Dearborn, Michigan is the epicenter of Muslim/Arab American culture. It is a microcosm of the Middle East with people from every Arab country (i.e. Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, etc). There is such a diverse presence of nationalities and cultures that all contribute their own traditions while sharing similar traditions with other nationalities there . Although one might think that in this cultural hub we all have similar stories as minorities, we don’t. 36 miles away from Ann Arbor is a city that portrays diversity and acceptance to the outside perspective, and although that is true in some sense, one group of people see themselves as superior to others.
Being Lebanese, I can attest to the fact that many people of my nationality think that they are better than everyone else. There is a running joke in my friend group that the Lebanese are the “white people” of Dearborn. That is to say that we are the problem. Lebanese are still minorities in the U.S., but like white people we’re privileged compared to everyone else when it comes to discrimination. In high school I would hear Lebanese boys jokingly call each other “Yemenis” as an insult , and see Lebanese kids fight with Iraqi kids for no reason. There is a clear superiority complex and it governs social life in Dearborn. Even within Lebanese culture, southern Lebanese people see all Baalbakis (those who come from the Eastern side of Lebanon) as extremists, drug dealers, or uber-conservatives. This superiority complex is synonymous to the problems of race in the U.S. today. While minorities are being persecuted from all around, and Islamophobia has spiked in the age of Trump against Muslims and Arabs, we are still unable to recognize each other as allies.
The reason I wanted to write this article is not to call anybody out, but to recognize the divergence among us. Why should colorism or discrimination among minorities with similar stories exist? As minorities, we should all recognize the fact that there we all share a similar problem: the existence of white supremacy, colonialism and people like our President who elicit hatred. Many of our parents came to the U.S. for the same reasons, whether it was to escape war in the Middle East, or for financial stability. My lesson for my Lebanese friends is to recognize that you aren’t better than anyone else. Your scat pack doesn’t make you cooler. Your jokes about Yemenis aren’t funny. Basically, if one person calls it dolma, but the other wara2 3einab (grape leaves), who cares!