Developed by Seabourne Consulting, experts in Middle Eastern and Arab Americans

Middle Eastern and Arab Americans

The phrase “Middle Eastern” refers to people of West Asian or North African descent. The term “Middle East” itself is rooted in Eurocentrism, as it references the region’s location relative to Europe rather than its actual geographical location. The term “Arab” is used to refer to people with ancestries traced to the Arab world, a group of nations all connected by the use of the Arabic language. Countries of the Arab world include Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Yemen, and many others spanning from North Africa to Southeast Asia. It is important to recognize that no single term can be used to describe every American of Middle Eastern, West Asian, and North African descent.

From pioneering the development of the artificial heart and the iPod, to blowing the whistle on the Flint Water Crisis, the many accomplishments and contributions of Arab and Middle Eastern Americans are and will continue to be integral to our society. Arab and Middle Eastern Americans have repeatedly been subjected to injustices in this country, including racial profiling, arbitrary detention, and workplace discriminationBecause of the impact of confounding marginalizations, Middle Eastern and Arab Americans who are LGBTQ+, economically poor, limited-English proficiency, and/or immigrants are even more likely to struggle to thrive.  

The Middle Eastern and Arab American communities are diverse in faith and religion, though there is a common misconception that all Middle Eastern and Arab Americans practice Islam. Arab and Middle Eastern Americans—and even people merely perceived as Arab or Middle Eastern—have experienced an increase in marginalization since the 2001 September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States. Islamophobia is harmful to non-Muslim Arab and Middle Eastern Americans, because even a perceived association with Islam has inspired hate crimes against people belonging to these communities. Anti-Muslim and Anti-Arab rhetoric has been used as a platform in American politics and has even become policy, as illustrated by Executive Order 13769, also known as the Muslim and Refugee Ban of 2017. Middle Eastern and Arab Americans and their rights and dignity have continuously been degraded and disrespected as a result of this bigotry and prejudice. 

Partnering with Middle Eastern and Arab Americans to achieve health equity and racial justice requires deeply uprooting racist systems that perpetuate their exploitation and abuse. Institutionalizing and operationalizing equity and justice throughout all leadership levels of all sectors will require organizations, allies, and systems to deeply center and follow the leadership of people with lived experience. Community-led processes, self-representation, and centering Middle Eastern and Arab voices are a few effective tactics communities can leverage to advance equity and well-being for Middle Eastern and Arab Americans. 

Data & Metrics

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BIPOC Health Equity Library
Published on 09/27/2022

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