By Sundus Mahdi Al-Ameen
America was established as a land of hope and promise. In the turn of the 20th century, immigrants flocked from countries all over Europe, ready to join the great melting pot. They faced hardships, but quickly managed to immerse themselves into an ideology they called the American Dream.
Decades later, immigrants to the United States began to diversify. Minority immigrants faced greater tribulations than their counterparts because they were dubbed un-American. Their solution was not as simple as living the American Dream, so they replaced their turbans, sombreros and kimonos with baseball caps and blue jeans, and vowed that their children would live easier lives.
In Metro Detroit, the Arab community lacks a strong tether to cultural identity. Yes, we call ourselves Arabs and Middle Easterners, but, at the same time, we are ready to forget that part of our being in order to assimilate into American culture. We shorten our names from Mohammad to Moe, from Sukayna to Sue and so on, all in order to make it easier to pronounce. We are embarrassed when our parents speak Arabic, insisting that they learn the language of the nation they came to. We only begin to value our history and culture when the “Americans” think it’s interesting. We fail to realize that American culture is a fabrication.
America is no melting pot; it is a mosaic and we are its pebbles. Therefore, there is a need for a change in mindset.
There is a need to learn about Hammurabi and Mesopotamia, about Darius and Persia, about Hiram and Phoenicia.
There is a need to understand that we are the creators of algebra, of coffee of the wheel.
Our ancestors etched our legacy into stone by creating the alphabet.
There is a need to remember that faith was engendered in the Fertile Crescent; that Musa split the Red Sea in Egypt; that ‘Isa was born in Bayt Lahm and convened with his apostles in Qana; that Muhammad’s message radiated its light from Arabia to the world.
There is a need to acknowledge that we had opportunity and greatness before America and we are given more opportunities for greatness in America. There is a need to realize that we are not any less American than those whose ancestors climbed aboard the Mayflower centuries ago.
Returning to our roots and looking back at who we are as a people; looking back at our struggles and innovations will make us truly proud of being Arab. It will make us proud that our parents and grandparents immigrated to this nation for the sake of our education, as it is the factor that will allow us to contribute to society. That type of education will teach us that, together, we embody the American Dream.
-Sundus Mahdi AlAmeen is an honor student at Crestwood High School; next fall she will be attending the University of Michigan on a full scholarship, majoring in education.