America's Other: America's Interpretation of Arabs and the Middle East

Lum, Leslie-Ann
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Since the very first beginnings of American popular culture, just about every other race or culture-"other" generally referring to all those outside of the category of White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, Americans-has at one point or another fallen victim to being stereotyped. This study is an attempt to explore some of the easily recognizable and prevalent stereotypes that have been widely circulated by America's popular culture. By doing so, it is hoped that this study will serve to enhance a greater awareness of the existence of stereotypes as well as to reveal some of the possible causes and potentially powerful effects. Most recently, over the course of the recent Persian Gulf War Crisis, when our nation was forced to focus on the Middle East and the Arabs who inhabit it, it became painfully apparent that there are complex people and unique cultures that actually exist beyond and outside the narrow-minded, one dimensional parameters of the Arab stereotype. Yet, once Kuwait was liberated and American troops started returning home from the gulf, America was left with the indelible impression that all Arabs are nothing more than irrational, violent, uncivilized, and untrustworthy inhabitants of a politically and economically important desert. Theoretically then, a seemingly simple question such as, "What actually 'is' an Arab?" goes insufficiently and unfairly answered since most people know so little about Arabs and what is known is hardly related to reality. The knowledge most readily available is oftentimes limited to generalized, biased, and possibly distorted or inaccurate stereotypes portrayed and perpetuated by pop culture.
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