Reaction Statement

Reaction StatementModule 6: Constructing Difference and DeculturalizationBy now, you should have a grasp on ideas that influenced the foundational structures of United States schooling. We are going to look at a lot of different perspectives of difference this week. After reading the pdf for this module, I ask that you review the series of media clips from UnNatural Causes. This is a critical moment in the semester because we start making historical connections to the current moment and it prepares us for the upcoming modules that zones in on the ideas of equality and equity.ReferencesSpring, J. (2014). The American school: A global context from the puritans to the Obama administration (9th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.Tozer, S., Senese, G., & Violas, P. C. (2013). School and society: Historical and contemporary perspectives (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.Module 6: Reading ExpectationsThe reading expecations for Module 6: Constructing Difference – Politics, Economics, and the “Science” of Inequality, Part II are:Choose one of the following pdfs: “Race, Politics, and Arab American Youth” by El Haj pdf or “Reclaiming the Gift” by McCarty;? View all of the media clips associated with UnNatural Causes;? Listen to the This American Life audio Act 1: If you are not able to listen within D2L, please copy and paste the following link into your web browser:? El Haj_Race Politics and Arab American Youth the second attachmentListen to article videosDescription of Assignment:Reflective reaction paper and questions/comments for discussion (3 pts. each) – Approximately one-page paper (single spaced, 10-12 pt. font) in response to the assigned readings and daily content that includes at least two critical questions for discussion. Please do not provide a mere summary of the readings. Instead, please provide a thoughtful, scholarly reaction to the readings/content. Your reaction may include but is not limited to areas of agreement/disagreement, affirmation (or you can offer a counter argument with outside academic resource support), or other influences/connections. Your reaction statements should represent critical reflective thought.http://epx.sagepub.comEducational PolicyDOI: 10.1177/0895904805285287Educational Policy 2006; 20; 13Thea Renda Abu El-HajRace, Politics, and Arab American Youth: Shifting Frameworks for Conceptualizing Educational Equity online version of this article can be found at:Published by:http://www.sagepublications.comOn behalf of:Politics of Education AssociationAdditional services and information for Educational Policy can be found at:Email Alerts:© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008Section 1: Politics and theHuman ContextRace, Politics, andArab American YouthShifting Frameworks forConceptualizing Educational EquityThea Renda Abu El-HajRutgers UniversityEducators concerned with creating equitable school environments for ArabAmerican students must focus on how contemporary global and national politicsshape the lives of these youth and their families. Arab immigrants andArab American citizens alike experience specific forms of racial oppressionthat hold implications for school curricula, practices, and policies. Practitionerscommitted to social justice must assess how schools teach about culture, educatestudents for knowledgeable deliberation of global politics, and supportstudents and teachers to explore the passions of patriotism. The questionsraised by the education of Arab American youth have profound implicationsfor teaching for social justice in a world characterized by global interdependenceand increasing transnational migration. No longer can national boundariesmark the limit of concern for social justice. Educating for social justicerequires that we teach youth to confront racial, economic, social, and politicalinjustices within and beyond the borders of nation-states.Keywords: Arab American youth; social justice; marginalization; violence;cultural imperialismOn April 8, 2005, The New York Times reported the story of two 16-yearoldMuslim girls (one Bangladeshi and one Guinean) who were beingheld in a detention center for undocumented immigrants after an investigationby the FBI asserted that the girls posed an imminent threat to and were planning suicide bombings (Bernstein, 2005a). The governmentbased its case on secret evidence that was being withheld from thegirls and their legal representatives, a practice that has become increasinglyfamiliar in the post–September 11, 2001 era. On June 17, 2005, The New YorkTimes reported that the Bangladeshi girl, Tashnuba Hayder, had been deportedto Bangladesh on immigration violation charges (Bernstein, 2005b). The FBIEducational PolicyVolume 20 Number 1January and March 2006 13-34© 2006 Corwin Press10.1177/0895904805285287http://epx.sagepub.comhosted athttp://online.sagepub.com13EP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 13© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008continued to refuse to reveal details of the case against her or her peer.Instead, the girls were charged with immigration violations.These items in The New York Times resonate with another story, this oneabout a U.S. citizen, a Palestinian American student in a large, urban publicschool where I have been conducting qualitative research with ArabAmerican youth for the past 3 years.1 Adam, one of the young men in thestudy, arrived home one afternoon to find Secret Service agents searchinghis house; his mother, confused and terrified, was unable to communicatewith the agents because she did not speak English. Apparently, the schoolhad called the secret service after charging that Adam’s brother, Ibrahim,had threatened to kill the president. According to the brothers and otherstudents present at the time of the alleged incident, in the midst of a heatedargument in which some students, referencing recent kidnappings andassassinations of foreigners in Iraq, were accusing Arabs of being prone toviolence, Ibrahim (who was still struggling with English proficiency) askedthe group how they would feel if one of their leaders were killed. Theteacher waited several days to report the incident to the dean’s office;according to her account, Ibrahim had threatened to kill the president. Itwas at that point, several days after the alleged threat occurred, that Ibrahimwas suspended and the Secret Service was called.I begin with these parallel stories to emphasize the political context thatis a reality for Muslim Arab and South Asian youth in these times: Indefinitedetentions without access to evidence, the threat of house searches, andeven the fear of extrajudicial rendition have all become part of the landscapefor their communities in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001,attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. These stories suggestthe extent to which the lives of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian youth,immigrant and citizen alike, are circumscribed by contemporary global politics.I start with these stories to state the obvious: The frameworks for conceptualizingsocial justice for Muslim, Arab, and South Asian youth in theUnited States must be radically reconstructed in the post–September 