Campbell Brown: “Arab” is Not an Insult

Before a few weeks ago, I had never heard of CNN commentator Campbell Brown.  But her name seems to keep coming up lately, and the impression I’m getting is that she’s pretty cool.  Here’s some of her latest commentary about the “insults” that have been thrown at Barack Obama.

Woman at rally: I don’t trust Obama. I have read about him and he’s an Arab.

Sen. John McCain: No ma’am, no ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. That’s what this campaign is all about. He’s not, thank you.

Now, I commend Sen. McCain for correcting that woman, for setting the record straight. But I do have one question — so what if he was?

So what if Obama was Arab or Muslim? So what if John McCain was Arab or Muslim? Would it matter?

When did that become a disqualifier for higher office in our country? When did Arab and Muslim become dirty words? The equivalent of dishonorable or radical?

Whenever this gets raised, the implication is that there is something wrong with being an Arab-American or a Muslim. And the media is complicit here, too. 

We’ve all been too quick to accept the idea that calling someone Muslim is a slur.

I have to say that I keep reading from different media sources all about how this woman called Obama an Arab, and John McCain was so fucking honorable in setting the record straight.  But I just keep reading it and thinking: what the hell am I supposed to commend about what he just said?

The fact is that his words indicate that the woman is wrong because Obama is a family man and citizen of the United States.  His statement pretty strongly suggests that “Arab” therefore indicates the opposite of family man and U.S. citizen.  Clearly the woman meant her statement as a bigoted slur, but McCain only reinforced the idea that it is a real insult with his response.  And this defense of Obama keeps getting under my skin in the same way that, quite frankly, his own “Lies! I’m a Christian!” defenses do.

Quite frankly again, Brown is rather late in getting around to pointing this out.  But I am pretty glad to see someone from the mainstream media saying it nonetheless.  For more Campbell Brown, see her commentary on the McCain campaign’s sexism against Sarah Palin.

0 thoughts on “Campbell Brown: “Arab” is Not an Insult

  1. space

    It’s been artificially made into a slur, because Arabs have been constructed as “the enemy.” So basically, it’s become a code word for “them” and has almost lost its original neutral meaning as someone of certain lines of Middle Eastern descent. It’s equivalent to calling someone a Commie during the (first?) Cold War. In fact, in many of the McCain-Palin rally tapes, people who predictably conflate today’s constructed enemy with yesterday’s were calling Obama a commie.

  2. L. E. Hairstylist

    There is a catch-22 for Obama there, though, because it’s near impossible to set the record straight without condemning Arabs/Muslims/whatever-they’re-accusing-Obama-of-being-this-week and not sounding totally phony. It comes back to the old “I’m not gay, not that there’s anything wrong with that” cliche. If he says that he’s not Muslin but being Muslim is still nothing to be ashamed of, people would switch to saying he’s “in the closet,” so to speak.

    But I agree wholeheartedly that McCain did conflate being Arab-American with being anti-American (and apparently anti-family? Wth?) and shouldn’t be commended for anything. It was like a backhanded compliment.

  3. Lebanese guy

    Essentially, the word “Arab” is like the new “N-word”. Its an insult to be in any way shape or form connected to Arabs/Muslims. Furthermore, Arabs/Muslims now are being treated or referred to in the same fashion as “Blacks” were up until the 80’s. Were essentially the new “N-word”. Many people refer to all Arabs as Muslims and vice versa, little do they know that the majority of Muslims arent even Arabs and that there are Arabs Christians and Jews as well whcih is further insulting Arabs as one monolithic anti-American identity bent on taking over the world. Even further more, Many Arab-Americans have hold high political office and are directly responsible for the development of this country. Sometimes, America, the “calender boy” of democracy isnt democratic at all.


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