Whitewashed

Whitewashed

America's Invisible Middle Eastern Minority

Book - 2009
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From the Publisher: Middle Easterners: Sometimes White, Sometimes Not-an article by John Tehranian. The Middle Eastern question lies at the heart of the most pressing issues of our time: the war in Iraq and on terrorism, the growing tension between preservation of our national security and protection of our civil rights, and the debate over immigration, assimilation, and our national identity. Yet paradoxically, little attention is focused on our domestic Middle Eastern population and its place in American society. Unlike many other racial minorities in our country, Middle Eastern Americans have faced rising, rather than diminishing, degrees of discrimination over time; a fact highlighted by recent targeted immigration policies, racial profiling, a war on terrorism with a decided racialist bent, and growing rates of job discrimination and hate crime. Oddly enough, however, Middle Eastern Americans are not even considered a minority in official government data. Instead, they are deemed white by law. In Whitewashed, John Tehranian combines his own personal experiences as an Iranian American with an expert's analysis of current events, legal trends, and critical theory to analyze this bizarre Catch-22 of Middle Eastern racial classification. He explains how American constructions of Middle Eastern racial identity have changed over the last two centuries, paying particular attention to the shift in perceptions of the Middle Easterner from friendly foreigner to enemy alien, a trend accelerated by the tragic events of September 11. Focusing on the contemporary immigration debate, the war on terrorism, media portrayals of Middle Easterners, and the processes of creating racial stereo-types, Tehranian argues that, despite its many successes, the modern civil rights movement has not done enough to protect the liberties of Middle Eastern Americans. By following how concepts of whiteness have transformed over time, Whitewashed forces readers to rethink and question some of their most deeply held assumptions about race in American society.
Publisher: New York : New York University Press, c2009
ISBN: 9780814783061
0814783066
Characteristics: ix, 246 p. ; 24 cm

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f
floy
Feb 18, 2011

The author makes the strong point that America has a history of generalizing from individuals who committed (or may commit) crimes to an entire race or ethnicity. Invariably, in American history, these actions are directed at people of color, not white people.

Tehranian cites the internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast during WWII and the rounding up of almost 1 million Mexicans in the US (60% of which were US citizens) during the Depression to lower the costs of government assistance programs. Thus the author has great concern about the current xenophobia sweeping the country directed against anyone who looks like they might have Middle Eastern heritage.

He extensively proves that people of Middle Eastern heritage in the U.S.are treated as white legally – they are not covered by anti-discrimination statutes for instance – but are treated as people of color by the public and police and are often the victims of racial profiling, job discrimination, hate crimes and surveillance.

Since this group is widely diverse in terms of country of origin, religion, skin color, and values, they tend not to organize as a group or see themselves as a group. Many are rather invisible – accepted as individuals rather than acknowledged as group members. Some may call that “passing”; others call it “covering”.

Some famous Americans of Middle Eastern heritage are:
Andre Agassi, Christine Amanapour, Kathy Najimi, Jamie Farr, Kenau Reeves, Neil
Sadaka, Julie Taymor, Omar Sharif, Frank Zappa, Danny & Marlo Thomas, Tony Shalhoub, Paul Anka, Salma Hayek, Shakira, John Sununu, Donna Shalala, George Mitchell, Ralph Nader, Steve Jobs, Paula Abdul, F. Murray Abraham, Jerry Seinfield ,Yasser Seirawan,
Cher, Andrienne Barbeau, Arlene Francis, Gregory Peck, Leon Redbone,William Saroyan, Jerry Farkanian.

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