Letter to the Editor – Recognizing the diversity of our Middle Eastern neighbors

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Due to the controversy surrounding Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017, it is important to recognize the pertinence of the Middle Eastern community and their role in the future of the United States.

President Donald Trump’s divisive campaign left many wondering about the future of minority communities in the United States. 

Whether pro- or anti- Trump, there were known concerns of divisiveness among voters. 

Due to the controversy surrounding Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017, it is important to recognize the pertinence of the Middle Eastern community and their role in the future of the United States.

President Donald Trump’s divisive campaign left many wondering about the future of minority communities in the United States. 

Whether pro- or anti- Trump, there were known concerns of divisiveness among voters. 

Why does this concern the East County community? 

According to the 2010 Census, approximately eight percent of El Cajon residents are of Arab decent, with the majority hailing from Iraq, and another six percent were of Assyrian or Chaldean ethnicity, also from the Middle East. 

A 2016 article in The Reader, noted that El Cajon is home to the “largest population of Iraq war refugees.” An additional 1,000 refugees from Syria have also been placed in El Cajon within the past year with the hope of integrating them with the help of other Arabic speakers in the community.

El Cajon and greater San Diego are also home to a plethora of other Middle Eastern groups and ethnic minorities.

Many non-middle eastern Americans and other minority groups wonder how they can be better allies to the Middle Eastern community, which has received targeted racial profiling and negative rhetoric on several occasions.

Middle Eastern Rights Association (MERA) believes in the importance of understanding Middle Eastern groups and respecting their differences and similarities.

Educators in the East County and San Diego communities must begin spreading knowledge of geography, languages, and cultures within the Middle East.

While many nations are Arabic-speaking, it should not be assumed that each individual identifies as “Arab”. Be respectful of various self-identifications and the importance of the role of nationality in the culture.

For example, an individual from Iraq may speak Arabic but identify as Assyrian; two individuals may be from Iraq and Syria, respectively, and both identify as Arab, but may be more inclined to identify with their countries of origin than with their ethnicity.

Be aware and respectful of the differences that exist in order to foster a community of acceptance, understanding, and assistance in assimilation.

Minorities and diversity have played a key role in the development of U.S. society.

Fostering awareness, knowledge, and respect on the issue are the first steps in welcoming Middle Eastern neighbors to East County and preventing the intolerance and divisiveness that plagues and threatens communities nationwide.

Briana Gomez

Middle Eastern Rights Association 

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