American Arabs still marginalized in 2016 Olympic bid
By Ray Hanania — Mayor Daley is quietly trying to boost up the window dressing of his bid for the 2016 Olympics by padding the front lines with Arab-looking people. He’s been doing it ever since I wrote four weeks ago that his administration has, over the years, marginalized American Arabs denying us jobs, appointments, grant funding and more.
There are about 350 official members of the 2016 Chicago Olympic Committee originally appointed by Mayor Daley. Only two of the members are American Arabs.
In the past few weeks, he has added about a dozen more on committees with big titles but no clout. And there is a reason for all this hurried enlistment of American Arabs.
The International Olympic Committee, which will make the final decision later this Fall on which of four cities — Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo – will host the 2016 Olympics, has sent eight of its members this week to review Chicago.
Of the eight members, two are representatives of Arab countries. Ouch!
I don’t expect Mayor Daley to explain to the two Arab members of the IOC that in the past 20 years as mayor, he has consistently disrespected the American Arab community, marginalizing us and pushing us to the side.
So, I will.
Daley bragged to the ruler of Dubai during a recent visit there that Chicago has about 230,000 American Arabs. That means American Arabs represent about 7.6 percent of Chicago’s 3 million citizens. Technically, if Mayor Daley really cared about diversity and ethnic representation, American Arabs would have 7.6 percent, or 2,660 of the city’s 35,000 jobs. We have less than 10 percent of that number, about 225.
Chicago has no major artifacts or buildings named in honor of any American Arabs, even though as I pointed out in my book “Arabs of Chicagoland,” we have been an integral part of Chicago’s life since the late 19th Century when Arabs began flocking here after the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.
But racism and bigotry have always been a cornerstone of Chicago’s daily life and among the targets have been the city’s steadily growing American Arab community.
We have fought in all the wars wearing American military uniforms, yet not one statue has been dedicated to recognize our veterans, something common for most other ethnic groups.
We don’t have a parade, although most other ethnic groups have parades in Chicago. Daley was going to can the Arab parade this year. But he changed his mind after my column and decided he couldn’t. Not with the IOC closely inspecting our city’s alleged commitment to diversity.
Instead of being in the heart of the American Arab community on the Southwest Side of Chicago, the “ArabFest” is neatly packaged in Daley Plaza during the work week at lunch time so it looks like a lot of people will attend. Bargain-basement cheap with very little real entertainment and none of the hoopla that accompanies the events of other ethnic groups in Chicago.
But the American Arab community is so used to crumbs that crumbs can be easily made to look like a full pan of fresh and sweet baklava (Arabian filo pastry cake).
Who are the big appointments in the Chicago Police Department? The Chicago Fire Department? The city’s 40-plus agencies? How about at the Chicago Board of Education? How many members do we have in a system that has a sizable American Arab student population? How many teachers do we have to teach Chicago students about the history of Arabs in Chicago?
The numbers are pathetically low. Insulting low.
Daley knows how to schmooze instead of give honest answers. He takes everything personal, and brushes aside all criticism as a personal attack rather than as an indictment of his failed leadership.
The last time I wrote about this issue four weeks ago, Daley responded not by acknowledging his failure but by trying to pad the numbers. He added a few more American Arabs to the circle of people cheerleading for Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid.
Daley should have called in all of the leaders of Chicago’s American Arab community and apologized for ignoring them during his two decade reign. He could have responded by acknowledging he hasn’t done enough and promise to do more.
Sometimes an apology and a few promises will make the difference.
As it stands today, most American Arabs do not support Mayor Daley, unless their relatives, children and close friends are among the paltry 225 American Arabs who have jobs in his administration.
But you can’t just blame Daley. Many American Arabs are quick on their feet to stab their fellow community members in the back hoping it will boost their own chances for self advancement.
Yet no matter how far a few American Arabs get in Daley’s administration, the community is smart enough to know that he has been disrespectful and negligent when it comes to our concerns.
I just wonder if the two Arabs in the IOC delegation are smart enough to know that, too. Can they see through Daley’s charade?
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and morning radio talk show host. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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