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Posted on Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 8:23 a.m.

"Reel Bad Arabs" and "Journey into America" documentaries look at Arab and Arab American stereotypes

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

My last year in college, I saw the documentary film, “Slaying the Dragon,” about stereotyped portrayals of Asian American women in the media, and I cried all the way home. So that is how people see me. So that is why they sometimes act so strangely around me. So that is where much of it originates. Seeing the history of how Asian American women have been portrayed in the media, one clip after another, from Anna Mae Wong to Connie Chung, let me see what I look like through other eyes. That was how even I had been brainwashed by Hollywood and the media.

How else can we feel so certain that we know all about a people when in real life we have met very few of "those people"? How else can we know what people really think of us (since most nice people do not intentionally make racist or stereotyped comments to one's face)?

This Friday, March 19, 7:00pm, University of Michigan Rackham Auditorium, we have an opportunity to see the documentary film, “Reel Bad Arabs—How Hollywood Vilifies a People.” The filmmaker, media critic Dr. Jack Shaheen, will also be speaking on shattering stereotypes of Arabs and Arab Americans.

This event is presented by Arab Student Association, The Mixed Initiative, and UUAP Cultural Connections, and it is sponsored by the Michigan Student Assembly, MESA, and the U of M American Culture Department.

On Saturday, March 20, 2:00-3:45 pm, Ann Arbor District Library Downtown branch, we have an opportunity to see America through other eyes in another documentary film, Journey into America, made by Professor Akbar Ahmed, a respected professor of contemporary Islam, author, and former ambassador, who sets off on a cross-country tour with a team of enthusiastic young Americans to learn about Islam in America after 9/11, but who learns a lot more about America and American identity in the process.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for, and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at