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Program Probes Afro-Arab Disparity

Dr. Vibert White presented his lecture, “The Black Presence in the Middle East: A Historical and Contemporary Analysis.”

Students and faculty members gathered in the commons to attend Dr. Vibert White’s lecture, “The Black Presence in the Middle East: A Historical and Contemporary Analysis.” The event was sponsored by the Black Cultural Center and Frances and Louise Hutchins Center for International Education. Dr. White, a noted historian and Director of Public History from the University of Central Florida, addressed the growing concern surrounding the current institutional disparity that exists in the Afro-Arabic community living in Middle East. He also provided background regarding the historic Diaspora that exists within this region and chronicled how the many diverse ethnic migrations contributed to today’s socio-political hierarchy and the establishment of cultural castes.

Dr. White, who has traveled extensively to the Middle East and contributed to numerous national and international academic journals, is not only a bestselling author of such books as Inside the Nation of Islam: A Historical Testimony of a Black Muslim and his most recent work Black Militancy and Islamic Extremist, but is also a acts as a researcher and has repeatedly participated as a member of various state and federal task forces.

According to Dr. White, when most people of African heritage talk about going to Africa, they envision this journey will be similar to a pilgrimage where they can go home and touch base with the soil and the place that they originated from. But after being in North Africa for a short while, White realized that although Libya was in North Africa, culturally it was more Arab or Islamic, not the Africa that he was thinking of. He wanted to find out more information to better understand how migration patterns and the politics within this region impacted and transformed the socio-economic dynamics of the African Presence in the Middle East.

White revealed what he discovered, after talking with many of the African students who traveled from all over the continent to attend school in Tripoli. "They enjoyed being there. They had learned a tremendous amount of information from their professors. But one thing they constantly told me after asking them: I asked, ‘Are there many professors who are dark skinned or black African? Are there many people who are dark skinned who are involved in higher affairs? Are there many people who are involved in decision making in various parts of the infrastructure of the country? And after asking and quizzing them the answer was always, no’. “

Dr White’s lecture illustrated how in many cultures, not just in the Western hemisphere, dark skinned people of African heritage often do not always possess the same economic and political advantages as those of their cultural counterparts. Even though they represent significant portion of the Middle Eastern populous many Afro-Arabs are often segregated to communities and occupations within this system of inequity for a very long time. White’s inquiry into the occupational disparity that exists within the Middle Eastern community has unearthed a historic issue that for many centuries has yet to be addressed. This serves as a lesson as in any community before can ever be addressed, we must educate and create awareness of the issue first.

“You have to invite more colleges and universities and institutions. You have to invite more people like yourself, who know about some of these things who will talk about these things. Because in my estimation, it’s one thing to talk about one side and that’s okay but you have to talk about the total side. It’s just basic awareness. Your professors know. You have good professors here …about the plight of blacks in these other areas. They’ll talk about it. They’ll write about it. Some of them may argue with me, but the issue is just to put it on the table.”

For more information on Dr. White and his work, please contact Tashia Bradley with the Black Cultural Center or Richard CaHill of the Frances and Louise Hutchins Center for International Education. This was a Middle Eastern Focused Global Passport Event.

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