January 31, 2005

Arab Like Me?

Razib at the invaluable Gene Expression** takes an up-close and very personal look at "Arab looks" in White or not?

Now, there is selection biasing here. Many Egyptians, Gulf Arabs and Yemenis are quite clearly non-white. My point is that there is a non-trivial overlap between the subsets of the human race termed "white" and "Arab". I would have thought this was quite obvious to those who keep track of the War on Terror, that the enemy aren't just a bunch of brown fundamentalists.

There is a personal aspect to this for me. As someone who every now and then is called a "sand nigger," and is assumed to be Arab, I would like it known by many that I don't really look like any Arab I've met. I doubt any Arab with skin as brown as mine would have my features or straight hair (the dark skin of Arabs of my color usually comes from African ancestry, so they usually have curlier hair and different features). Additionally, the skin tone of many Arabs and their features make them look like dark whites. Frankly, some "white Arabs" look like some Ashkenazi Jews. Most of the people who call me "sand nigger" or told me I looked like Saddam Hussein during Gulf War I aren't really the types who are into analytic discussion, but if they were, I might have tried to point out to them that if you did some cladistics (either genetic markers or phenotype), Levantine Arabs generally cluster closer to Europeans than they do to Asian Indians.

There are many people who don't get this. Some of them are on the Left, and they want to portray Iraqis and Palestinians as oppressed brown folk. Some Iraqis are quite brown. But some of them are also rather white. As for Palestinians, as Natalie Portman pointed out in a letter to the Harvard Crimson in response to a writer who attempted to foist a white/non-white paradigm on to the Israeli-Arab conflict, there is a substantial amount of overlap physically between Jews and Arabs, especially Oriental/Mizrachi Jews and Arabs, at least for the purposes of a white/non-white dichotomy (not to mention that the "blackest" people in Israel are likely to be the large community of Ethiopian Beta Israel). This can be illustrated by a personal anecdote a close friend of mine told me about his Arab cousin in Israel who is quite fair, Russian immigrants often sought him out on the street and begin speaking to him in Russian.

**Take the time to scroll Gene Expression's long list of links in the sidebar. An impressive and useful collection. Posted by Vanderleun at January 31, 2005 10:34 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

i am from yemen and i don't think if you looked like saddam hussien that you have african features. now sudanese they are pretty much african and i think they are not ethnically arab.

Posted by: sami ala-alawi at August 31, 2005 8:28 PM

I think you are an idiot. I bet you're hispanic aren't you? i think you are because only hispanics would say that. you obviosly haven't been to the middle east. the arabs you see that are white in the united states have alot of white blood and tha's why they look white. Hispanics are of white origin(like us), or european. Some hispanics are dak and that's because they are part american indian, who were pretty dark. Have you ever looked at the ancient pantings of ancient egypt? If you will someday, you'll see alot of native middle easterns who are black and have straight hair. Middle easterns are brown/black skinned people. Some of the are light because of either slavery or the ivasion of europeans. the reason indians have really small white or light people because they weren't invaded like middle easterns. I beg you to read about the middle east.

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