11,2001, political context.Although as these two stories point out there are similarities between thecurrent experiences of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian youth, in this article,I focus on fundamental questions about power, equity, and schooling in relationto Arab Muslim youth.2 I have chosen to narrow the scope of this articleto Arab Muslim youth for two reasons. As an ethnographic researcher,I have been documenting the lived experiences of Arab American Muslimyouth for the past 3 years. This article draws on examples from the qualitativestudy to support a broader set of claims I am making about creating14 Educational PolicyEP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 14© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008just, responsive educational environments for Arab American youth. Equallyimportantly, although the framework for understanding power and equitythat I propose in this article has implications for educating Muslim youthfrom a variety of ethnic communities, I am intentionally working against ageneral lack of knowledge by many people in the United States that erasesthe different histories, cultures and languages of the widely variable Muslimimmigrant communities.3In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, educators need a new frameworkfor understanding the particular equity issues that Muslim Arab youth facein U.S. schools. The dominant framework for understanding the experiencesof Arab American youth in U. S. schools has been an ethnicity modelthat focuses on cultural differences (Adeeb & Smith, 1995; Banks, 1997;Suleiman, 2004) or on the processes of cultural transformation throughimmigration (Sarroub, 2001). For the most part, the problem for Arab youthin U.S. schools has been defined primarily as a problem of what CharlesTaylor (1992) calls “misrecognition” and “nonrecognition.” Explicating theproblem caused by misrecognition of nonrecognition, Taylor writes,The thesis is that our identity is partly shaped by recognition or its absence,often by the misrecognition of others, and so a person or group of peoplecan suffer real damage, real distortion, if the people or society around themmirror back to them a confining or demeaning or contemptible picture of themselves.Nonrecognition or misrecognition can inflict harm, can be a form ofoppression, imprisoning someone in a false, distorted, and reduced mode ofbeing. (p. 25)Knowledge about Arab culture has been absent, stereotypical, or misinformedwith the result that Arab youth feel alienated and misrecognized intheir classrooms and schools (Adeeb & Smith, 1995; Suleiman, 2004).Responding to the particular needs of Arab youth, then, demands that thecollective identities of these youth are accurately and visibly included in thecurriculum and that educators are informed about culturally appropriateways of interacting with Arab family and community members (Adeeb &Smith, 1995; Suleiman, 2004).In this article, I argue that focusing on understanding culture is an importantbut insufficient framework for addressing the needs of Arab Americanyouth. I suggest that to develop strategies for educational equity for ArabAmerican Muslim youth, educators must move beyond a model of culturalunderstanding and attend, instead, to the particular processes of racial subordinationto which these youth are subjected within and outside of schools.As other critical multicultural educators have argued (see for a few examples,Abu El-Haj / Race, Politics, and Arab American Youth 15EP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 15© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008Fine, 1997; Nieto, 2004) focusing on cultural differences is insufficient foraddressing institutionalized processes through which schools produce racialhierarchies.Although the processes of racial subordination share characteristicswith other racially subjugated populations, Arab American Muslim youth alsoface specific forms of racial oppression that are intimately interwoven withcontemporary global politics that lend their community permanent status asthe enemy within.I begin this article by exploring the processes of racial subordination towhich the Arab American communities are subjected at this historicalmoment. This context is critical for understanding the lived experiences ofArab American and Arab immigrant youth in schools. After discussing thepolitical landscape shaping Arab American communities today, I suggestthree important issues for educators to consider when building responsiveand equitable educational environments for Arab Muslim students. I examineand critique approaches to teaching about Arab culture. I argue that it isessential that schools in a democracy educate not for political conformityand consent but to foster deliberation and dissent. Finally, I suggest schoolsmust explore how they address violence and racial harassment directed atArab and other Muslim students. Education that hopes to stand against violencedirected at Arab and other Muslim youth must confront the passionsof patriotism that limit possibilities for peace and social justice.Arabs in U.S. Society: Contextualizingthe Experiences of YouthArab Americans have occupied an ambiguous position in the racializedlandscape of the United States (Naber, 2000; Samhan, 1999). Officially,Arabs are classified by the federal government as part of the racial categoryWhite that includes persons of European, Middle Eastern, and North Africanorigin. This classificatory system based on residual notions of race as a biologicalconcept rather than an outcome of mutable sociohistorical processes(Omi & Winant, 1994), positions Arabs invisibly within the boundaries ofWhiteness and flagrantly conceals the racialized discourses and practices towhich this community is subjected (Abu El-Haj, 2002, 2005; Naber, 2000;Samhan, 1999). These racialized discourses and practices take a variety offorms. Violence against people perceived to be of Arab, Muslim, or MiddleEastern origin constitutes an ongoing, although rarely recognized, problemin the United States (Ahmad, 2002; Naber, 2000; Volpp, 2002) Legislative,legal, and policing practices deny many Arabs even the most basic civil rights.16 Educational PolicyEP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 16© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008At the same time, within the public imagination, Arabs occupy unenviablepositions as, for example, enemies of the state, opponents of freedom anddemocracy, and oppressors of women.In this section, I address three key factors that contribute to the racialsubordination of Arabs and Arab Americans: violence against individualsperceived to be of Arab, Muslim, or Middle Eastern origin; state policiesthat target Arab and Muslim communities; and discursive practices that“Other” Arabs and Muslims. The political philosopher Iris Young (1990)offers a useful topography of the conditions through which the systemicoppression of groups of people is accomplished. Borrowing from her analysis,I argue that Arab Muslims in the United States are racially subordinatedthrough violence, marginalization, and cultural imperialism.Violence: Racial Hatred and Patriotic FervorMany groups suffer the oppression of systematic violence. Members