By Kevin Kelley
A traveling exhibit examining how the media have portrayed Arabs is at the Westshore Campus of Cuyahoga Community College through Thursday.
“A is for Arab: Stereotypes in U.S. Popular Culture,” consists of eight double-sided panels containing images of negative portrayals of Arabs and Muslims from comic books, TV shows and films.
The images were collected by Jack Shaheen, a Lebanese-American who was born in Pittsburgh. A Distinguished Visiting Scholar at New York University’s Asian/ Pacific/American Institute and the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, Shaheen has collected 3,000 movies and TV shows, as well as printed materials. His analysis examines the origins of the caricatures, their persistence and ramifications for ordinary Arab-Americans.
Shaheen has written several books on the subject, including “The TV Arab” (1984), “Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs After 9/11” (2008) and “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People” (2001, 2009).
On loan from New York University, the exhibit has been displayed at colleges across the country.
Shaheen said people are reluctant to discuss such negative stereotypes about any group.
“These issues, for some reason, are restricted to academic circles, and even with academe, very few people address these issues,” Shaheen said in a video produced by NYU’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute. “Now, why is that? Because they open wounds. No one wants to acknowledge their prejudices. We’re comfortable with our prejudices. And we all have our prejudices.”
The key question, Shaheen asked, is, What have these stereotypes taught the public about Arabs?
Deborale Richardson-Phillips, Tri-C’s district director for diversity and inclusion, said college officials learned of the exhibit while attending a diversity conference last year.
“We thought this would be a great educational piece,” she said.
The exhibition, which is free, is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday
and Thursday. Groups of 10 or more planning to view it are asked to contact
Andrew Cox, the assistant dean of
student affairs, at 216-987-5849 or
Tri-C’s Westshore Campus is located at 31001 Clemens Road.