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“What Are You?” Racial Ambiguity, Belonging, and Well-being Among Arab American Women

Abdel-Salam, Laila

Even within counseling psychology’s multicultural literature, attention to individuals of Arab descent remains narrow (Awad, 2010; Abdel-Salam, 2019). Despite counseling psychologists’ goals regarding multiculturally proficiency, the dearth of systematic empirical research on the counseling of Arab Americans remains conspicuous. The present study attempts to fill this gap by exploring the impact of racial ambiguity and legal invisibility on Arab Americans’ sense of belonging and well-being. This exploratory consensual qualitative research (CQR) investigation analyzed interview data from 13 non-veiled Arab American women. The interview probed their reactions to Arab Americans’ legal invisibility in the US, queried how they believed White people versus people of color racially perceived them, and examined their subsequent emotional responses and coping strategies. The study’s results revealed participants’ feelings of invisibility, invalidation, and hurt when they were not recognized as a person of color (PoC) and brought the participants’ perpetual experience of exclusion to the forefront. The results not only have implications for professional practice and education but also for policy. Specifically, this study lends support to Arab and Middle Eastern North African (MENA) advocacy efforts for census recognition, as this acknowledgment of the Arab/MENA community would foster a sense of belonging not only among other PoC but also within US society as a whole.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Smith, Laura
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 15, 2021