of somegroups live with the knowledge that they must fear random, unprovokedattacks on their persons or property, which have no motive but to damage,humiliate, or destroy the person. (Young, 1990, p. 61)Perhaps the most vivid illustration of the reality that Arabs and otherimmigrant Muslims are a racialized minority in the United States restsin the violent attacks following September 11, 2001 on people acrossthe country who appeared to fit the generic mold of Arab, Muslim, MiddleEasterner—and therefore enemy alien in the public imagination (Ibish,2003). The victims of these attacks represented a wide range of ethnicand religious groups; the dead alone include people who were Christian,Muslim, and Hindu, of Arab, Pakistani, Sikh, and Indian descent (Ahmad,2002; Ibish, 2003; Volpp, 2002). After September 11, 2001, fear of violenceswept through Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities. Many in thesecommunities draped their homes and businesses in flags, hoping this patrioticsymbol would act as a protective shield. Sikh taxicab drivers in New YorkCity displayed signs informing others about their religious background andexplaining that they were neither Arabs nor Muslims. Many Muslim womenwho cover their hair remained indoors and some made the decision touncover their heads in public rather than take the risk of incurring someone’smisplaced ire.The racial violence that occurred in the aftermath of September 11, 2001,reflected and reinforced racial oppression to which Arab, Middle Eastern,and South Asian communities were already subjected. Violence againstAbu El-Haj / Race, Politics, and Arab American Youth 17EP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 17© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008these communities is not a new phenomenon; it has often accompaniedinternational conflicts such as the Iranian hostage crisis and the first GulfWar (Abraham, 1994). This violence draws on existing racist ideologiesthat led the perpetrators to target entire groups of people for the actions ofindividuals. There is, perhaps, no more dramatic illustration of this pointthan to note that after the Oklahoma City bombing, White men were nevertargeted or racially profiled for the actions of Timothy McVeigh (Volpp,2002); in fact, in the days following the explosion before McVeigh hademerged as a suspect, Arab Americans faced racial harassment (Morlino,2004). However, although the violence directed at Arab, Middle Eastern,and South Asian communities after September, 11, 2001, reflected existingracial ideologies, it also marked a turning point after which there has beena redrawing of national and citizenship boundaries in such a way as to excludethese communities, both literally and figuratively.Marginalization: The Policies of the StateMarginalization is perhaps the most dangerous form of oppression. A wholecategory of people is expelled from useful participation in social life. (Young,1990, p. 53)Although the violence directed at Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asiancommunities was perpetrated by individual citizens, it must be understoodas part of a context in which state-directed policies create a new category ofpersons who fall outside of the rights and protections afforded to citizens.Indefinite detention, secret evidence, and extrajudicial rendition of suspectsto countries that routinely practice torture have become part of the politicallandscape that circumscribes the lives of Arab and Muslim immigrants and,in some cases, citizens after September 11, 2001. Although the precedentsfor these policies were created well before the fall of 2001 (see Akram &Johnson, 2004; Moore, 1999), the actions of the U.S. government since 2001,including the passage of the USA Patriot Act, have created a new sense ofperil for Arab (and other Muslim) immigrants and citizens, alike (Murray,2004; Volpp, 2002).Fear and distrust in Arab American communities emerged in response tonumerous government actions in recent years. For example, immediatelyfollowing September 11, 2001, the government quickly detained more than1,200 noncitizens, refusing to release their names, whereabouts, or the chargesleveled against them (Ahmad, 2002; Murray, 2004; Volpp, 2002). Governmentofficials also sought interviews with thousands of Middle Eastern and Muslim18 Educational PolicyEP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 18© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008noncitizen males (Ahmad, 2002; Murray, 2004; Volpp, 2002). Secret evidence,no-fly lists, and the fact that the Department of Homeland Security requestedthe Census Bureau to release data on Arab Americans, including the zipcodes in which they reside4 reveal the precarious position that Arabs, ArabAmericans, and other Muslims occupy in relationship to national belongingin the United States today.My intention here is not to conduct a comprehensive review of statepolicies that affect the Arab American community (see Akram & Johnson,2004; Moore, 1999; Murray, 2004; Volpp, 2002) but rather to emphasizetwo points. First, educators must be aware that Arab and other Muslimyouths’ lives are deeply affected by these state policies as evidenced by thestories with which I began this article. The fear of detention and expulsionwithout due process is palpably present in their communities. Moreover,educators must understand that Arabs and Arab Americans have had reasonto fear that the government may at times blur the line between speech andaction, raising anxieties about the limits of political dissent in a time of war(Akram & Johnson, 2004; Moore, 1999; Volpp, 2003). How educationalcommunities address conflicting perspectives and political dissent is, asI argue later, critical to creating equitable educational environments forArab American students and is intimately connected to Young’s idea thatmarginalization—the expulsion of groups of people from “useful participationin social life” (1990, p. 53) is a key form of oppression. Moreover,political dissent is at the heart of maintaining the ideal of public educationas a site for democratic deliberation (Giroux, 2002; Gutmann, 1987).Cultural Imperialism: RacializedDiscourse in the Public SphereTo experience cultural imperialism means to experience how the dominantmeanings of society render the particular perspectives of one’s own groupinvisible at the same time as they stereotype one’s group and mark it out asthe “Other.” (Young, 1990, pp. 58-59)Racial and ethnic subordination is accomplished not only through theeveryday practices of individuals and the state but also through discursivepractices that construct our understanding of what race is and what it signifies(Omi & Winant, 1994). In the discursive realms of politics, popularmedia, and academia, the notion of culture continually recasts Arabs andother Muslims outside of the confines of civilization, enemies of freedom,tolerance, and pluralism. Of significance for this historical moment is theextra burden that Islam bears within this discourse of culture, a burdenAbu El-Haj / Race, Politics, and Arab American Youth 19EP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 19© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008imposed in both popular and academic venues. For it is