Race and Ethnicity - An arab-american challenge

The emergence of a significant Arab-American population, along with its inclination to be more engaged in politics, may already have begun to change the dynamic of how the United States deals with Middle Eastern issues. Until the 1970s Arab Americans were few in number and seemingly invisible on issues involving their ancestral lands. James Abourezk, an articulate senator of Arab-American descent from South Dakota, became one of the first outspoken proponents of the Arab position in national life.

Enumerated at one million in the 1990 census, Arab Americans were estimated to have increased to 3.5 million in preliminary figures of the 2000 Census Report. A source of emerging strength rests in the clustering of Arab Americans in four states crucial in presidential elections. Arab voters are a factor in southern California, New York City, northern New Jersey, and, most critically, Detroit and southern Michigan. The largest concentration in the country is in metropolitan Detroit, with 350,000 Arab Americans. Only African Americans represent a larger minority group in Detroit.

There is now recognition that Arab Americans are a factor in political strategy, particularly in Michigan, where they represent 4 percent of the vote. Spencer Abraham, an Arab American, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994. Arab Americans vote in high percentages (62 percent in the 1996 election), they have high incomes, and they are increasingly involved in national elections. In 1996 neither Democratic President Bill Clinton nor the Republican challenger, Bob Dole, attended events, but in 2000 all the serious presidential contenders addressed Arab-American groups.

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