What the Angry Arab tells us about Arab Americans

When the Angry Arab repeatedly rails against the White Man and those who seek to please this White Man, he tells us something about Arab Americans. Take this posting for instance:

All Saudi media are celebrating: they are proud that CNN (i.e. the White Man) has called the Saudi King “a maker of history.” I would not call him a maker of a chair or a cake, but that is just me. (thanks Jamal)

Or this one:

This will be a cause for celebration. The Lebanonese will declare it evidence of the presence of the White Man in them: “The team says it found a particular DNA signature which recently appeared in Lebanon and is probably linked to the crusades.” (thanks Kawkab, Jens, and David)

Or yet another:

No Arab publication exhibits the inferiority complexes towards the White Man more than An-Nahar (the right-wing, sectarian Christian, anti-Syrian (people), anti-Palestinian (people) Lebanese daily). Here, they interview an expert on American politics who has nothing to do with the Middle East and they ask him detailed questions about the Middle East and the potato homeland.

Finally another:

When the White Man finds a Wog he Likes. You have to give it to the White Man. Really. I mean, when he finds a wog that he likes, he really really promotes him/her. Look at the case of Sari Nusseibeh (or how Hirsi Ali’s book was elevated to the New York Times’ bestseller list weeks after her arrival into the US, and how she has instantly become as American as banana cream pie).

When one searches the Angry Arab News’s archives, he finds around 105 posts in which the phrase “White Man” occurs, often multiple times in the same post. Even in his recent piece on May Murr, one finds the phrase الرجل الأبيض (rajul al-bayed, lit. the white man). There is an irony here that Abukhalil may be playing up intentionally; the Lebanese, perhaps more than any subset of Phoenicians Arabs, often pride themselves on being of fairer hue than most of of their Arab brethren and it is not uncommon for them to describe themselves as “Mediterraneans” or whites. This is common among many Arabs, including North Africans. These peoples often do not differ physically in any meaningful sense from Greeks, Italians, or Portuguese people (on the other hand, many Arabs are obviously far more distinctive which causes confusion in self-perception in multi-racial and multi-cultural settings, such as the United States). The irony is of course that though these folks may often consider themselves to be “white men,” they are perceived by many Westerners are being brown or something else not quite “white.” Perception trumps physiology.

The attitude that the repeated use of the “White Man” reflects is typical of many Arab immigrants to the United States who came after the 1960’s, and whose racial and political attitudes are colored with Third World orientations as opposed to the concerted assimilationism of earlier generations of Arab immigrants. The line between whiteness and otherliness is a point of continuing controversy among Arab Americans.

27 thoughts on “What the Angry Arab tells us about Arab Americans

  1. But Abu Khalil isn’t the one who sets up the difference; it was the White Man himself.
    I don’t have anything valuable or informed to add to the Arab debate on the use of White as a concept, but if you only take into account the history of the White Man, he deserves to be railed against.

  2. And, if I might add, not just the history of the White Man but the present as well. (In that case, maybe, Rich White Man would be a more appropriate label.) 🙂

  3. I guess someone is a little obsessed with the whit man🙂

    These are all arbitrary terms, that can be analyzed as scientific, but I’m not about to address this in my comment.

    I think the problem here is the definition of ‘white’. Is it synonymous with ‘caucasian’, or does it only apply to people of European descent? A question to anyone who wants to answer, Do you consider Turks or Armenians ‘white’? If so, than i can assure you that you equate ‘white’ with being Caucasian/’caucasoid’. Gotta love those terms. Anyway, i will finish by saying: be Happy with what you are, and spend less time worrying about what people perceive you to be. If you’re Arab/berber eat Couscous if you are Indian eat Curry.

    The best part of this post:

    ” The irony is of course that though these folks may often consider themselves to be “white men,” they are perceived by many Westerners are being brown or something else not quite “white.” Perception trumps physiology.”

  4. Yes, there is nothing in the world which is as shared as racism. Arab Americans in this respect seem to be no better than anyone else. When I was younger, I believed that people who suffered from racism were inherently better at handling issues of difference (in the ethnic and cultural meaning). I know better now, but it still strikes and shocks me every time I encounter it.

  5. Unfortunately I don’t think this is just a Leb thing, given the popularity of those skin whitening creams in Asia and the fact that they somehow find a blonde, blue-eyed girl to be miss Egypt every year. “Mediterranean” being used interchangably with “white” is interesting to me, especially since almost all white people I know use it as a euphemism for non-white.

    I think part of it is also that there was in general more awareness of race issues in the 1960s and after. Though I get the impression that racial identity is a little bit of a bigger deal in the States than up here. Or maybe I’m just making assumptions because I know so many Arab-Americans that really seem to agonize over this issue.