Islam that is positedas most culturally “Other”, inimical to Western values and traditions in anessential clash of civilizations (see Lewis, 2002; Huntington, 1996; and forcritique, Said, 2001; Mamdani, 2002, 2004).Arab culture is represented as a static set of traditions, values, norms,and practices to which Arabs adhere. Culture becomes the explanation forall kinds of behaviors from the exotic to the inexplicable. Culture explainseverything from Arabs’ legendary hospitality to their alleged hostility todemocracy. Myriad articles and talk shows have sought to explain the culturalroots of suicide bombers. After the photographs revealing the tortureof detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the media emphasized that theinterrogation practices were particularly humiliating and degrading to Arabmales because of cultural prohibitions against nudity, sexuality, and homosexuality.If these actions had been perpetrated against U.S. citizens, wouldthey have been any less degrading? Should we understand the degradingnature of these interrogation practices in terms of cultural differences or is itmore fruitful to probe the ways that these practices violated the boundariesof internationally recognized legal practices that serve to protect and honorthe basic humanity of detainees everywhere? I raise these questions here tosuggest a point to which I return later: focusing on cultural differences canobscure more critical discussions about politics and power.Public discourse in the media and politics is replete with pronouncementsthat purport to explain the culture of Arabs and Muslims in ways thatallow us to dismiss their humanity, diversity, and agency. With one encompassinggesture, the language of culture and civilization wipes out diversity,conflicting perspectives, structural inequalities, histories of imperialismand colonialism in the name of “Other” people’s uniform adherence to away of life that seems incomprehensible to “us.” Thus, culture, a conceptthat is deeply contested among anthropologists, has been put to the serviceof what Omi and Winant (1994) term a racial project—an interpretationthat reorganizes and redistributes power.Educating for Social Justice: Policy ImplicationsIt is, then, within this broader context of racialized oppression of ArabMuslim communities through cultural imperialism, marginalization, andviolence that educational policy for Arab American students must be conceptualized.In this section, I examine three key issues that educatorsshould consider as they work to create safe, equitable school communitiesfor Arab and Arab American students.20 Educational PolicyEP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 20© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008Resisting Cultural Imperialism: ConsideringCulture From the Standpoint of ProductionRana called to relate the following story:A teacher yelled at one of the other Arab girls who was eating in the classroom,telling her she looked like a pig. When she got upset with him for callingher a pig, he began screaming at the whole group of Arab girls, “I’vevisited your country. I know how men treat women in your country.” Thegirls were upset responding, “What country is that? This is our country.”Bill Johnson (a school administrator) confidently informed me that Arab girlsand women are silent and never assert themselves. I challenged his assumptions,but he remained unshaken in his conviction. “It’s a cultural thing,” hetold me.Given the dominant ways that Arab Muslims are visible in U.S. society,it is not surprising that Arab youth in schools often find themselves confrontingnegative and monolithic images of their cultural or religious practices.In response to what they experienced as a pervasive climate ofignorance about or hostility toward Arab culture, youth in my study oftensought both formal and informal opportunities to educate their peers andteachers about their religious practices, cultural traditions, and political perspectives.Through these actions, they worked hard to provide alternativevantage points from which their peers and teachers could view and evaluateArabs. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks and the ensuingviolence against Middle Eastern and South Asian communities, Arabsand Arab Americans have looked to education as a vehicle for reducingprejudice and racial hatred. In community centers and schools across thenation, Arabs and other Muslims have sought opportunities to educate othersabout their cultural and religious practices. In the face of the silencingeffects of cultural imperialism (Young, 1990), Arab youth, educators, andtheir allies find ways to resist harmful, degrading, and inaccurate imagesthat deny the richness and complexity of Arab communities.Educational literature that addresses the concerns of Arab Americans hasnoted the problems of both visibility and invisibility for these communities.5Negative images and stereotypes of Arabs and Arab Americans abound inthe United States (Al-Ani, 1995; Shaheen, 1984; Stockton, 1994; Suleiman,2004). Even before September 11, 2001, popular media promoted numerousharmful images of Arabs and Arab Americans: most prominently, as terrorists,rich oil sheikhs, and oppressed women. Across the nation, a majority ofAbu El-Haj / Race, Politics, and Arab American Youth 21EP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 21© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008non-Arab students and teachers are likely to have gained many of theirbeliefs about Arabs from popular movies that tend to portray exoticized,degrading, or distorted images of Arabs, Arab Americans, and the Arabworld (Shaheen, 1984; Volpp, 2002). Students and teachers are also likely toencounter news reports about Arabs and the Arab world almost exclusivelyin relationship to political conflicts, women’s oppression, and terrorism(Seikaly, 2001; Volpp, 2002). If negative images and stereotypes representone problem for Arab Americans, invisibility has been another. Educatorsoften have faced difficulties in learning about Arabs and Arab Americans asmany discussions of cultural diversity in U.S. schools fail to include informationabout Arab Americans. Despite a long presence in the United States—the first wave of Arab immigration began in 1880—the significance of ArabAmericans as a minority racial and ethnic group has rarely been recognizedin the area of multicultural education (For exceptions, see Adeeb & Smith,1995; Al-Ani, 1995; Banks, 1997; Nieto, 2004; Suleiman, 2004).Arab Americans have fought to counter both their visibility and invisibilityby developing curriculum that reflects accurate information, important contributions,and positive images about the history and culture of Arabs and ArabAmericans. Major Arab American political organizations such as the ArabAmerican Anti-Discrimination Committee and social services organizationssuch as the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services—located in Dearborn, Michigan, which is home to the largest community ofArab Americans—recognize a necessary relationship between advocacy forthe rights of Arab Americans and the need for educational materials aboutArabs, Arab Americans, and the Arab world. Curriculum that educates accuratelyabout Arabs and Arab