Anti-Arab Racism in the USA: Where It Comes From and What It

Racism against Arabs in the United States is nothing new. It’s been around for centuries, and unfortunately, it’s still alive and well today. In this blog post, we’ll explore where this racism comes from and what we can do to fight it.

Checkout this video:


Anti-Arab racism is a form of racism that is directed against people of Arab descent. It is also sometimes called “Arabophobia” or “Islamophobia.”

There are a number of different ways in which anti-Arab racism can manifest itself. For example, Arabs may be treated with suspicion or hostility simply because of their ethnic background. They may also be subjected to discrimination in housing, education, and employment. In some cases, they may even be targets of hate crimes.

There are a number of different factors that can contribute to anti-Arab racism. One is the tendency to lump all Arabs together and treat them as a monolithic group. This can lead to the perception that Arabs are all the same, and that they are all somehow responsible for the actions of a few.

Another factor is the historical association between Arabs and Islam. In many Western countries, Arabs are often seen as being synonymous with Muslims, even though there is considerable diversity within both groups. This association can lead to prejudice and discrimination against Arabs, even if they are not themselves Muslim.

finally, the events of September 11th, 2001 have also had a significant impact on how Arabs are perceived in the West. In the aftermath of the attacks, there was a marked increase in anti-Arab sentiment and violence against Arabs and Muslims living in Western countries.

Despite these challenges, it is important to remember that Arabs are not a homogeneous group, and that not all Arabs are Muslim. Arab Americans have made significant contributions to American society, and they should be respected as individuals, regardless of their ethnicity or religion

A Brief History of Anti-Arab Racism in the USA

Anti-Arab racism is a problem that has plagued the United States for centuries. It is a form of discrimination that is based on stereotypes and prejudices that Arabs are somehow “different” or “threats” to the safety and security of the United States. This racism has manifested itself in many ways, from violence and discrimination to everyday microaggressions.

The 1800s: Arab Americans as “The Other”

One of the earliest examples of anti-Arab racism in the United States can be traced back to the early 1800s, when Arab Americans were seen as “the other” and were subjected to various forms of discrimination.

In 1805, the first recorded use of the term “Arab” in reference to a person from the Middle East was made by an American diplomat. At that time, Arabs were generally associated with negative traits such as being “uncivilized” and “barbaric.”

Over the next few decades, Arab Americans continued to be portrayed in a negative light. In 1856, for example, an editorial in The New York Times referred to Arabs as “ci-devant rulers of the deserts” who were “utterly devoid of any redeeming colonization qualities.”

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Arab Americans started to become more visible in American society. This was due in part to increased immigration from countries like Lebanon and Syria.

However, this increased visibility also resulted in more negative stereotypes and discriminatory treatment. In 1903, for instance, The New York Times published an article that described Arabs as “desert nomads” who were “lazy,” “ignorant,” and “backward.”

These negative stereotypes continued into the 20th century. During World War I, for example, Arab Americans were seen as potential enemies and were subjected to various forms of prejudice and discrimination. In 1917, Congress passed a law that barred immigrants from certain countries in the Middle East (including Syria) from entering the United States.

After the September 11th attacks, there was a significant uptick in anti-Arab racism in the United States. Numerous incidents of violence and discrimination against Arab Americans were reported in the months following 9/11.

In recent years, there has been some progress made in combating anti-Arab racism in America. In 2011, for instance, congressional hearings were held on Islamophobia (a form of prejudice against Muslims). And in 2012, an Arabic language version of Sesame Street debuted on PBS.

Despite these steps forward, however, much work still needs to be done in order to fully address anti-Arab racism in America.

The Early 1900s: Immigration and World War I

The early 1900s saw a large influx of Arab immigrants to the United States, mostly from Greater Syria, which at the time included modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. This new wave of immigrants faced significant backlash and prejudice from the existing American population. This was partially due to the increasing competition for jobs, as well as fears that these Arab immigrants were not truly committed to becoming Americans.

These fears were only exacerbated by the outbreak of World War I, during which many Arabs living in the United States were seen as potential enemies of the state. This led to a number of mass deportations of Arab immigrants, as well as increased surveillance and discrimination.

The 1920s and 1930s: The Red Scare and the Great Depression

The next few decades saw a slight decrease in anti-Arab sentiment, due in part to the relatively small number of Arabs immigrating to the United States during this period. However, this respite was short-lived, as prejudice against Arabs began to rise again during the 1950s and 1960s amid heightened tensions in the Middle East and concerns about Arab terrorist groups.

This increase in anti-Arab sentiment was also fueled by America’s “Red Scare” paranoia about communism in the 1950s, which led many Americans to view Arabs as potential communist sympathizers (despite the fact that most Arabs living in the United States were actually quite conservative). This paranoia reached its peak during the 1963 “Cuban Missile Crisis,” when many Arabs living in America were again rounded up and deported due to their perceived “Security Threat.”