  6. I forgot to say that An Nahar has (unlike the massive majority of the Arab press) the courage of free speach, despite the cost and the obvious risk in an environment which does not tolerate deviation from the myth of the Middle East seen under the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  7. ““Mediterranean” being used interchangably with “white” is interesting to me, especially since almost all white people I know use it as a euphemism for non-white.”

    This is why it is so ironic. It is used as a way of disassociating from the “Arab” identity.

    Aaron: About “Arabs/Berbers” eating couscous; Couscous is a Maghrebi food. It is the staple of North African dining, and is not shared with the eastern Arabs.

  8. Well it’s interesting, because if you hadn’t brought it up I would have assumed they were talking about the Mediterranean as a regional entity, like the Gulf, which is culturally different from the levant even if they’re all still Arabs(though obviously there’s lots of differences within these categories etc. it never ends) How North Africa fits into that and the Pheonician/anti-Arab sentiments I don’t know, I’m comparatively pretty ignorant of that area and Berber/Arabist relations so I’ll take your word for it that people do think about the word in those terms.

  9. I’m talking about Arab-Americans. Restaurants run/owned by Lebanese/Jordanians/Palestinians (occasionally Moroccans) will often describe their cuisine as being ‘Mediterranean” as opposed to Lebanese or Palestinian or Arabic or Middle Eastern the like usually stressing similarities between their foods and Greek or Italian ones. This is often the way that Lebanese Americans or expatriates will describe themselves, to distance themselves from “Arabs,” and it is related to the “Phoenician” narrative.

    As a regional entity, the “Mediterranean” does not exist in the way the Gulf or Scandinavia does. The northern and southern/eastern parts of it have similarities but the perceived differences are so massive that one cannot talk of it as a single region outside of economic terms. At least this is how I look at it with a North African background. Some Lebanese will tell you that this is only true for Muslims and that Lebanon is more like Italy or Greece than it is like Syria or Egypt or someplace else. Check this out:

    https://themoornextdoor.wordpress.com/2007/07/16/hitchens-on-tunisia/

  10. Oh! Ok I think I see what you mean now, that it’s an ethnic-neutered term, like calling arabic bread pita bread?!

    I wasn’t trying to make an argument for everything from Portugal around to Morocco being defined regionally, I hope it didn’t come across that way. I was just generically curious about North Africa as an aside. Christ Hitchens is a silly man, but that post was really interesting. On that note there was a really good essay published awhile back touching on the politicization of the glorification of pre-Islamic identities, called “Arab Christians are Arab” I can’t remember the author’s name right now.

    Incidentally, for some weird reason the wataniyya vs. qawmiyya thing came up on a lot of Iraqi blogs recently, re: the Qassem vs Nasser era. You think we’d have better things to worry about these days.

  11. “Aaron: About “Arabs/Berbers” eating couscous; Couscous is a Maghrebi food. It is the staple of North African dining, and is not shared with the eastern Arabs.”

    Who cares? I know Turks who use Couscous to describe the same dish, and oh boy if it is only because the Ottomans were in Tunisia, so it doesn’t change the fact. I know Eastern Arabs use a different word, but many of them serve it, so i am positive many of them eat it.

  12. Huh, they eat sushi in Lebanon but that don’t make it Lebanese either. I had a couscous dish at an ultra-Lebanese house once, they called it maghrebiya.

  13. “Who cares? I know Turks who use Couscous to describe the same dish, and oh boy if it is only because the Ottomans were in Tunisia, so it doesn’t change the fact. I know Eastern Arabs use a different word, but many of them serve it, so i am positive many of them eat it.”

    It is not a part of their staple diet (it is not shared with them in their cuisine, it’s an import). It is the staple food of North Africa; Habib Bourgiba, former president of Tunisia had a quote that said basically the dividing line between the “Maghreb” and the “Masheq” was that in the east, rice was the staple and in the west, it was couscous. Couscous is of North African origin. It went west to east, not east to west and did not come from Turkey. I am not saying that eastern Arabs don’t eat it, but it is in the way that Scandinavians eat pasta or the like. Couscous is North African like foul is Egyptian.

  14. I recall reading on another blog that Maronites think they are “secular Europeans conceived in a test tube in the French Riveria”.

    Well, there might be some truth to that lol

  15. oh come on. it’s true that lebanese restaurant owners in the US sometimes bill their establishments as “mediterranean” (or “middle eastern”) – but the same is probably more true of palestinians, and others who are not ideologically fixated on passing as european the way some lebanese are. restaurant owners are above all engaged in business, and therefore care about attracting customers, and “mediterranean” is an appealing word in the american context, while most other accurate descriptors are not. when’s the last time you saw an arab restaurant in america that called itself “arab”? interestingly, you do reasonably often see self-styled “lebanese” restaurants. but i have never seen a restaurant in the US that labeled itself “palestinian” – although many “middle eastern” or “mediterranean” – even some “lebanese” – restaurants are in fact run by palestinians.