Americans can be viewed as an important vehiclefor lessening the prejudice and misconceptions that non-Arab students andeducators hold; at the same time, it plays an important role in educating Araband Arab American youth who also need access to such information.Arab American educators have proposed that in addition to developingcurriculum that educates Arab and non-Arab students alike about Arabculture and history, schools must learn more about Arab cultural norms,values, and expectations to provide Arab American students with culturallyresponsive classrooms (Adeeb & Smith, 1995; Suleiman, 2004)—that is,combating hostile, inequitable educational environments for Arab Americanstudents takes more than accurate knowledge and representation. Educatorscannot hope to provide equitable schooling experiences for Arab Americanstudents if they fail to recognize cultural patterns and values that are particularto the Arab American community. Teaching that is culturally responsiveasks that educators focus on, rather than ignore, cultural differences.22 Educational PolicyEP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 22© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008Equitable education for Arab American students must address the needfor better information about the cultures and history of Arabs and ArabAmericans. This demands that educators develop in-depth, nuanced knowledgeabout Arab history and culture. However, focusing on culture is fraughtwith the risk of reinforcing, rather than dislodging, cultural imperialism. AsI argued earlier, discourse about culture has been a primary vehicle throughwhich racial subordination of Arabs and Muslims has been mobilized. Theissue, then, is not simply that practitioners need more and better informationabout Arab culture; it is a question of what view of culture is offered.Many multicultural programs aimed at helping educators understanda particular group of students offer a view of culture as, in a sense, a setof possessions and traditions (values, beliefs, customs, behaviors) thatstudents bring to school (Erickson, 2001). From this perspective culturalchange is a matter of the attrition of these traditions (Erickson, 2001).Although this view of culture has been resoundingly critiqued by manyin the fields of educational anthropology and multicultural education(see Erickson, 2001; Levinson & Holland, 1996; Nieto, 2004; Varenne &McDermott, 1998), literature and programs for teachers often continue toemploy this idea of culture. Educators are encouraged to learn about thecultural traditions, values, customs, and norms of the communities fromwhich their students come to be able to interact with students and familiesin culturally appropriate ways.This view of culture can be detrimental when teaching about any ethnicgroup; however, given the contemporary political discourses about Arab andMuslim cultures, it is critical to pay careful attention to how educators’understanding about Arab Muslim cultures is developed. One major problemis that the focus on Arab culture can create a static picture of Arabs and ArabAmericans, and at its worst, sustains, rather than dismantles, cultural imperialismthrough what Said (1978) has called orientalism. For example, inBanks’s (1997) Teaching Strategies for Ethnic Studies, one of the few multiculturaltexts that includes a chapter on Arab Americans, Adeeb and Smith6portray Arab social life as bound by religion and Old World traditions thatemphasize patriarchy and family honor. Their analysis implies that whereArab and Arab American families experience a loosening of these traditionalpatriarchal bonds, it is because of processes of Westernization and assimilationto U.S. society, respectively. This kind of analysis risks subtly reinforcingthe simplistic clash of civilizations hypothesis that posits modernizationand the West against traditionalism and the East. The Arab world is, in asense, viewed as stranded in some bygone era, clinging to a set of outdatedpractices and beliefs.Abu El-Haj / Race, Politics, and Arab American Youth 23EP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 23© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008Adeeb and Smith (1995) suggest that teachers need to be aware ofcultural practices of Arabs and Arab Americans that include rules governinggender roles, family honor, hygiene, and diet. Teaching educators aboutArab cultural practices in this way denies the complexity and heterogeneityof Arabs and Arab Americans and obscures processes of cultural change.Can one really teach, for example, about ‘gender relations’ in Arab communitiesas if they can be easily described? Arab Americans in the UnitedStates are highly diverse in terms of religion, socioeconomic class, nationalorigin, and immigration patterns. All of these factors contribute to widelyvariable gender roles. Arab American families, similar to other Americanfamilies, represent a full range from highly patriarchal to equitable genderrelations. However, this variability is often rendered invisible by educationalprograms that appear to reinforce the dominant public discoursesabout Islam—discourses that emphasize Muslim culture and tradition asrigidly patriarchal. When the administrator quoted earlier insisted to methat Arab girls and women are silent and passive, he was drawing on thispervasive discourse that emphasized fundamental cultural differences.I suggest it is more fruitful to think about culture in terms of process andproduction. Levinson and Holland (1996) wrote, “Emphasis has been placedon culture as a continual process of creating meaning in social and materialcontexts, replacing a conceptualization of culture as a static, unchangingbody of knowledge, ‘transmitted’ between generations” (p. 13). Viewingculture from the standpoint of production reveals the processes throughwhich cultural meanings are reproduced, negotiated, and transformed. Thisperspective on culture holds enormous implications for how practitionerslearn about Arab students, families, and communities. It suggests opportunitiesfor educators to learn about Arabs and Arab Americans must be structuredto elicit the range and variability of these communities. It meanseducators must learn from Arab and Arab American students and theirfamilies in ways that make visible the diversity of practices, values, beliefs,and histories in the community.Resisting Marginalization: Developing Critical CitizenshipToday [in our after school club], students generated a list of “stupid” statementsothers have said to them about Palestinians. “You’re all terrorists.”