Friday, September 16, 2005

I have a Dream -- Column from the archives (about 1997-1998)

I have a (an Arab American) dream

(One of my favorite columns from the past)
By Ray Hanania

I imagine waking up one morning into a different world. One where anti-Arab bigotry doesn’t exist, and where the Chicago news media slogans of fairness and objectivity mean something.

I buy a newspaper and I see among the many by-lines at least one Arab American reporter.

And I flipped through the pages and I find a story about how more than 350 Arab Americans joined to celebrate the retirement of one of our community leaders after many years of serving the City of Chicago.

There is a small Ad at the bottom of the page that teases me about a special section on Palestine, a decade after the Intifadah, and promises of a commentary there by renown Palestinian writer, Edward Said.

I have a dream.

After reading the newspaper, I get up and go to my car parked in the driveway. I see my neighbor, who is Irish American, and he wishes me a Happy Ramadan Kareem.

I wave back in gratitude even though I am not Muslim.I have a dream.I take out several letters that I want to send to friends and I go to the Post Office where they offer me stamps that commemorate Ramadan, Khalil Gibran, and the historic visit of the Orthodox Patriarch to the United States.

I see the stamps on the shelf along with all the other stamps that commemorate Kwanza, Christmas, Hanukkah, and all kinds of community leaders and events.

I have a dream.

I call work, and the message reminds me that today is a holiday, named in honor of Muhammad, the Great Muslim Prophet, or maybe in honor of the first Arab American to die while serving during World War I as a commander of the armed forces. Or, maybe, it is Khalil Gibran Day.I have a dream.

My daughter comes home from school, and instead of telling me about how she is harassed by other kids because she is Arab, she delights in relating to me about how the class will spend the next two weeks learning about the important culture of the Arab World.

The teacher plans to discuss all of the great contributions that Arabs have made to the sciences, to health, to music and to mathematics. There are so many, she can’t tell me about them all.

I have a dream.

And I turn on my television set to watch the news, and Mike Monseur, the CLTV reporter who was demoted as anchor because of his Arab American heritage, is sitting next to Carol Marin, detailing an exclusive investigation into corruption at Chicago’s City Hall.

In response, Mayor Daley has announced the appointment of celebrated Arab American attorney William Haddad as a special investigator to oversee the probe to insure the highest quality of legal leadership.

I have a dream.

The local cable TV program is also flashing on news about upcoming events, and I see that the City of Chicago is gearing up for the Arab American Day celebration.

There will be floats, and bands playing, and children waving Arab World flags. And Americans will be standing on the sides of the street as the parade passes them by, waiving and cheering as they do at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade every year.

I have a dream.

Later, this summer, I will plan a few days off of work, so that I can take my family to the annual Arab Food Fest, which will feature dozens of tents of Arab restaurants selling filafel, hummos, lamb kabob, and stuffed grapeleaves.

It’s so crowded, it takes forever to get to the counter to place my order.

I have a dream.

The Sunday Tribune arrives at my door step and I pick it up and I see on the cover that the book section features a review of my humor book, and books written by other Arab Americans like Sammer Ghouleh, Edward Said, Salameh Zanayed and Rashid Khalidi.

I have a dream.

And then my wife shakes me out of my slumber, and I have to return to the real world where Arabs face bigotry and the media ignores us.

And I sigh.


I have a dream!

Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American journalist, author and writer. His columns are archived on the World Wide Web at (

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