Ray Hanania writes columns analyzing Middle East issues that are distributed internationally by Creators Syndicate. Nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for a series on the Palestinian Intifada. Winner of 4 SPJ Lisagor Awards for Column Writing; Named Best Ethnic American Columnist by the New America Media (2007). Received 2010 Sigma Delta Chi Nat'l Award for column writing. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is Hanania's main blog, writing on everything under the sun.
Friday, November 09, 2012
Chicago's anti-Arab Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushing through his Zero Arab Cultural Plan
Ever since the election of Rahm Emanuel as mayor, the presence of American Arabs in government and in cultural events has declined to the point of near extinction.
Although American Arabs have been a part of Chicago since the first immigrants arrived in the city in the middle of the 19th Century from Arab countries and regions that had not yet become nations, American Arabs have been an active part of Chicagoland's rich diversity.
Despite the prejudice and racism against American Arabs, they have remained loyal, patriotic, taxpayers and full contributors to our society.
The late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago's first minority and African American chief executive, was the first to recognize the need to expand the city's narrow minded approach to "culture." Washington recognized that although the city claimed to be color blind, there was a distinct discrimination against certain minorities, among the most discriminated were Arabs.
Washington sought to help Arabs and others become an active part of molding Chicago's future when he launched the Human Relations Commission and created the Arab Advisory Council. It continued even after Washington died that tragic Thanksgiving inn 1987, although the ethnic diversity group became a lifeless patronage haven for political cronies of Washington's political successors.
Upon his ascension to the Machine thrown, Emanuel, whose historic conflict with Arabs stems from his own personal religious and political upbringing -- his father was a member of the racistly anti-Arab Irgun Zvi Leumi terrorist organization -- don't be totally ignorant, people ... look this shit up! -- the first thing Mayor Emanuel did was to undermine the paltry achievements of the Arab Community. No more Arab Festival (we had it only for a few years), no more Arab events or celebrations (that began with Washington) and no more Arab appointments to major City jobs. In fact, at his so-called Eid celebration last year, there were no Arab Muslims, only non-Arab Muslims in the audience.
The issue isn't that he is anti-Muslim. Emanuel is not. He is anti-Arab.
Now the mayor has devised a plan to further undermine the opportunities for American Arabs in Chicago with the new Chicago Cultural Plan 2012. Of the dozens and dozens of volunteers and officials, only one is actually an Arab -- Lebanese American. That's it?
Chicago has a healthy American Arab community. Although we can't give you exact numbers because the U.S. Census refuses to include as in their every decade count, we estimate there are maybe 45,000 just on the Southwest Side. Most American Arabs had fled the bigotry and bias of Chicago over the years, despite the brief moment of respite under Harold Washington and casual interest by former Mayor Richard M. Daley who connected with some American Arabs as a way to strengthen business ties with the Arab World for himself after his surprise retirement in May 2011.
It's a shameful and intentional snub of Chicagoland's American Arabs. We're proud taxpayers. Hard workers. Great achievers in professions across the business spectrum. We are social activists and political activists, even though we have not yet achieved our own fundamental political presence in today's bigoted world.
In this face of the Arab community's weakness -- disorganized, without its own social structures of significance, and with no real presence in politics or government -- American Arabs deserve equality and their share of the taxpayer-funded pie that they help to finance with everyday of their hard work. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has no right to exclude American Arabs or to suppress our presence simply to satisfy his racist, hateful family heritage.