“Are you carrying a bomb?” “Is your uncle Bin Laden?” These were all statementsthat had been made to them.To come out to people with your beliefs you know very calmly, not calmly,I do get heated, I’ll have to say. You come out when it’s appropriate in class24 Educational PolicyEP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 24© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008and still meet a resistance, you know. To even say something like I havePalestinian friends, which, like, sparks some people really badly. It’s ashame almost. I’m to a point where I just don’t want to deal with it. And I,that’s one of the things that disappoints me about myself, should I be speakingor saying more? It just gets tiring after a while; you have to just acceptwhat people say and put a smile on your face and then walk out. You can’teven say, like that pisses me off or something. Because, it’s like, why? It’salmost like get out of the country then. Like I hate when—that gets me madthe most. You can’t disagree, and you know, I don’t want to kill Americansbecause I don’t agree with what’s going on or something. (Karam)I used to record from Al-Jazeera, and I would take it to my teachers in schoolso they could see. I brought them stuff with the war with Iraq when theykilled the guy from Al-Jazeera. (Zayd)Arab youth in my study repeatedly reported being framed by the imageof Arabs as terrorists. Moreover, in a climate exemplified by PresidentBush’s admonition that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”(2001), Arab youth find little room to voice dissenting opinions aboutcontemporary Middle Eastern politics and U.S. foreign policy. In this section,I argue for the importance of addressing politics in the curriculum in sucha way that complexity and disagreement can emerge. It is essential that allstudents (and their teachers) acquire deep knowledge about the politics andhistory of the Middle East and the role that U.S. foreign policy has playedin shaping the region. This requires that students and teachers learn to considermultiple perspectives from which it is possible to understand contemporaryglobal politics. Moreover, I argue the aim is educating for what Giroux(2002) has called “critical citizenship”—developing students’ capacities tobe politically engaged in the struggle for global justice.To suggest why I argue such an approach is crucial, I relate in moredetail one of the stories with which I began this article—that of the brotherswhose house was searched by the Secret Service. Ibrahim, a PalestinianAmerican student, was suspended from his high school on charges ofhaving threatened to kill the president; the Secret Service was called inresponse to this charge. Ibrahim was subsequently expelled from the schoolfor having verbally threatened to get the person who had reported him.Adam, Ibrahim’s brother, told the following story about what had occurredin the English as a second language (ESL) class in which he and his brotherwere enrolled. According to Adam, the incident started when the teachernoticed a student reading a newspaper in class. Speaking in English andArabic, Adam recounted,Abu El-Haj / Race, Politics, and Arab American Youth 25EP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 25© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008She took [the newspaper] from him, and she put it up like she said thenewspaper is good to read and learn how to write and speaking. And theystarted talking about American and Arab people. Like, why do we [Arabs] dowhat we do to Jewish and Israeli people. So everybody was talking like ingroups. [They were talking] about Nick Berg. Somebody, I don’t know if it wasa kid, but he was saying that the Arab people cut this guy’s head. And somepeople said that Arab people are gay because, you know, there was in the newspaper[the Abu Ghraib photographs]. So Ibrahim, he was [agitated]. He gotmad. He said. He was asking the teacher how you feel if something happensto one of your big ones [leaders]. So, the teacher said that—after 1 week shesaid that—my brother said that how you feel if I go cut George Bush’s head?I relate this incident not to adjudicate the debate between the Arabstudents and the teacher about what was actually said in that class regardingthe president. I do so to observe that the students and teacher were engagedin a volatile political discussion about global current events in whichstudents appear to have been reacting to extremely disturbing and explicitmedia coverage in ways that reinforced totalizing and stereotypical imagesof Arabs as killers (specifically, of Jews and Israelis) and that mobilized thesystemic oppression of homosexuals to insult Arabs by calling them gay. Inthis incident and several other similar ones in my study, the opportunity toeducate Arab and non-Arab youth alike about difficult, contentious issuessuch as the U.S. war in Iraq, occupation and resistance, international law onhuman rights, and homophobia was lost; instead, Ibrahim and other Arabboys were suspended or expelled as a result of these arguments.7 These incidentsraise several crucial questions: What kinds of knowledge do studentsand their teachers need to make sense of current events across the globe inways that do not simply elicit racialized assumptions and ideologies? Howdo we create educational environments in which students can consider complexity,nuance, and multiple perspectives in ways that deepen their knowledgeand thinking rather than push them into dichotomous positions?Creating educational environments in which students and their teachersare encouraged to develop complex, in-depth knowledge about internationalpolitics, sociology, and history is no small task, especially in a national educationalpolicy environment in which social studies and history take a backseatto literacy, mathematics, and science education. However, educationabout history, politics, economics, and culture has perhaps never been moreessential than at this historical moment. Globalization, with the increasingmobility of peoples across the world, has resulted in nation states that areever more diverse (Castles, 2004; Suarez-Orozco, 2001). Transnationalidentifications mean that new immigrants often feel connected with the26 Educational PolicyEP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 26© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008political and economic struggles of the countries from which they come.Moreover, current U.S. foreign policy with its focus on the “global waron terror” suggests ongoing involvement in the affairs of other nations. Asthe demographics of the United States are reshaped by globalization andthis nation’s involvement in other countries expands, it is ever more imperativethat students acquire in-depth knowledge about world history andpolitics and learn to evaluate the role the United States has played on theworld stage.Teaching about the Middle East in ways that emphasize complexity andnuance is extremely difficult in an educational climate in which core curricula,textbooks, and tests too often drive what is taught. U.S. textbooksthat address the Middle East have tended to reproduce stereotypes and inaccuracies(Barlow, 1994). Reviewing the 7th- and 9th-grade texts on worldhistory and the 12th grade U.S. history text8 that are currently adopted bythe school district in which I am conducting this study with Arab youthrevealed a narrative emphasizing the role of the United States as a peacebrokerand defender of democracy. These textbook narratives gloss thecomplex role the United States has played in the Middle East, supporting,at times, dictatorial regimes and destabilizing popular movements that didnot suit U.S. interests (Khalidi, 2004; Mamdani, 2004). As one examplefrom the U.S. history textbook used in the senior year, there was a completeerasure of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan prior to the invasion in 2001.The narrative paints a picture