The 1970s and 1980s: The Iran Hostage Crisis and Reagan’s “War on Terror”

The next major spike in anti-Arab sentiment came in 1979 with the Iran Hostage Crisis, when 52 American citizens were taken hostage by Iranian militants and held for 444 days. This event led many Americans to view Arabs with suspicion and hostility, an attitude that was only exacerbated by Ronald Reagan’s “War on Terror” rhetoric in the 1980s. Reagan regularly demonized Arabs (and Muslims more broadly) in an attempt to win public support for his foreign policy agenda. This rhetoric had a significant impact on how Americans viewed Arabs, setting the stage for much of the prejudice and discrimination that Arab-Americans experience even today.

The 1920s and 1930s: The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan

The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group that targeted African Americans, Jews, and immigrants. The Klan gained popularity in the aftermath of World War I, when many Americans were afraid of the spread of communism. The group also tapped into fears about immigration; at a time when many European immigrants were coming to the United States, the Klan argued that they were stealing jobs from native-born Americans.

The Klan was especially hostile to Arabs and Muslims, whom they saw as a threat to Christian values. In 1925, the Klan staged a violent rally in Detroit where they burned an effigy of an Arab sheik and attacked a Muslim man who was trying to defend his property. In 1929, the Klan held another rally in Chicago; this time, they targeted a Syrian-Lebanese community center, smashing windows and burning furniture.

The Klan’s attacks on Arabs and Muslims continued into the 1930s. In 1931, the group bombed the home of Shikeith Hajjar, a Lebanese-American man who had recently been elected mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey. And in 1932, the Klan staged a march in New York City’s Chinatown, where they attacked Asian-American residents and businesses.

These attacks were just some of the many instances of anti-Arab racism in the United States during this period. Arabs and Muslims were often portrayed as violent and barbaric “Others” who posed a threat to American values and way of life. This racist rhetoric made it easy for members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists to target Arabs and Muslims with violence and intimidation.

The 1940s and 1950s: Arabs as “Enemies Within”

With the outbreak of World War II, anti-Arab racism in the United States took on a new urgency. Arabs were now seen as potential enemies within,fifth columnists who might aid the Axis powers in their efforts to defeat the Allies. This fear was reflected in popular culture, with Arabs being portrayed as shifty, untrustworthy, and often violent.

The 1950s saw a continued rise in anti-Arab sentiment, fed in part by the Cold War and the perception of Arabs as Communist sympathizers. Arabs were also seen as a threat to Israel, which had been established as a Jewish state in 1948. This view was reinforced by the Arab-Israeli conflict, which saw a series of wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, this hostility towards Arabs began to change somewhat, thanks in part to the growing acceptance of cultural diversity in the United States. Arabs were no longer seen as a monolithic bloc, but as having their own distinct cultures and traditions. However, this newfound understanding was short-lived, and by the end of the decade anti-Arab sentiment had begun to rise again.

This trend was only exacerbated by the events of September 11th, 2001. In the wake of the terrorist attacks carried out by Al Qaeda, Arabs and Muslims became targets of suspicion and hatred once again. Even those who had nothing to do with the attacks were subjected to discrimination and violence. In recent years there has been a small but growing effort to combat this prejudice, but it remains a significant problem in American society today.

The 1960s and 1970s: Civil Rights and the Oil Crisis

In the 1960s and 1970s, a number of factors converged to increase the visibility of Arabs in the United States and to promote negative stereotypes of Arabs. The civil rights movement led to a greater awareness of discrimination against Arabs, who were often lumped together with other groups under the catch-all label “Middle Easterners.” At the same time, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the oil crisis made Arabs a more prominent presence in the news.

Arabs were also targets of racist violence. In 1969, for example, a bomb exploded outside the home of an Arab-American family in Detroit, and in 1971, Arab-American Gas station owners were attacked in several cities across the country.

The increased visibility of Arabs in the United States also led to a growing anti-Arab sentiment among some Americans. In 1976, organized anti-Arab groups such as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) were established to combat discrimination and defamation.

The 1980s and 1990s: The Iran-Contra Affair and the Gulf War

In the 1980s, anti-Arab racism in the United States was fueled by the Iran-Contra Affair. In this scandal, the Reagan administration sold arms to Iran (which was under a US arms embargo) in order to fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. The Contras were fighting against the socialist Sandinista government, which had overthrown the US-backed dictator Somoza.

The sale of arms to Iran was widely condemned, and many Americans began to view Arabs as treacherous and untrustworthy. This sentiment was further stoked by the Gulf War of 1990-1991. In this conflict, a US-led coalition ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait, which they had invaded and annexed.

