cover image Whitewashed: America’s Invisible Middle Eastern Minority

Whitewashed: America’s Invisible Middle Eastern Minority

John Tehranian, . . New York Univ., $35 (246pp) ISBN 978-0-8147-8306-1

With a pastiche of personal experience, media analysis and legal theory, law professor Tehranian makes a case for “government recognition of Middle Eastern descent as a distinct racial category.” He argues that Middle Eastern whiteness is a “bizarre racial fiction,” for citizens of Middle Eastern descent “do not enjoy the benefits of white privilege,” but “are denied the fruits of remedial action.” Tehranian traces the acquisition of whiteness by successive waves of immigrants (Irish, Italian, Greek, Slavs, Armenians) through litigation where “assimilatory behavior” or “white performance” provides entry. But Middle Easterners hit a bump in the road, amplified in post-9/11 America: “selective racialization”—the famous or successful are perceived as white, while the infamous “are racialized as Middle Eastern.” Tehranian addresses the impact of the “war on terror” on the lives and liberties of Middle Eastern Americans as their “public image transitioned from (possibly white) assimilable ethnics to the quintessential Other.” His proposals for reform range from the ameliorative (“reform media portrayals”) to the legislative (outlaw racial profiling). Tehranian’s book covers fresh legal and social territory; while occasionally repetitious, it is consistently informative and casts off the cloak of invisibility. (Dec.)