Thursday, March 17, 2005

Ensconced -- Arab-American -- Community
By Hatem Abunimeh,
The USA today reports that there is an increasing demand for Arabic language cognizance, and the record shows enrollment in US colleges that offer Arabic classes is 92% higher than what it was in the previous years prior to September 11,2001.
The news is very encouraging for me personally as I'm someone who is fully competent when it comes to tackling both; Arabic & English languages at an advanced scholarly level.
Few weeks ago I was contacted by a head hunter based in the west coast, he was recruiting linguists to be stationed in Iraq, he went as far as one can go pleading with me,in addition-- to wanting me to seriously consider it myself, he asked me to refer him to other competent bi lingual with Arabic and English languages skills.
He informed me that they are now offering a whopping $157000.00 for any one that can demonstrate some level of competence in the Arabic and English languages and be willing to relocate and work in Iraq on an annual contract basis.
I have never envisioned myself making half of what he told me they were offering,but notwithstanding the salivating offer, I respectfully declined for personal and professional reasons.
I spent the next of few days feeling highly melancholic, sometimes I laud myself for not getting myself into something that may eventually end up becoming detrimental,and other times I felt that I missed out on once in the life time opportunity to make extra money to pay off the mountain of debt that accrued over the years and can never be paid off with just sending in the minimum monthly payment.

And just as I was going through this state of comeuppance and self flagellation,lo and behold, The United States census Bureau released its 2005 report about the Arab Americans in the United States it explicate among other things that Arab Americans are doing very well in this country in terms of employment, income, homeownership, education and language skills.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself I started comparing myself with the data that was appearing in the report,when I discovered that I faired very well,I breathed the sigh of relief.
In terms of education I have a bachelor of arts degree which puts me in line with 38% of the other American population,not bad for someone that didn't speak meaningful English until age 20.
In terms of home ownership, I have been a home owner living in my current paid off home for more than two decades, the census says that more than half of us Arab Americans own our own homes.I guess that is considered in some circles to be the single most important investment an individual can make in his life time, and in some other circles owning a home is considered achieving the American dream itself.
I'm employed by a huge state Midwestern state University, I earn over $80.000.00 in annual salary plus 20% of that in benefits, now that is considered very decent if compared to all other wage earners in all of the USA which the census bureau puts at around $37.000.00.
I guess September 11 didn't do me any justice, I don't blame the general resentful feeling about Arab Americans, although we were totally innocent and we did apologize several times for the tragedy, and we condemned the heinous terrorists acts in every opportunity we got.
Needless to say, our reputation as Arab Americans continued to be tarnished, we were continually getting vilified and demonized by the media and especially the late night comedians, I was feeling sort of like imbued with indelible ink.
I'm glad to see that the census report has given me a breathing room, it is indeed a welcome development, Arab Americans are just like any other American, they bring their wealth and their intellect to this country and when it is coupled with the freedom and democracy, miracles can happen.
I believe that the census report exonerated Arab Americans from the stigma that they have been experiencing since September 11. We accepted being Americans in our adopted country, now will America accepts us !

Hatem Abunimeh writes about Arab people culture, politics, and religion.