How Does It Feel To Be A 'Problem?'

Arab flag

Two flags wave at the 2008 Arab Heritage Celebration at Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers, NY. kptyson hide caption

toggle caption kptyson

Yesterday, we marked seven years since Sept. 11, when nearly 3,000 lost their lives to a catastrophe that gripped that nation. It's amazing how one Tuesday morning forever changed the way many of us see the world ... and how the world sees many of us.

On yesterday's program, we introduced you to a new book by Moustafa Bayoumi called How Does it Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America. Bayoumi explained the book's effort to spotlight the experiences of seven young Arab-Americans who had a tough time navigating life in a post-Sept. 11 United States, where complicated public perceptions of the attacks gave birth to new brands of stereotypes, fueling widespread discrimination.

Yasmin (we're using her first name only here for sensitive reasons related to the subject matter), is one of the seven young people whose stories Moustafa Bayoumi tells in his book. After recording the TMM conversation you heard yesterday with Bayoumi, Yasmin later talked with us (and now, with you), specifically, about hurdles she faced as an Arab-American youth. She shares wisdom gained from her adversity and, all in all, how it felt to 'be a problem.'

Here's the TMM Web Extra:

The experience of Omar, a young man of blended Latino and Arab heritage, is another one the seven stories written about in Bayoumi's new book. In another TMM Web Extra conversation, Omar tells Michel Martin how his life somehow shifted gears after interning at the New York bureau of Al-Jazeera television, a popular Arabic language news network.

Listen for yourself:



  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/94566416/94546589" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">


If you're Arab-American and can identify with Yasmin or Omar's experiences, or if you're of another ethnic background, and see parallels that can be drawn alongside other forms of discrimination in our nation's not-too-distant past, you're free to blog your thoughts and experiences below ...



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I don't think asking how a Pentacostal views the world is invalid or off limits. I don't want a vice president who believes that muslims are satan's armies and god is guiding our foreign policies.

Sent by Catherine Sengel | 2:34 PM | 9-12-2008

The problem is largely one of the Arab community's own making. What the rest of the world needs to hear is a VERY LOUD repudiation of terrorism in general, and of the 9/11 crimes in particular, by tha Arab-American community and its leaders.

If you listen carefully you can hear pussyfooting.

Sent by True_Liberal | 5:44 PM | 9-12-2008

First of all, I recall many such denunciations on 9/11 and after, from Muslims in the US. But why are Arab-Americans, many of whom have been in this country for generations, required to repudiate the actions of people from other countries against the US? That makes no sense.

Sent by Kim Pearson | 3:27 PM | 9-15-2008

To True Liberal:

All major religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism have tenets that speak to our shared humanity. Members from these sub-groups of humans make good citizens and contribute to our global society. These groups also contain terrorists. There are terrorists in every sub-group of humans on the plant including race, gender and political group. I consider myself as a member of the human race and a contributor to our common purpose. Therefore, I do not think one group is responsible for "reining in" their bad seeds. There needs to be a collective denouncement of all evil deeds. There is only one side. If our religion teaches us that killing is a sin then our role is only to contain the evil -- not destroy it. Please take some advice from a liberal minded, Black, Christian -get to know some people who truly believe in and practice Islam. Many of them have and do denounce the INDIVIDUALS who cloak themselves in their faith while carrying out the most heinous crimes. I have not heard a collective voice from Christians (not just Catholics) denouncing, condemning and jailing paid predators who rape our children in our sacred places. We have been locked in a struggle between good and evil since time began. Please remember evil has many faces and we are responsible for unmasking it.

Sent by Stefani Zinerman | 9:11 AM | 9-17-2008

Thank you so much for presenting this side of the topic. The more educated we all are on all religions, the more we can focus on us all being more similar than different and we'll feel compassionate towards each other. Again thanks! Great show!

Sent by rummana ali-zaman | 1:30 PM | 9-19-2008


NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from