Vote for Susan Dabaja, because she's an Arab." This is what my mother repeatedly exclaimed to me throughout the 2016 election cycle, where Gene Hunt, a longtime resident and lawyer from Dearborn, squeezed a victory over a young attorney and city council president, Susan Dabaja to secure his new role as 19th District Court Judge.
I explained to my mother (and everyone else who urged me to vote Dabaja), that I could not vote for a candidate based solely on his or her identity. I stressed the slippery slope that follows such logic, and the dangers associated with identity politics.
However, to my surprise, not many of my community members agreed with me. I spent countless hours arguing with folks and defending myself against accusations that I was a "self-hating Arab," or a "hater."
But neither my mother, nor my community of peers (who I respect and adore) could sway my decision to vote for Hunt. Why? Because his experience as a lawyer, and not his ethnicity, religious affiliation, or any other character trait, was of utmost importance to me, not only as a recent law school graduate, but also as a first-generation Arab American.
In trying to defend my position, I would often refer to a hypothetical situation wherein I selected an inexperienced candidate based solely on her Arab identity, and later appeared before her in court.
As one can imagine, her lack of experience would lead to completely wrong decision-making, which would lead to appeals of those decisions, which would ultimately lead to distrust in the legal process as a whole. In an effort to do nothing but avoid this likely scenario, I voted for Gene Hunt — and he won.
I write this all to emphasize to my fellow Arab American community (or anyone else who votes based on a candidate's identity), that despite our innate desire to see similarly looking individuals in high positions, that may not always be in our best interests. I also write this with the intent of motivating young people to work hard for what they want to achieve, and avoid simply relying on popularity.
There are real issues and people's lives at stake — so develop the requisite skills and knowledge if your goal is truly to serve the public, and then run.
Thank you, Judge Hunt, for helping Dearborn avoid a potential catastrophe, and allowing us the opportunity to adjust our future political strategies.