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Americans should not be so quick to stereotype others

By Robert Dozortsev

During the months preceding the presidential election, calls were made to voters' homes trying to tie President-elect Barack Obama and terrorism together. The connections were obvious: Obama rhymes with Osama and his middle name is Hussein.

As comical as this may be, Americans practice this type of stereotyping every day, most commonly at the airport. We all hear about "random searches," but apparently the only people that receive them are Muslims, according to Ali Ardekani, winner of the One Nation Film Contest.

Ardekani now has a television show and tells his viewers, who are mostly of Middle Eastern descent, to be as polite and normal as possible because any irregular action can be blown out of proportion. He recommends that at the airport they do not speak in their language, wear the types of clothing that would make them stand out and answer any question, strange as it may be.

For average people like you and me, to have to do these things just so we are not heckled is like being back in the 1930s. How is it possible that stereotypes still hold such significance in the backs of our minds?

For one thing, society has only taken stereotyping to the next level. In certain neighborhoods, insurance companies and loaning institutions do something called redlining. Redlining is when interest rates and insurance rates become higher in "high-risk neighborhoods." These high risk neighborhoods happen to be mainly inhabited by minorities with middle-to-lower-class wages.

Some say that following statistical stereotypes may be a good idea, as a preventative method. University professor of economics Massoud Fazeli, gave an example of how these statistics come about: "Let's say that 2 percent of blondes commit crimes and 4 percent of brunettes commit crimes. This means that brunettes are twice as likely to commit a crime, compared to a blonde."

Again, these examples seem so cynical and inhumane, but they are happening around us every day. Is it really possible that all Muslims, about 1 out of every 4 people in the world, are terrorists? Realistically, there are only about 20,000 extremists, and certainly most of them are not ready to part with their lives. This small group of people has done what it set out to do: terrorize our minds and make us question and fear what we consider to be normal.

On Michigan's Mackinac Island, a scout master and five boys were on a ferry about to return to shore. Suddenly, they were arrested by police on charges of conspiring to be terrorists. The owner of the ferry had apparently called and told the police that there were Muslim men dressed in trench coats, speaking a foreign language and taking pictures of the Mackinac Bridge.

It is like the woman and the spider-the spider is just as scared as the woman. In this case, as scared as people are of these boy scouts being terrorists, the scouts are just as scared of being separated from society. We are trying to scare or simply force these people to hide their faith.

First of all, America should not be a place of suppression. Second, history has shown us what happens when people are forced to bottle up their feelings and the results have not been good. If we continue our behavior and something does occur, we will point the finger and say "I told you Muslims are terrorists" and the Muslims will say "Well, they pushed us to this point!" Our country has bigger things to worry about than the religion some follow.

We will never forget 9/11 or the recent Mumbai attacks, nor should we. But instead of being vengeful, we should unite. Nothing will change without someone's initiative. Start with yourself. Simply meet someone who is unlike you. Invite them to dinner and ask them about their beliefs and aspirations. You may be surprised as to how much you may have in common. As John Dickenson wrote in the Liberty Song: "By uniting we stand; by dividing, we fall!" As a nation of 300 million and counting, I say we keep standing.

Robert Dozortsev is a freshman accounting and marketing student. You may e-mail him at

rdozor1@pride.hofstra.edu.

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