Nothing to “cheer” in TV sitcom on “Aliens in America”

Ray Hanania

Posted May 13, 2008      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Nothing to “cheer” in TV sitcom on “Aliens in America”

By Ray Hanania

It tells you how bad the situation is when Arabs and Muslims in America cheer a program that promotes the stereotype that they are “Aliens.” I’m not talking about Martians, aliens from Mars. I am talking about the more fearsome “Aliens,” the ones that come from the non-White world of fear. Apparently, the TV sitcom “Aliens in America” is the best we non-Whites can get in a post-Sept. 11 world dominated by American mainstream confusion, racism and an inability to distinguish between Arabs, Muslims, and non-Arabs.  Muslims argue the show isn’t about Arabs at all, but most Americans don’t know that. I can hear some American Muslims grumbling, “What you mean ‘we’ kemo sabe Hanania?” I’m a Christian Arab constantly asked by mainstream Americans, “Why do your people hate us?”

Which people do you mean? Arabs? Palestinians? Christians? Muslims? Pakistanis? Terrorists?

Many mainstream Americans confuse us all, lumping us together in today’s world of racism and hatred that can’t seem to distinguish any more between the various differences between all of “us.”

It used to be so much easier to hate back in the 1960s when there was only one racism against one target, “Black people.”

Today, there is so much to hate it can be confusing for Americans. Arabs are seen as Muslim. Muslims are seen as Arab. Mainstream Americans often confuse “Pakistanis” with “Palestinians.”

One thing about racism is it doesn’t require you to be smart.

The sitcom “Aliens in America” is funny, for sure. I just don’t like the title, even though I am sure the producers had to call it that to sell it to the American public. Call “us” anything else besides Aliens, and no one would watch.

It’s no different than the similarly misguided effort of the Hollywood film “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” featuring Albert Brooks. The problem with the Brooks movie is that he doesn’t go looking for Comedy in the world where most Muslims live. He goes to India.

People come up to me all the time and ask, “Did you like that Brooks film about looking for humor in the Muslim World. You’re a Muslim, right?”

Sure. All olive skinned people who criticize Israel and question American foreign policy in Iraq, who support the Palestinian cause and who look like a composite drawing of all 19 Sept. 11th terrorist hijackers merged into one obviously must be “Muslim.”

I don’t mind being mistaken for a Muslim. It happens all the time.

That’s what bothers me about the TV Sitcom, “Aliens in America.” It feeds to mistaken stereotypes that Americans naively have about today’s post-Sept. 11th world. They absolutely think we are all the same.

The reality is Arabs and Muslims came to this country along with all of the other “Aliens” in America. We’ve been here since the middle of the 19th Century, at least based on the few recordings that we are aware of.  We served in the military in every major war since. We’re the neighbors most Americans just don’t understand.

There was a Muslim helping Christopher Columbus in the 15th Century aboard the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.  And, many of the slaves brought to America against their will were Muslims.

But that requires too much knowledge. Pakistanis and Palestinians are different? That’s not fair.

How can you hate someone like the “terrorists” if it turns out that they are not one homogenous people, but are diverse and include many nationalities, races, religions and politics?

I want to go back to a more simple era, when everything was Black and White. Simple. One of the most popular shows in America when I was growing up was “All in the Family.”  The show featured a typical mainstream White American who was constantly harping about “Black people.”  In “All in the Family,” instead of emphasizing the differences of Black Americans, it highlighted the ignorance of White racism.

“Aliens in America,” on the other hand, seems to highlight the differences of the Muslim exchange student who lives with a White family in Wisconsin.

You don’t have to go to Wisconsin to encounter racism, stereotypes or ignorance about World politics, people and religion.

Just come to where I live in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago where every effort to build a mosque is denounced fanatically by screaming Americans convinced that doing so will bring Osama Bin Laden to their neighborhoods.

Yea. I can just see Bin Laden sitting in his cave surrounded by his terrorist buddies with a big map of Chicago on the cave wall, asking, as he uses a laser pointer, “Okay. Who among you is responsible for Orland Park? Speak up now.”

No. I don’t think opening a Mosque in Chicago will do anything except maybe help teach Americans that not all Muslims or Arabs or even Christian Arabs lumped in as Muslims, are bad people.

You know how terrible educating Americans about the world can might be, especially if they are forced to open their eyes and their minds to see the truth about American foreign policy.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and radio show talk host based in Chicago.  He can be reached at