As unfortunate as it is, I believe that the majority of Americans are guilty of Orientalism. Orientalism is defined as a way of regarding the Orient. It is a constellation of false assumptions underlying the Western attitude toward the Middle East. The majority has based their entire opinion of the Islamic world off of our media’s biased coverage, and the actions of a handful of Arabic individuals. This aspect of colonialism interests me, because I was unconsciously guilty of this attitude before taking this class or traveling to Morocco to truly experience the Arabic culture. It never occurred to me that I had been generalizing the Arabic culture before these experiences. Although it was in harmless ways, it was still out of ignorance. I thought this region of the world was similar to Aladdin and other movies I had seen, as ridiculous as that sounds. That they were in some ways stagnant and behind modern civilization.
I think a driving factor in Orientalism is fear, unwarranted fear, but fear nonetheless. It is completely ignorant to base your opinion of an entire race or religion off of the actions of a select few. If that is the case, then every race and religion is infinitely guilty of atrocities. It completely baffles me how some individuals never even take the opportunity to truly study this region before establishing their opinion. For example, last semester a ROTC student walked into my classroom and said "Does anyone know why all of the rag heads are out on South Patio?". I immediately let him know how ridiculous that statement was. He continued to attempt to justify his actions by his involvement in the military and stated that he couldn't help but to think of Middle Eastern people in this manner. This completely sickened me! Being involved in the military is absolutely no justification for racism! Just because a handful of Arabic individuals have acted against the U.S. does not mean that all Arabic people have the same ideas or motives. Not to mention this individual has never even been to the Middle East to actually experience the situation. Fear is the ultimate source of ignorance in my opinion. It causes us to act in irrational and ignorant ways.
Another feature of colonialism that I find intriguing is the Mark of the Plural. The colonized is never characterized in an individual manner. He/She is only referred to collectively. “They are this” and “They are all the same”. This interests me, because I feel this is an extremely easy trap to fall into. To an extent, I’m sure we are all guilty of this every day without even realizing. Saying things like, “He’s such a Murphy kid” or “She’s such a greek girl”. At the time, we think it’s harmless, but is it really no big deal? Maybe small slips like these lead to bigger issues.