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Mediating Prejudice: Using Advertisements to Counter Anti-Muslim and Other Stereotypes



Created by:
Sharon Musher
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

TAH Teachers
Greater Egg Harbor Regional School District

Theme:
9/11 and its Aftermath

Grade Level:
6 to 8

Introduction:

Fear and anxiety permeated the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11. Because the terrorists trained and planned the attack while living in the U.S., people began to look suspiciously at their neighbors and especially to eye warily those using public transportation. Arab and Muslim-Americans, but also immigrants, people of color, and those wearing religious garb, bore the brunt of the racial profiling embraced both by individuals and the Bush administration's anti-terror campaign. To counter such biases, not-for-profit and government organizations used advertisements to redefine how people both domestically and abroad imagined Arab and Muslim-Americans.

In this lesson, students will analyze an interview with a Muslim-American conducted as part of Columbia University's 9/11 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project to understand the hostility that the Arab- and Muslim-American community faced in the aftermath of the attacks. They will then analyze print and video public service announcements created by not-for-profits in an effort to lessen such racial prejudices. As a follow-up exercise, students will identify stereotypes that exist in their own communities and create advertisements to counter them. This activity will heighten students' sensitivity to prejudices in the recent past and in their current environments. It will also encourage them to use the media to counter such messages, while considering the limits of advertising in combating stereotypes.



Historical Context

In the aftermath of 9/11, many Americans believed that freedom and individual liberties needed to take a backseat to national security and personal safety. The Bush administration's anti-terror campaign, and particularly the Patriot Act of 2001, furthered this notion by broadening the surveillance powers of law enforcement and migration authorities and increasing their abilities to detain and deport potential terrorists. The Bush administration openly relied on racial profiling of those appearing to be Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim when identifying such suspects. Prejudice against Arab and Muslim Americans had become so widespread by 2002 that a national survey conducted by Cornell University found that half of all Americans saw Muslims as violent, dangerous, and fanatical and 44 percent supported some kind of restriction on Arab and Muslim American civil liberties, including registering ones place of residence with the government and racial profiling.

Many people compared the general attitude in the U.S. toward Arab and Muslim-Americans post-9/11 to the U.S.'s response to Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. Some, including a Bush appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Peter Kirsanow, even threatened interning Arab-Americans if another terrorist attack occurred in the U.S. Although both the Commission and the Bush administration refuted this position, Kirsanow's statement illustrated the depth of anti-Arab sentiment.

To counter such discrimination, several not-for-profit organizations, including the Ad Council, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), initiated advertising campaigns to celebrate the nation's diversity. The Ad Council's I Am an American public service announcement challenged the idea that all Americans are white, although it did not specifically represent religious minorities. After 9/11, and again after the first and second anniversary of the attack, its message of American diversity was repeatedly broadcast on mainstream channels and met with acclaim from the media and Americans all over the world. Other messages, such as CAIR's We're American Muslims campaign, were markedly less well circulated because of financial constraints. CAIR's public service announcements drew specific attention to American Muslims and highlighted those wearing religious garb. CAIR's ads suggested that regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity, all Americans share a core set of values and principles including a love of freedom, a belief in equality, and respect for diversity. Economic pressures limited the distribution of these ads, which were printed a total of six times in the New York Times in addition to their display in local newspapers and on CAIR's website.

These public service announcements circulated new positive images of Arab and Muslim Americans. Although they did not stop hate crimes against Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians or radically alter the opinions held by most Americans, they did help to create a new, more inclusive and pluralistic language regarding American identity.



Themes:

racial discrimination, civil rights, social justice, production of knowledge



Goals and Objectives:

Following this activity, students will be able to:

1. Describe the rise of anti-Arab, Muslim, and immigrant sentiment after 9/11

2. Understand the ways in which not-for-profit organizations used the media to counter such discrimination

3. Comprehend the continued existence of prejudices in their own communities and what they can do to resist them.

4. Compare the strengths and weaknesses of advertising in creating cultural change.



Standards:

STANDARD 6.1.4. D.16 (History, Culture, and Perspectives): Describe how stereotyping and prejudice can lead to conflict, using examples from the past and present.

STANDARD 6.1.12.D.14.e (History, Culture, and Perspectives) Evaluate the role of religion on cultural and social mores, public opinion, and political decisions.



Equipment, materials and other technology needed:

A computer with Internet access

Appendix A: excerpt of Salmaan Jaffery interviewed by Gerry Albarelli, NY, NY, 12/3/01 (Oral History), September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project, Columbia University Oral History Collection, New York, pp. 6-8.

Appendix B: I am American, televised commercial created by the Ad Council, 2001 to present (60 seconds), available online at: http://www.adcouncil.org/default.aspx?id=141.

Appendices C-E: I am Muslim American, printed public service announcements created by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), 2002, available in Evelyn Alsultany, Selling American Diversity and Muslim American Identity through Nonprofit Advertising Post-9/11, American Quarterly, 59, no. 3 (Sept. 2007): 593-622.

Appendix F: Discussion Questions


Details of Activity

PART I: The Rise of Anti-Arab and Muslim Sentiment (15 min.)

