Yesterday I was playing Time’s Up with my students. For those who don’t know this game, you just write random celebrities’ names on cards, put these cards in a jar and when you pick one, you have to make your team guess who it is. One of them, a really smart, funny and sweet 15 years old girl, picked a card. You could see she didn’t know the name on the card, but it was the last one in the jar so she had to make her teammates guess who it was. She didn’t know what to say, she just had no idea who it could be. But I encouraged her to try, I told her to make them guess the name or at least the first syllable.
So she tried and said “he’s a terrorist”. That is the only thing she said. I thought it was Ben Laden, because I thought it would be the only one they had heard of. But I was wrong, someone tried it and it wasn’t him. No one knew who it could be. Someone in the group wrote that name on this card, and even that person could’nt figure out whose name was on the card.
Her minute was up, and I just wanted to know so I told her to tell us who was the terrorist. She answered “I don’t know, there are two names on this card, Cassius Clay and Mohamed Ali”.
She didn’t know it was the most famous boxer of all time, she didn’t know a single thing about him and yet, the only thing she said was “he’s a terrorist”. Her teammates all screamed “You don’t know who Mohamed Ali is ???” but then it hit me.
Why, if she had no idea who Mohamed Ali is, did she say “he’s a terrorist” ?
I asked her. She had no answer, and another kid just yelled “So, just because his name is Mohamed, he’s a terrorist?” so I was glad I wasn’t the only one wondering. It was clearly not meant to hurt or disrespect, but still, that was fucked up.
What I’m trying to find out since then is what made her decide he may be a terrorist ? What happened in her mind when she decided the name Mohamed Ali had to be a terrorist’s name ? What lead her to that assumption ? Was it her parents and surroundings ? TV ? The other kids at school ?
I don’t think I’ll ever know, because she clearly had nothing to say (to be fair she realized what she had said right after and seemed a bit confused). But now I know racism is like a sneaky virus, infecting even the smartest kid in school. And that’s scary as SHIT.
How much of what we [as Arabs] read is true?
By Sue Zeidler
January 30, 2013
LOS ANGELES, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Arab-American groups have sharply criticized a Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad depicting an Arab walking through the desert with a camel, and one group said it would ask the beverage giant to change it before CBS airs the game on Sunday before an expected audience of more than 100 million U.S. viewers.
"Why is it that Arabs are always shown as either oil-rich sheiks, terrorists, or belly dancers?" said Warren David, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, or ADC.
Coca-Cola released an online teaser of the commercial last week, showing the Arab walking through a desert. He soon sees cowboys, Las Vegas showgirls and a motley crew fashioned after the marauders of the apocalyptic “Mad Max” film race by him to reach a gigantic bottle of Coke.
In its ad, Coke asks viewers to vote online on which characters should win the race. The online site does not allow a vote for the Arab character.
"The Coke commercial for the Super Ball is racist, portraying Arabs as backward and foolish Camel Jockeys, and they have no chance to win in the world," Imam Ali Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Institute for Interfaith Studies, said in an email.
"What message is Coke sending with this?" asked Abed Ayoub, ADC’s director of legal and policy affairs. "By not including the Arab in the race, it is clear that the Arab is held to a different standard when compared to the other characters in the commercial," he said.
CBS declined comment. Coca-Cola spokeswoman Lauren Thompson said Coke took a “cinematic” approach with the ad, employing the characters as a nod to movies of the past.
"Coca-Cola is an inclusive brand enjoyed by all demographics," she said in an email. "We illustrate our core values, from fun and refreshment to happiness, inspiration and optimism across all of our marketing communications."
Ayoub said ADC intended to contact Coke and CBS Corp on Thursday to “hopefully start a dialog.”
"I want to know why this happened and how can we fix this if possible before Sunday," he said.
The ADC garnered attention back in 1992 when it complained that lyrics in the Walt Disney animated film “Aladdin” were racist.
Ronald Goodstein, professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, said he was surprised by the image as well. “If Coke’s vision is to be an arm’s distance away from every customer, why would they want to offend the Arab world?” said Goodstein.
Ayoub said the commercial could harm Coke’s business with the Arab community.
"Coke should understand and respect their consumers and have a better understanding of the market they are sharing," he Ayoub.
The company has a large market share in the Middle East and North Africa, he noted, and many convenience stores and other retail outlets in the United States that offer Coke are owned by Arab-Americans.
Copyright © 2013 Thomson Reuters.