  16. the same is probably more true of palestinians, and others who are not ideologically fixated on passing as european the way some lebanese are. restaurant owners are above all engaged in business, and therefore care about attracting customers, and “mediterranean” is an appealing word in the american context, while most other accurate descriptors are not.

    That is exactly the point, and it is precisely the point that was being made. Make the extra leap and consider why it is that “Palestinian” or “Arabic” are not “appealing words”.

    And nobody said that Lebanese did it alone or more or less than Palestinians or anybody else. Nouri said owners from various background did it.

  17. We also not forget that Lebanese are the ‘new jews’, so it is anything but spite for one to single the Lebanese out. Lebs are simply here and everywhere in vast numbers. Factoid: there are more diasporic Lebanese than Lebanese in Lebanan! i don’t think anyone is implying that ‘white’ lebs are any less faithful to their heritage than any other ‘white’ person from the Arab world.

    Aaron

  18. i don’t think anyone is implying that ‘white’ lebs are any less faithful to their heritage than any other ‘white’ person from the Arab world.

    Well actually a lot of people think that. And unfortunately certain segments of the Lebanese popuation definitely enjoy perpetuating it. I know quite a few Maronites that absolutely hate the Maronite nationalism, but it’s still prevalent, so they are associated with it more strongly than say right wing Egyptians or Moroccans are. They also totally overrepresented in the Arab diaspora in America, esp among arab Americans that migrated over in the early 20th century, so part of the reason they’re way more visible among prominent “assimilated” arabs is also cause there’s a lot more of them.

  19. ‘White’ Arabs are only white in skin color. To be white you have to have most of your ancestry in Europe and have a European mother tongue. The lebanese speak a language more akin to langauges of africa.

    The funny thing is many ‘meditteraneans’ try to associate themselves with the europeans who despise them when in fact an Indian from Bombay has more in common with the Europeans due to the fact that both people are of Aryan/Indo-European descent.

    If it makes the ‘white’ Arabs happy ,North Africans,Middle Easterners,and South Asians fall under the category ‘Caucasian’. So you don’t need to prove why you are ‘White’ as you are not ‘White’ in its real meaning. Caucasian yes, White no.

  20. I agree with Anonymous. White skinned Arabs are not white at all.

    I am Arab. Not white, not Phoenician, not Mediterranean, but Arab.

    I have fair skin. So fair I burn in the sun. But I am Arab.

    I dont appreciate it when people call me ‘white’, it is not only innacurate but just wrong. After all it is the “whitey” that leads the campaign of discrimination and Arab-phobia here in the US and Europe.

    I am Arab first, Palestinian second, and with American nationality third.

    The ones with dark skin are just as Arab as I.

    We as ARABS must UNITE, and defeat this dark cloud over our head known as oppression.

    When we realize what’s really at stake, and look for our common bond, rather than what divides us, we will begin to achieve our goal of Arab Unity.

  21. Well said Zainab. Plus, Arabs look better than Whites. Why would you want to refer to yourself a group of people that lacks beautiful features🙂

    Edited. Refer to the “Comments policy” page, point one.

  22. Well, as someone who was screwed out of a minority scholarship because social security decided I am white by viture of my “Arabness”, I am pissed!! However, I am more than skeptical of this dreamy “Arabs, let’s unite” when thousands of Darfuris are massacred while Arab public opinions have been remarkably silent on this issue, or Mauritanian Moors’ hegemony over fellow Black-African Muslims, Yemeni Akhdams who are descendants of slaves oppressed till today, or discrimination against Nubian Egyptians, descendants of slaves in Southern Iraq all reduced to the ugly word of “abeed” in the total general indifference of Arabs makes the calls for Arab unity more of an empty slogan than a credible goal.

    After all wasn’t it Al-Mutanabi who said:

    لا تشتري العبد إلا و العصى معه إن العبيد لأنجاس و مناكيد

    Oh.. I forgot, wasn’t it Angry Arab who published an ad by the Lebanese Airlines asking for “Fair-skinned flight attendants”?

    Let’s fact it, we Arabs are as racist as the white man if not more.

  23. I agree with Zainab, we have to be united, espacially our people in the US and in europe. We are not white folks and we have to be proud of what we are because that’s how Allah made us. We know where we going because we know where come from, and in the US and european countries, they try to make us forget where we come from, especially in france, where I live. Brothers, sisters, when you walk on the street and you see white folks, shom them that you proud of what you are that’s what they hate, that’s what we have to show.

  24. When will people ever learn that someones “soul” has nothing to do with the tint of their skin or the nation they were born in. Or the family/tribe they belong to? .
    The inability to learn this scientific fact is the reason humans are transgressing and not progressing.

    Sure technology takes 1 step forward every day while the racist, xenophobic, jingo, imbecilic human mind, never grows and is still in the same place it was in the Stone ages.

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