Explain to the class that Al Qaeda terrorists' efforts to destroy the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House succeeded in terrifying many Americans. All of a sudden, Americans looked differently at their neighbors as well as those sitting next to them on planes and trains. They especially feared and were hostile toward Arab and Muslim Americans, but since they weren't sure what Arab and Muslim Americans looked like, they also targeted immigrants, people of color, and those wearing religious garb.

To get a sense of how this attitude affected minorities in the U.S., have students go around the room, each reading a paragraph of an excerpt from Gerry Albarelli's 2001 interview with Salmaan Jaffery, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in New York who is also a moderate Muslim of Middle Eastern descent (Appendix A). In this interview, collected as part of the 9/11 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project by Columbia University's Oral History Office, Jaffery describes the type of discrimination he and other Americans of Middle Eastern background faced in the aftermath of 9/11.

Ask the students the following questions, and write their answers on the board:

a. How did 9/11 change Jaffery's life?

b. Does anything in this interview surprise you?

c. What does Jaffery mean when he says "Muslims have lost a P.R. [public relations] battle?"

d. What might Arab Americans do to change American perspectives toward them?

PART II: Using the Media to Combat Racism (10 min.)

Tell the students that they are now going to look at a public relations campaign led by two not-for-profit groups, the Ad Council and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [write each of these names on the board] to counter anti-Arab and Muslim sentiment. The Ad Council's campaign was called I am an American and CAIR's was named I am an American Muslim. Write both of these on the board. Get students to brainstorm responses to these titles, their similarities and differences, and what they might expect to see in advertisements created for each campaign.

Tell students that for the remainder of the class they are going to analyze ads created by these companies and use their insights into the techniques used to change the ways that Americans thought about Muslim and other minorities in America. Tell them that they should pay extra attention to the strategies used in these ads because as a follow-up exercise they will be creating advertisements to address prejudices and stereotypes in their own communities. Watch the Ad Council's video I Am an American (Appendix B). Ask students the following and write their answers on the board:

a. What is the ad's central message?

b. What audience do you think the ad targets and why?

c. How does the ad represent minorities in the U.S.? For example, which minorities does it include and exclude? Do the pictured people wear obvious religious symbols, engage in religious behaviors, or interact with visibly religious institutions?

d. According to this ad, what does it mean to be American? What do Americans do (i.e. how do they serve the nation thru military service, working for the government, girl scouts, heterosexual marriage, being parents, etc.)? Does the ad include overt signs of American patriotism (flags, military uniforms, etc.)?

e. How persuasive is the ad? Do you think it might change the mind of someone who was prejudiced against Muslim Americans?

Part III: Analyzing CAIR's Anti-Muslim Advertising Campaign (20 min.)

Divide the class into groups and give them one of three advertisements created by CAIR (Appendices C thru E). Have each group discuss the comparative strategies and techniques used by CAIR's campaign (See Appendix F for questions to guide group discussions).

Have groups report their conclusions asking different groups to answer different questions.

WRAP-UP DISCUSSION (5 min.)

How successful do you think the media (the newspaper, TV news, radio, advertisements, photographs, political cartoons etc) are in changing people's opinions? What other ways are there to persuade people to think differently (education, changes in political policies, etc.)? How does an advertising campaign compare to these other strategies?



Practice and Reinforcement

Think of a group in your community that has faced stereotypes or prejudice (this could be racial, ethnic, religious, but could also be a formal or informal school group -- kids in the chorus, kids who are overweight, kids who don't wear designer clothing etc.). Using the techniques you learned in class, create an ad to counter stereotypes about this group. Write a short explanation of your ad describing the audience you sought to target and the approaches you used to try to persuade them. How successful do you think your ad would be at changing viewers' attitudes toward the group you selected? How powerful is the media in shaping public perceptions? How else might you want to combat the prejudice and stereotyping that your ad addressed?



References:

Evelyn Alsultany, Selling American Diversity and Muslim American Identity through Nonprofit Advertising Post-9/11, American Quarterly, 59, no. 3 (Sept. 2007): 593-622.

I am American, televised commercial created by the Ad Council, 2001 to present (60 seconds), available online at: http://www.adcouncil.org/default.aspx?id=141.

I am Muslim American, printed public service announcement created by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), 2002, available in Evelyn Alsultany, Selling American Diversity and Muslim American Identity through Nonprofit Advertising Post-9/11, American Quarterly, 59, no. 3 (Sept. 2007): 593-622.

Mary Marshall Clark, The September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project: A First Report, American Journal of History 89, no. 2, History and September 11: A Special Issue (Sep., 2002): 569-79.Salmaan Jaffery interviewed by Gerry Albarelli, NY, NY, 12/3/01 (Oral History), September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project, Columbia University Oral History Collection, New York, pp. 6-8. A longer version of this interview is available online through the Teaching American History Program: One Nation, Many Americans at http://www.sriettc.org/tah/Summer_Institute_2010_Docs/Salmaan%20Jaffery,%20September%2011,%202001%20Oral%20History%20and%20Memory%20Project,%20Columbia%20University.pdf

Sanctioned Bias: Racial Profiling since 9/11 (ACLU Report, February 2004): 1-24.




Supplementary Materials
APPENDIASalmaanJafferyInterview.pdf

APPENDIBIamanAmericanCommercial.pdf

APPENDICECAIRAdvertisements.pdf

APPENDIFDiscussionQuestions.pdf

 
 
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