During the Gulf War, American media portrayal of Arabs was overwhelmingly negative. Arabs were portrayed as fanatical, barbaric, and inherently violent. This stereotype persists even today, despite the fact that Iraqis (the main target of American ire during the Gulf War) are not Arabs.

The Post-9/11 Era

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, anti-Arab racism has become more commonplace in the United States. There has been an increase in hate crimes and harassment directed at Arabs and Muslims, as well as those perceived to be Arab or Muslim. This rise in anti-Arab racism is often referred to as the “post-9/11 era.”

There are a number of factors that have contributed to this rise in anti-Arab racism. First, there has been a increase in media coverage of Arabs and Muslims since 9/11. This coverage is often negative and portrays Arabs and Muslims as terrorists or as people who are not compatible with Western values. Second, there has been a rise in government policies and rhetoric that target Arabs and Muslims. For example, the USA PATRIOT Act was passed in 2001 and it gave law enforcement agencies increased powers to conduct surveillance on Arab and Muslim Americans. The Iraq War also contributed to the rise in anti-Arab racism, as many people saw Arabs and Muslims as responsible for the attacks despite there being no evidence linking them to the attacks.

The post-9/11 era has been a difficult time for Arab and Muslim Americans. In addition to experiencing increased discrimination and harassment, they have also had to deal with the negative stereotypes that have become more prevalent since 9/11. Despite the challenges, Arab and Muslim Americans have worked to combat anti-Arab racism through grassroots organizing, media campaigns, and legal action.

The Roots of Anti-Arab Racism in the USA

Anti-Arab racism in the USA is a long-standing problem. It’s a form of racism that is directed at people of Arab descent. There are many different factors that contribute to anti-Arab racism in the USA. These include the media, historical factors, and the political landscape.

Orientalism and Islamophobia

Orientalism is a way of seeing that imagines, stereotypes, and generalizes about all Arab peoples and cultures, especially in a way that is negative and false.

Islamophobia is a form of racism or prejudice against Muslims, based on the belief that Islam is a violent religion.

Both orientalism and Islamophobia are rooted in a long history of discrimination against Arabs and Muslims in the United States. After the September 11th attacks, these prejudices became more widespread and more acceptable to express openly.

Arab Americans have been portrayed as terrorists, extremists, and backwards since 9/11. These false stereotypes are used to justify discrimination and violence against Arab Americans. The media plays a role in perpetuating these harmful stereotypes, by not fairly representing Arab Americans or challenges to dominant narratives about them.

There is a long history of discrimination against Arabs and Muslims in the United States. After the September 11th attacks, these prejudices became more widespread and more acceptable to express openly.

The Legacy of European Colonialism

European colonialism in the Arab world left a legacy of anti-Arab racism that continues to influence American attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims. The roots of this racism can be traced back to the early days of European colonialism, when Arabs were seen as inferior to Europeans and their cultures were seen as barbaric. Arab-Americans have experienced discrimination and violence in the United States since the late 19th century, when they began to immigrate in large numbers. This discrimination has been exacerbated by American foreign policy decisions in the Middle East, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

American media coverage of Arabs and Muslims is often stereotyped and negative, which contributes to public perceptions of Arabs and Muslims as being collectively dangerous and threatening. This was evident in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, when many Arabs and Muslims were harassed or attacked due to their perceived association with terrorism. There has also been a rise in anti-Arab racism on college campuses and in other parts of American society in recent years.

The Role of the US Media

The role of the US media in perpetuating anti-Arab racism cannot be understated. Arab-Americans have long been stereotyped and demonized in the media, and this has only intensified in recent years. Arabs are often portrayed as violent, primitive, and subhuman, and this portrayal is reflected in the way that Arab-Americans are treated in real life.

There are a number of factors that contribute to this negative portrayal, including the fact that Arabs are often associated with Islam, which is itself subjected to a great deal of prejudice in the United States. Additionally, the media outlets that cover events in the Middle East are overwhelmingly owned by corporations with a vested interest in perpetuating negative stereotypes about Arabs.

The result of all this is a vicious cycle in which Arabs are demonized in the media, which leads to real-life discrimination and bigotry, which is then used to justify further demonization in the media. This cycle must be broken if Arab-Americans are ever going to be treated fairly in this country.


Prejudice against Arabs and Islam has a long history in the United States. Negative stereotypes were first introduced to the American public through popular literature, stage plays, and mass media, which helped to solidify these images in the collective imagination. Arabs were often portrayed as barbaric and lustful, while Islam was ridiculed as a primitive and dangerous religion. These harmful stereotypes have been used to justify discrimination and violence against Arabs and Muslims, both in the past and in the present day.

Despite the many challenges faced by Arab Americans, they have made significant contributions to all facets of American life. Through their hard work and determination, they have helped to build a stronger and more vibrant nation. It is important to remember that Arabs and Muslims are just as much a part of the fabric of America as anyone else, and that they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

Scroll to Top