Take On Hate: “The Power of Change is Driven by Us”

On Monday, the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) launched their long-awaited Take On Hate campaign, which is aimed at addressing the pervasive prejudice and discrimination faced by Arab and Muslim Americans. Numerous organizations, including SAALT, supported the campaign’s official launch at the National Press Club in DC.

After opening remarks from Nadia Tonova, Executive Director of NNAAC, civil rights allies spoke about the patterns of discrimination across communities and the importance of this campaign’s goal to create real, long-term change. take on hateMee Moua, Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), reminded the audience of the importance of changing the narrative for all communities. “We need to change the conversation around Arab Americans from villains to everyday heroes,” she said, recalling the common theme that all communities of color have faced at some point in time. Hilary Shelton, Washington Bureau Director and Senior Vice President for Advocacy of the NAACP, connected this campaign to the civil rights movements in the 1960s and the need for collaboration between all communities of color. Deepa Iyer, current Strategic Advisor and former Executive Director of SAALT, described the South Asian and Arab communities as sister communities based on their similar experiences with post-9/11 backlash and discrimination. Iyer asserted that the current hate committed against both groups has developed into a way of life that allows for such actions and instills fear in our communities. She continued the thoughts of Moua and Shelton with an emphasis on coalition-building and collaboration: “We can use Take On Hate to help us talk about hate in all forms. The power of change is driven by us.”

Take on Hate is a much needed reminder that we do have the power to instill change. In the constant and overwhelming face of prejudice and discrimination against people of color, it is crucial that our voices are heard and uplifted to drive forward change. Whether it was Fred Korematsu with the support of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in challenging the US government’s policy of internment during World War II, or Jose Antonio Vargas speaking out on behalf of undocumented immigrants throughout the US, we must play an active role in changing the dialogue and reactions of our society around those that are “othered,” so that society may finally begin to understand that we are Americans, we are human, and we all deserve dignity and respect. Skin color, religion, race, ethnicity, national origin, class, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other “identifiers” do not define us as worthy of anything less.

This nationwide campaign will begin in four cities this year – Chicago, Detroit, New York, and San Francisco, and will gradually grow as it is mobilizes support in different areas of the country. Through public education, social media, and coalition building, Arab and Muslim Americans will ensure their voices are heard in order to confront discrimination and advocate for policy change that benefits numerous communities.  Once we all commit to “Take On Hate,” maybe we can begin to move towards a country where all people are treated equally.

In support of the Take On Hate campaign, SAALT and NNAAC hosted a briefing this morning at the Capitol on racial and religious profiling as it impacts Arab and South Asian communities. Join the Take On Hate campaign today!

Victoria Meaney
Program/Policy Fellow
South Asian Americans Leading Together