|Arab Americans: In the
Aftermath of the Terrorist Attacks on the U.S. |
Grade Level: Middle and High School (6-12)
Estimated Time: Five one-hour sessions
1. Begin by asking students to talk about what they know or think about what it means to be an Arab American, or who is an Arab American. Do your students have classmates who are Arab American? Which cities in the United States have high Arab populations. Make sure that students do not engage in negative stereotyping. Tell them that you'll talk about those notions later.
· "100 Questions and Answers about Arab Americans: A Journalist's Guide" is a Web site from the Detroit Free Press: http://www.freep.com/jobspage/arabs/index.htm
2. Have students find articles on the Internet about the Japanese interned in this country after the attack on Pearl Harbor. PBS has a great site called "Children of the Camps."
Point out the fact that these people were American citizens, many of them several generations already. Talk about their frozen bank assets, their internment and loss of their homes, and the shame that many Japanese Americans still suffer as a result of having their liberties and rights as American citizens taken away.
Discuss with the students how the terrorist attack on the WTC/Pentagon is different than the attack on Pearl Harbor. Are there similarities? Make lists on the board for comparison purposes.
3. Using the World Map, show students North Africa and South West Asias and talk about the various countries.
Look at: Proximity to other countries in the region, Primary Religions; GNP; Birth Rates; Death Rates; Water Resources, Climates, Exports, and so on.
Discuss the ways in which North Africa and South West Asia have been described: Arab world; Muslim world; Dry world; Oil world.
What are the myths and realities associated with of these 'labels'? Don't forget about Indonesia! It is a primarily Muslim population, and far-flung from most of the rest of the Muslim world.
· Any good college-level World Regional
Geography text will provide teachers with those distinctions, as well as descriptive
information about the countries/peoples of the nations that comprise North Africa
and South West Asia.
4. Examine examples of the backlash
against Arab Americans (or those who looked like they might be Arab Americans)
· See article on the murder of a Sikh, an owner of a gas and convenience store in Mesa, Arizona within days after the WTC attack at:
· Search the Internet for other similar articles
· See also the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Tolerance in the News: Americans vs. Arabs," http://www.tolerance.org/news/article_tol.jsp?id=275 and "Tolerance Watch: A Backlash Builds Against American Arabs and Muslims" at http://www.tolerance.org/news/article_tol.jsp?id=280
5. Explain the difference between prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination.
Stereotyping is an over-exaggerated emphasis on what is perceived by some as a negative quality or characteristic of a particular group of people.
Prejudice is judging a person on the basis of a negative stereotype.
Discrimination and/or hate crimes are when those stereotypes and prejudices are acted upon.
Explore the reasons that
stereotyping exists and what students can do to combat negative stereotyping.
There are numerous Web sites with really good information. Here are two excellent
sites to begin your search.
6. Have students break into small groups to talk about how stereotyping can be very negative and harmful. Ask them to talk about groups that they think may face discrimination, i.e. American-Arabs; Other Middle Eastern people; undocumented immigrants, and so on.
Ask them to think about which stereotypes are placed on these groups of people, and to think about how those stereotypes can be reversed by 'thinking differently'. A good question for them to ask themselves is: "What can I say to myself about this particular group of people that will help me see it from a more positive, less stereotypical perspective."
Note: This kind of a discussion can be very emotion-laden, especially if a child feels directly affected, or is a very sensitive child.
Share thoughts and strategies with a large group discussion. Make a list on the board regarding how we form stereotypes about a given group of people, and a list of thought/ideas about how we can reverse our negative thinking. Depending on your students, this piece may work better as an essay that students share only with the teacher.
7. Brainstorm other ideas about breaking stereotypes and learning to understand people whose national, cultural, religious, and value systems may differ from the ones with which they are most comfortable.
What can students do in their own school or community to reverse the negative impact of stereotyping? For example, students could either attend or implement ethnic festivals or multi-cultural days at school or in the community; invite guest speakers from local organizations of ethnic groups to speak to their class; watch films/movies; read books (literature is a tremendous way to immerse students in geography, culture, history, politics of other places).
Students might write an essay or a procedure paper on alternative strategies
for combating stereotypes and backlash against people who seem physically
similar to those responsible for the WTC attack.
Students may post their views in the "Sept. 11, Five Years Later" discussion forum at http://www.newzcrew.org between August 28 and September 25, 2006. The forum is run by students and is backed by content from the archive of the Online NewsHour.
Geography Standards: Grades 6-12:
Self-Regulation Standards: Grades 6-12
Standard 3 : Consider Risks
Thinking and Reasoning Standards: Grades 6-12
1 : Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument
Working with Others
Standards: Grades 6-12
· Standard 2 : Uses conflict-resolution
Author Dr. Elizabeth Larson-Keagy is a Cultural Geographer. Since 1990, she has taught World Regional, Cultural, Social, Environmental and Human Geography on a full or part-time basis in colleges in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Arizona. Dr. Larson-Keagy currently volunteers as an Arizona District Coordinator for the We the People…the Citizen and the Constitution Program for High School students.
To find out more about opportunities to contribute to this site, contact Leah Clapman at email@example.com