of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979,followed by the development of the Islamist resistance, with particularattention to the emergence of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. There is nomention of the Cold War context in which the United States supported theIslamic resistance movement. Moreover, the description of the U.S. war inAfghanistan emphasized President Bush’s assurances that “Islam and theAfghan people were not the enemy and he announced that the United Stateswould drop food, medicine, and other supplies by parachute to Afghanrefugees” (The American Vision, p. 1036). There is no mention of anyAfghan civilian casualties; in fact, the only casualties mentioned are U.S.soldiers. This narrative—one that is not unfamiliar in textbooks—makesinvisible the costs of all wars to civilian populations, focusing instead onhumanitarian relief, and reinforces the idea that the only lives that matterare those of U.S. soldiers.These kinds of narratives do not help students (or educators) make senseof the extent and complexity of U.S. involvement in the Middle East duringthe course of the past century. They do not foster an educational environmentin which Arabs and Arab Americans can offer a different view on theAbu El-Haj / Race, Politics, and Arab American Youth 27EP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 27© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008relationship between the United States and the Middle East without beingaccused of being unpatriotic or of supporting terrorism. However, it isprecisely this kind of alternative perspective on the U.S. foreign policy thata majority of students in my study, such as Zayd and Karam (quoted earlier)tried to infuse into their schools. Drawing on different media and print sources,these youth often found themselves at odds with the dominant perspectivesof their peers and teachers. Numerous times these dissenting perspectiveswere silenced and disciplined. However, at times, they were also welcomed,discussed, and deliberated.It is those moments in which deliberation was welcomed that there ishope for what Giroux (2002) calls “critical democratic education.” Thinkingabout education after September 11, 2001, Giroux wrote,Educators need to provide spaces of resistance within the public schools and theuniversity that take seriously what it means to educate students to question andinterrupt authority, recall what is forgotten or ignored, make connections that areotherwise hidden, while simultaneously providing the knowledge and skills thatenlarge their sense of the social and their possibilities as viable political agentscapable of expanding and deepening democratic public life. (p. 1155)In the place of schools that promote conformity and consent, Giroux remindsus of the import of public education that develops citizens capable of deliberating,questioning, and taking political action to reinvigorate democraticpublic life.Resisting Violence: Addressing the Emotions of PatriotismLike, one time, like, later on [after September 11], this White kid, he harassedan Arab girl, and, like, somebody came to me and told me that there’s a kiddownstairs; he’s in the Dean’s office with a Arab girl cause he slapped her.And I was, like, “Which girl?” “She wears a scarf.” At the time, there’s onlythree girls at the school with scarves. So I knew whose sister it was, so I wentto that person’s cousin. I was, like, “Your cousin’s in the Dean’s office withthe kid that slapped her.” This guy got all mad. He got all his cousins and wentdown to the Dean’s office. They were like 20 guys, and they went inside theDean’s office, and they’re, like, “Where’s he at? We’re gonna kill him.”Well,not kill him. They said they wanted to hurt him. And then they see it was likea little guy and they just talk to him, like, “What the hell were you thinking?”He’s like, “No, I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” “Alright, butwhy did you do it?” He’s like, “Cause, I don’t know.” And he told the Dean’soffice people a different story. “Cause they did that to our towers and stuff.”It’s like, “That’s no excuse.” (Zayd)28 Educational PolicyEP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 28© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008Ibtisam reported that a teacher yelled at an Iraqi boy in her class, “Goback to your country.”In these stories, Zayd and Ibtisam describe a school climate in whichstudents and teachers position Arabs (citizen and immigrant alike) as outsidersto the nation. In such a climate, it is no wonder that Arab and ArabAmerican students have faced verbal assaults and threats of physical violence.As Zayd’s story indicates, they have also, at times, sought to meetviolence with violence. Educators who are concerned with addressing thephysical and verbal threats directed at Arab and Arab American studentsneed to confront notions of patriotism (held by both students and teachers)that limit empathic connection with people defined as outside the boundariesof concern.Policies that aim to reduce violence without addressing the intersectingideologies of racism and patriotism that give rise to these threats will do littleto increase the security of Arab and Arab American students and will fail tocreate safer school communities for everyone. For example, in the high schoolin which the incidents Zayd and Ibtisam recounted, verbal and physicalharassment were addressed through an official school policy of “zero tolerancefor the language and behavior of intolerance.” However, zero-tolerancepolicies often focus on disciplinary actions in the aftermath of racially andethnically charged incidents. Without a concomitant commitment to addressthe emotions evoked by patriotism and racism directed at Arab Americanyouth, these policies cannot create a safe school environment especially inthe event of political crises that are connected to the Middle East.Instead of treating incidents of harassment and violence that emergefrom a misplaced sense of patriotism as primarily a disciplinary matter,schools should educate students and teachers to explore and question theideologies of patriotism that create boundaries of inclusion and exclusioninto the nation such that they position Arabs (and others) as enemies within.Education that might truly prevent verbal and physical assaults on ArabAmerican students must interrogate ideologies of patriotism not only at thelevel of critical analysis but also by addressing the emotions these ideologiesevoke. Zemblyas and Boler (2002) argue for the importance of a pedagogyof discomfort that engages students in an analysis of the emotionalinvestments made in service to patriotism. Preventing violence against Araband Arab American students requires educating teachers and students aliketo interrupt the feelings that the boundaries between us and them are clear:feelings that suggest they are our enemies.Moreover, I suggest that educating to break down these notions of us andthem cannot be limited to the boundaries of the nation—that is, I proposeAbu El-Haj / Race, Politics, and Arab American Youth 29EP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 29© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008an education that does not limit itself to the empathic