomas they were denied after their wrongful convictions as teenagers.

Another sign marking a scene from Emmett Till's murder has been vandalized

It's at least the second time in the past year a sign marking Till's murder has been vandalized.

Alton Sterling’s children sue Baton Rouge over shooting, alleging racism and excessive force

The Sterling family alleges that police officers sent racist text messages about people who protested the black man's shooting death.

3 Chicago officers charged with conspiracy in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald

The three Chicago police officers allegedly conspired to prevent an independent investigation and prosecution against Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Video shows officer threatening black man for jaywalking without an ID

The officer is not currently under investigation.

Black teens handcuffed for selling water on National Mall are now getting job offers

"I feel like it was a bad situation turned into a good situation."

3 of the Central Park 5 men just received honorary high school diplomas

All of the men in the Central Park Five will receive the diplomas they were denied after their wrongful convictions as teenagers.

Another sign marking a scene from Emmett Till's murder has been vandalized

It's at least the second time in the past year a sign marking Till's murder has been vandalized.