Recap: The Arab-American and African-American Communities – Converting Political Crossroads Into Lasting Coalition
CORRECTED- February 29, 2012 4:30PM
Washington, DC | www.adc.org | February 29, 2012 – Last Thursday, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) held its fifth lecture as part of the Arabesque Lecture Series. The event was titled The Arab-American and African-American Communities – Converting Political Crossroads Into Lasting Coalition.
ADC warmly welcomed Dr. Kenneth O. Morgan and Mr. Khaled A. Beydoun as its two guest speakers. Dr. Morgan presently serves as a full-time Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) at Coppin State University. In the past, Dr. Morgan taught undergraduate courses on subjects such as African American history, sociology and state and local government. Dr. Morgan’s extensive research background includes the examination of the intersections of social class and race in the economic, political and social realms of urban America. Mr. Beydoun is a DC-based attorney and author.
The lecture began and concluded on one topic – the need to build coalitions. Difficult questions were asked and hard-thought discussions were had. Mr. Beydoun discussed the difficulty the Arab American community faces, in cities such as Detroit, with working and integrating with the African American community. To build the vital coalition, Mr. Beydoun stated that each community must address racist perspectives and stereotypes.
To build lasting coalitions the two communities must also put the required effort into outreach programs. Mr. Beydoun stated: “In my opinion, the Arab American community made a very critical mistake pre-911 because racial profiling was the realm of African Americans and Latinos. You had very few Arab American organizations at the table when those matters were being discussed . . . when racial profiling was ‘driving while black’, Arab Americans didn’t care.” Mr. Beydoun emphasized the need for Arab Americans and African Americans to have an open and honest dialogue about the mistakes that were made in the past. The Arab American community must dispel the assumption that it is simply being opportunistic in its desire to work with the African American community. In order for this to occur, stronger strategic partnerships with civil rights organizations and grass-root organizations must be built.
Most importantly, as Dr. Morgan emphasized, the two communities must appreciate their commonalities as people of oppression. In his opening remarks, Dr. Morgan stated: “In many respects, I look at myself as a person of the world. What that means is that I look for a day where the world is without borders.” Dr. Morgan illustrated the similarities between the Palestinian and African American struggle. He also made comparisons between the uprisings in the Middle East and what many communities in the United States are striving for. Dr. Morgan stated, the “idea that people are seeking democracy is also very similar to what working people and Africa American people are seeking today.” Dr. Morgan discussed influential characters such as Malcolm X and Robert Williams while highlighting the need to connect communities without regard to skin color or national origin.
The event concluded with the following message: both communities must understand that human solidarity is important and that we have one common aim. Coalitions between the African and Arab American communities can only strengthen our ability to protect each community’s civil liberties.