inclusion of Arabimmigrants and Arab Americans but expands our concerns beyond theborders of the nation-state. Arguing for the development of critical cosmopolitanism,Zemblyas and Boler (2002) wrote,Critical cosmopolitanism sets out from the assumption that it is necessary togive equal value to human life, irrespective of belonging to “our” or “their”political and social community. . . . Patriotism might make Americans (or others)better citizens (if citizen is defined as more likely to defend one’s country andto abide by established laws and customs without dissent), but it will not makethe world a more peaceful or generous place. Critical cosmopolitanism suggestsan alternative to the narrowness of patriotism and involves learning tosee outside of dominant nationalist discourses that shape such educationalsources as textbooks and media.The violence targeting Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities(similar to the violence directed at individuals by virtue of their U.S. citizenship)is rooted in this failure to value human life equally. Resistingschool violence rooted in patriotic fervor, calls for educational experiencesthat develop all students’ understandings of our global interconnectednessand foster their concern for social, political, and economic justice beyondour national borders (Banks, 2004).Concluding Thoughts: Expanding OurCommunity of ConcernEducators concerned with creating equitable school environments forArab American students must focus on how contemporary global andnational politics shape the lives of these youth and their families. It is impossibleto maintain the fiction that Arab experience fits within the White ethnicexperience as federal guidelines imply. Arab immigrants and Arab Americancitizens alike experience specific forms of racial oppression that hold implicationsfor school curriculum, practices, and policies. Practitioners committedto social justice must, as I have argued, assess how schools teach aboutculture, educate students for knowledgeable deliberation of global politics,and support students and teachers to explore the passions of patriotism.The questions raised by the education of Arab American youth haveprofound implications for teaching for social justice in a world characterizedby global interdependence and increasing transnational migration.Nation-states continue to wield significant state powers; however, shifting30 Educational PolicyEP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 30© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008demographics trends resulting from globalization highlight that humanity isintimately interconnected as people, consumer goods, technologies, culture,politics, and conflicts travel across these national borders. Globalizationand the complex transformations that it engenders suggest that now, perhapsmore than ever, national boundaries cannot mark the limit of concern foreducators working for social justice. Educating for social justice requires thatwe teach youth to confront racial, economic, social, and political injusticeswithin and beyond the borders of nation-states.Educating youth to confront the oppressions wrought by violence, marginalization,cultural imperialism and exploitation of racialized others, demandsthat we all recognize a fundamental allegiance, not to the nation-state, but,as Martha Nussbaum (1996) suggests, to “the moral community made upof the humanity of all human beings” (p. 7). Nussbaum argues for the criticalimport of a cosmopolitan education that teaches youth that above all,we are all citizens of the world and that although we may maintain our localidentifications, we must make all persons part of our community of concern,not in some abstract way, but through active deliberation and concreteaction (see also Abowitz, 2002). This is a tall order for educational activistsbut one that we cannot afford to ignore if we are to have any hope of confrontingenvironmental, social, cultural, and political conflicts that recognizeno national borders.Notes1. This research was funded by a National Academy of Education, Spencer foundationpostdoctoral fellowship.2. Although I focus on Arab Muslim communities, it is important to remember that manyArab Americans are Christian. Arab Americans of all religious faiths are often framed by thepernicious images of Islam that pervade public discourse in the United States.3. Even to make statements about Arab Americans is to make generalizations about agroup that includes peoples of different national origin, religion, and immigration patterns tothe United States.4. This cooperation with the Census Bureau is particularly frightening because of the historyof the Census Bureau’s role in the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.5. Brayboy (2003, 2004) examines the ways that visibility and invisibility both perpetuateracism against Native American Indians and how some indigenous students use invisibilitystrategically as a resource for resistance.6. This chapter originally appeared in Educating for Diversity: An Anthology of Voices,edited by Carl Grant (Adeeb & Smith, 1995).7. School district zero-tolerance discipline policies allowed school administrators to expelsome students on the grounds that what might reasonably be seen as political argumentsconstituted racial harassment or threats (see Abu El-Haj, 2005).Abu El-Haj / Race, Politics, and Arab American Youth 31EP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 31© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 20088. The American Vision, Glencoe-McGraw Hill, 2005; World History: Patterns of Interaction,McDougal Littell, 2005a; World Cultures and Geography: Eastern Hemisphere and Europe,McDougal Littell, 2005b.ReferencesAbowitz, K. K. (2002). Imagining citizenship: Cosmopolitanism or Patriotism? TeachersCollege Record. Retrieved November 1, 2002, from http://www.tcrecord.orgAbraham, N. (1994). Anti-Arab racism and violence in the United States. In E. 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UCLA Law Review, 49 (June).Young, I. M. (1990). Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UniversityPress.Zemblyas, M., & Boler, M. (2002). On the spirit of patriotism: Challenges of a “pedagogy ofdiscomfort.” Teachers College Record. Retrieved November 1, 2002, from http://www.tcrecord.orgThea Renda Abu El-Haj is an assistant professor of social and cultural foundations of educationin the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Herresearch interests include everyday concepts of educational justice in relation to difference andcitizenship and education in the context of globalization. Her recent publications include “GlobalPolitics, Dissent and Palestinian-American Identities: Engaging Conflict to Re-invigorateDemocratic Education,” in L. Weis & M. Fine (Eds.), Beyond Silenced Voices: Class, Race andGender in United States Schools (revised edition), and “Practicing for Equity From theStandpoint of the Particular: Exploring the Work of One Urban Teacher Network” in TeachersCollege Record.34 Educational PolicyEP285287.qxd 12/30/2005 2:31 PM Page 34© 2006 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Downloaded from at UNIV OF ILLINOIS URBANA on January 8, 2008

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