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Assimilating to a White Identity: The Case of Arab Americans

by Kristine J. Ajrouch, Amaney Jamal
International Migration Review ()

Abstract

Racial identity is one of the primary means by which immigrants assimilate to the United States. Drawing from the tenets of segmented assimilation, this study examines how the ethnic traits of immigrant status, national origin, religious affiliation, and Arab Americaness contribute to the announcement of a white racial identity using a regionally representative sample of Arab Americans. Results illustrate that those who were Lebanese/Syrian or Christian, and those who felt that the term “Arab American” does not describe them, were more likely to identify as white. In addition, among those who affirmed that the pan-ethnic term “Arab American” does describe them, results illustrated that strongly held feelings about being Arab American and associated actions were also linked with a higher likelihood of identifying as white. Findings point to different patterns of assimilation among Arab Americans. Some segments of Arab Americans appear to report both strong ethnic and white identities, while others report a strong white identity, yet distance themselves from the pan-ethnic “Arab American” label.

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