Sunday, January 29, 2006

THE POST 9/11 CLASSROOM...continued...



It is not just films that continually portray negative images of those of Arab descent, but also books and television. And let’s not forget one of the most popular current pastimes of our youth: video games. “Computer games often feature cartoon Arab villains in which children rack up high scores and win games by killing Arabs” (Karaman and Wingfield, 1995).
The entertainment media outlets are not the only culprits. Other industries perpetuate stereotypical myths as well: I was shocked and dismayed when I learned that a popular retailer had Arab masks for Halloween. “A few years ago, Spencer Gift stores sold ‘Arab’ Halloween masks with grotesque physical features, along with their usual array of goblin, demon, and vampire masks. The chain stocked no other ethnic masks” (Karaman and Wingfield, 1995). What must a child be thinking as he or she sees Arab masks placed next to those of demons and goblins?! Subconsciously, the child may begin to think that Arabs, goblins, and demons are one and the same.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

THE POST 9/11 CLASSROOM...continued...



Arabs have been the victims of stereotypes and misconceptions for at least a century in this country. Some Hollywood directors have been too eager to nurture stereotypical images of minority races in films and people of Arab descent clearly did not escape the clouded eyes of those directors. From the early silent film, The Sheik (1921) (portrayed by the legendary Rudolph Valentino), to The Thief of Baghdad (1924), to Arabian Nights (1942), to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944) to modern films such as True Lies (1994), Hollywood has been successful in perpetuating stereotypical myths. Even the Oscar-winning, seemingly innocent, animated cartoon, Aladdin (1992), which is obviously targeted to young children, is fraught with misleading Arab stereotypes.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

THE POST 9/11 CLASSROOM...continued...



THE PROBLEM:
Stereotypical Images of Bombers and Belly Dancers

Although its origin is unknown, it is purported that there is an ancient Asian proverb that states: “May you live in interesting times.” Considering today’s turbulent events, Arab Americans who emigrate here from Southwest Asia (more commonly known as the Middle East), may find that these times are a little too interesting. Arab-Americans have a culture and history unfamiliar to Americans and this unfamiliarity sometimes breeds mistrust and contempt. After all, if you are Arab-American during today’s times, you may find yourself referred to as barbaric, ruthless, and violent. Some folks will swear that you live in the desert, ride camels, and harbor terrorist thoughts. Then there are some who may be more overt in their disdain and call you by the names of ‘camel jockey’ or ‘sand nigger’. Unfortunately, these prejudicial attitudes can leak into the classroom via textbooks, movies, children’s misconceptions, and teacher bias.

...all rights reserved...to be continued...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

THE POST 9/11 CLASSROOM ...continued...



As an African-American I bristle when I see old photographs of black people being lynched. I cringe when I look at old movies and see blacks being portrayed as clowns and buffoons. I am disturbed when I hear young black males callously use the word ‘nigger’. My own parents grew up in the era of ‘Jim Crow’ laws: separate schools, separate water fountains, separate restrooms, etc. When I was a child, there were no black dolls. There were no brown people in any of my ‘Dick and Jane’ reading books. I could not mention Malcolm X or Martin Luther King without getting stern looks from my white teachers. As a student, I learned history from a Eurocentric point of view and I resented it. As a minority in this country, I am very aware of prejudice and racial stereotypes. So, because I, myself, am a victim of racial stereotyping, I certainly would be more sensitive and not have prejudiced views of others…..right? Unfortunately, I am embarrassed to realize that I am not that enlightened.
Copyright, 2006...to be continued....

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

THE POST 9/11 CLASSROOM, continued....



On the television screen was an image of a small boy, not quite school-age, sitting in his father’s lap.

Interviewer: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Small boy (smiling wryly): “I want to be a policeman.”

Interviewer: “Why do you want to be a policeman?”

Small boy: “Because I’ll have a gun.”

Interviewer: “Why do you want a gun?”

Small boy (wry grin breaking into a large smile): “So I can kill all the niggers!”

Mike Wallace asked those questions approximately ten years ago, but I will never forget that ‘60 Minutes’ interview that took place in the home of a Ku Klux Klansman. This interview haunted me for months….in fact, it still haunts me. It underscores what we already know, that prejudice is learned. We may learn it from adults, from teachers, from friends, from literature, and from television and other media. Children learn lessons when they are young which may shape their beliefs for the rest of their lives and by judging from the father’s huge grin, the young boy above learned his lesson well.I think about this boy from time to time, now a teenager, and wonder if he still wants to ‘kill all the niggers’. I wonder if this young man went to a school where he interacted with students from different cultures and backgrounds. Did he carry this learned hatred from classroom to classroom and from teacher to teacher? Were his beliefs reinforced or countered by his teachers?


Copyright, 2006...to be continued....