This election holds special importance for Arab Americans, here's why
It is particularly troubling given the concentration of Arab Americans in historically swing states including Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which could make the difference in a close race.
Much of this disenchantment has to do with the visceral relationship that many Arab Americans have with the issue of Palestine and the American political establishment's unwavering support of Israel, as well as decades of the United States' "forever wars" and interventions in countries where many still have family ties.
However, Arab Americans must realise that there is much more at stake closer to home this election than there has ever been before - the Covid-19 pandemic, a deteriorating economy and swelling racial tensions - a set of issues that directly affect them and that Joe Biden is much better prepared to take on.
|Arab Americans must realise that there is much more at stake closer to home this election than there has ever been before
More than 200,000 Americans have succumbed to Covid-19, a number that increases by the minute. The virus has not spared Arab Americans, and despite difficulties accessing data related to this specific demographic, early research shows that they might be disproportionately impacted due to existing co-morbidities, including a high prevalence of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
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While President Donald Trump has sidelined science and politicised the vaccine process, Biden promises to place health care professionals back at the centre of the Covid-19 response and provide clear, consistent leadership to help us navigate this nightmare.
The economic spillover of the virus does not bode well for Arab Americans either. Since the first wave of Arab migrants to America in the late 19th century, they have contributed to the economy as consumers, professionals and business owners. Some estimates show that in the Detroit metropolitan area, for example, more than 90% of stores and gas stations are owned by Americans who trace their lineage to the Middle East and North Africa.
Covid-19 has heavily burdened small businesses around the country with mass layoffs, closures and decline in sales. While Trump has made sure his supporters are first in line to receive business relief loans, Biden promised that small businesses who are most in need — not those who have the closest ties to the president — will benefit under his administration.
|We cannot opt out in an election where one contender has made history by being the first presidential candidate to publish a policy platform specifically targeted at improving the lives of Arab Americans
Last but not least, as our country grapples with difficult conversations about race and justice, Arab Americans are once again directly impacted, both in terms of the individuals who identify as Black Arabs and the underlying currents of racism and exclusion that permeate relations among Arab Americans of different races. Our community, like others, is looking at itself in the mirror and soul searching about our own struggles with colourism and bigotry.
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While Trump defended Kyle Rittenhouse - who is accused of killing two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin - Biden deeply understands that the protests we are seeing today are not spontaneous or isolated, but rather the result of centuries of systemic racism that we now have no choice but to address.
Because of the progress Arab Americans have already made in all walks of American public life, including increased participation in public office, platforms as public intellectuals and prominence in the news media, it would be a great disservice to those who came before us to opt out of the game at such a critical juncture.
We cannot opt out in an election where one contender has made history by being the first presidential candidate to publish a policy platform specifically targeted at improving the lives of Arab Americans, including overturning the inhumane Muslim travel ban. That candidate is again, Joe Biden.
This election is not a zero-sum game where disagreement on a single issue should be enough to discourage participation from the imperative of voting. In fact, abstaining from voting might decrease any sway that Arab Americans have on this country's politics in the first place.
We must remain alert, engaged and continue the hard work on issues that unite us and impact us, while keeping our eyes on the bigger prize: voting for an administration that will engage with and continue to value us as an integral part of this country.
Sarah Alaoui is a Ph.D. student in the Middle East Studies department at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
This article was republished with permission from the Columbus Dispatch where it originally appeared.
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.