US president Joe Biden. AP
The White House released a proclamation on Friday by President Biden making April 2023 Arab American Heritage month where all Americans were called upon "to learn more about the history, culture, and achievements of Arab Americans and to observe this month with appropriate programmes and activities."
The proclamation described the history of Arab Americans in the country as being one of unity where hard work and diversity led this community to many great accomplishments.
Invoking the image of the American Dream, the proclamation invites all Americans to ensure that all people of various ethnicities have equal opportunities within American society.
The proclamation celebrates the enormous contributions of Arab Americans to the United States, maintaining that "the achievements of Arab Americans are reflected in the arts and sciences; in businesses and faith communities; in classrooms and hospitals; and in police stations, firehouses, and every branch of the military. "
The proclamation cites the large number of Arab Americans working in the Biden administration as proof that this administration is egalitarian and representative of all Americans.
While acknowledging the unjust and discriminatory treatment that Arab Americans are sometimes subject to in the United States, the proclamation rejects previous legislation and presidential actions which have unequally harmed historically underserved communities.
The proclamation states that "hate must have no safe harbor in this country."
Appealing to the idea of equality – which lies at the heart of the declaration of independence – the proclamation insists that the United States is the only nation that was built on an idea, namely that of equality.
It asserts that celebrating Arab American Heritage Month is an opportunity for the United States to honor America’s fundamental values and “advance equity and opportunity for all people.”
The proclamation concludes by affirming that diversity is America’s “greatest strength”.
Back in 2022, Congress, the U.S. Department of State, and the governors of 45 states all issued proclamations honouring the celebration of Arab Americans and their heritage.
There has been a total of 144 proclamations, statements, and resolutions presented in different states.
Likewise, the legislatures of Illinois, Oregon, Virginia, and Indiana have all enacted permanent legislation declaring April to be National Arab American Heritage Month.
Previously, April was the National Arab American Heritage Month initiated by the Arab America Foundation in 2017. Cultural and educational institutions, municipalities, state legislatures, government employees, and non-profit organisations held special events and issued proclamations around the nation in recognition of the Arab American community's rich history and various contributions to society.
Only a few states such as Michigan, California, Illinois, DC, and Texas recognised the concept of the National Arab American Heritage Month when it was first introduced. Therefore, the celebrations were inconsistent, and the states at the time did not coordinate with each other.
This proclamation by President Biden marks the historic adoption of April as Arab American Heritage Month on a national level. It is, therefore, a culmination of all these previous efforts.