June 20, 2018
Arab American Institute (AAI) represents the policy and community interests of Arab Americans throughout the United States and strives to promote Arab American participation in the U.S. electoral system. AAI has developed a host of services, from voter education to liaison with the national parties, to support the community’s activities. Thanks to support from Voqal, AAI was able to enact its #ReportHate Project, a field strategy that prepares Arab Americans in front-line communities to confront officials about policies that deeply affect their communities, in 16 states.
The #ReportHate Project encourages communities and individuals to work with their elected officials to strengthen hate crime laws and encourage reporting through official avenues. In order to achieve this, it establishes working groups in key states consisting of community leaders and organizations from Arab American and allied communities. From LGBTQ groups, to Latinx advocates, to disability rights activists, and local law enforcement and government officials, this coalition represents a diverse set of community and grassroots organizing groups all focused on protecting the Arab American community from hate.
One challenge the coalition faced was a specific distrust of government by Arab American communities stemming from the rhetoric and actions of the federal government. When a community sees individuals deported by Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or profiled by Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programming after interacting with government agencies, the fear of being targeted overrides the practicality of trusting that not all government agents will act to profile community members.
Fortunately, AAI continues to work on overcoming this issue. It encourages state and local officials to highlight and demonstrate how their policies differ from federal policies and rhetoric. It has also encouraged state and local officials to conduct one-on-one meetings with individual community leaders to discuss how local policies deviate from federal policies and to hear concerns from community members.
In today’s charged political climate there has been a great deal of hateful rhetoric directed towards groups like the Arab American community. Fortunately, AAI has worked tirelessly to build a diverse coalition of community leaders and organizations aimed at increasing understanding and reducing hate. As strong advocates for creating a more socially equitable world via an educated and empowered public, we are proud to have supported this work and look forward to AAI’s continued advocacy on behalf of Arab Americans everywhere.