Discrimination and Government Action

Lesson #3 looks at the range of bias and discrimination directed at Middle Eastern Americans after the attacks on the World Trade Center. Students will examine questions asked in the 2010 U.S. Census that relate to ethnicity and race. They will decide if the questions are broad enough to include Middle Eastern American identity. They will read about the personal experiences of Middle Eastern Americans who confronted hostility from private individuals and the government.


  • Students will be able to apply critical thinking skills when deciding if the questions on ethnicity in the 2010 Census provide an opportunity for Middle Eastern Americans to express their identity.
  • Students will exhibit the research skills necessary to create an annotated list of agencies that help Middle Eastern Americans who are victims of hate crimes and/or discrimination.
  • Students will identify the parts of the Constitution that may have been violated by the government after 9/11.
  • Students will be able to write a persuasive essay about whether or not parts of the Constitution should be suspended in times of emergency.



National Standards for Civics and Government
9-12 Content Standards From the Center for Civic Education


B. What are the distinctive characteristics of American society?

      Diversity in American society: Students should be able to evaluate, take and defend positions on issues regarding diversity in American life.


A. What is citizenship?

Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding the criteria used for naturalization.

B. What are the rights of citizens?

Personal rights: Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding personal rights.

California Standards for Principals of American Democracy
12.3 Students evaluate and take and defend positions on what the fundamental values and principles of civil society are (i.e., the autonomous sphere of voluntary personal, social, and economic relations that are not part of government), their interdependence, and the meaning and importance of those values and principles for a free society.

  • Explain how civil society provides opportunities for individuals to associate for social, cultural, religious, economic, and political purposes.
  • Explain how civil society makes it possible for people, individually or in association with others, to bring their influence to bear on government in ways other than voting and elections.


12.10 Students formulate questions about and defend their analyses of tensions within our constitutional democracy and the importance of maintaining a balance between the following concepts: majority rule and individual rights; liberty and equality; state and national authority in a federal system; civil disobedience and the rule of law; freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial; the relationship of religion and government.

California Language Arts Standards

Research and Technology
 1.4 Plan and conduct multiple-step information searches by using computer networks and modems. 1.5 Achieve an effective balance between researched information and original ideas.

1.1 Demonstrate an understanding of the elements of discourse (e.g., purpose, speaker, audience, form) when completing narrative, expository, persuasive, or descriptive writing assignments


  • Vandalism: Destroying property, e.g. spay painting, breaking windows, damaging cars.
  • Assault: Threatening to harm someone.
  • Battery: Touching someone against their will.
  • Hate Crime: A crime such as assault, battery, and vandalism that is committed   against a person because of his or her race, ethnic group, sex, sexual orientation, or disability.  
  • Scapegoat: A person who gets blamed for acts he or she did not commit.
  • Stereotyping: Portraying a group of people in an inaccurate and unfavorable light.
  • Deported: Forced to return to the country from which a person immigrated.
  • Due Process: A chance to have a fair hearing.
  • Detainee: A person held in custody or imprisoned.
  • Habeas Corpus: The right of a person to force the government to go to court and justify why that person is being held in detention.
  • Visa: Official permission to come to the United States.  Sometimes the visa only allows a person to be in the country for a limited amount of time.  This would apply to students and tourists.



PDF  Handout #1  PDF  Handout #2  PDF  Handout #3  PDF  Handout #4
PDF  Handout #5  PDF  Handout #6

  •  Hate Crimes, Discrimination and Government Action.
  • Ask the students to read Handout #1.
  • As a quick writing activity, have the students answer the following question:

Why are people who commit hate crimes given a longer sentence than those who commit assault or battery for reasons that are not based on bias and/or discrimination?
Possible answers:  Hate crimes are directed at a group rather than an individual.  Hate crimes create tensions within society.

  • Ask the students to name a group in American history, besides Middle Easterners, that have experienced scapegoating.

Possible Answers: African Americans, Asian, Jews, Irish, Hispanics.
D.  Have the students make a list of words that come to mind when they hear the term Arab Muslim or Middle Eastern American.  Next to each word the students should write the words Truth or Stereotype.

  • In a class discussion, call on students to give examples of stereotypes of Arabs, Muslims or Middle Eastern Americans.  Ask where these stereotypes come from.
  •  Census Questions
    • Ask the students to fill in the questions in the U.S. Census form in Handout #2 about themselves. 
    • When the students are finished, have a discussion about the following question:
  • Were there enough choices to cover your ethnicity?  Why or why not?
  • Why does the census ask questions about ethnicity or race?
  • How can the question be improved?


  • Discrimination
    • Have the students read Handout #3, Everyone Has a Story.
    • Ask students to write a paragraph about a time that felt they were victims of discrimination.
    • Conduct a discussion with the class on these questions:
  • What actions could Middle Eastern Americans take after incidents discrimination happened to them?

Possible Answers: File a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department, file a complaint with one’s state’s Department of Justice, contact the police, seek help from a private agency such as the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

  • Did any of these acts of discrimination listed in Handout #3 violate the Constitution?  Which parts of the Constitution are involved?

Possible Answers: The federal raid against Life for Relief and Development may have violated fourth amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizures, and the retention of the funds seized may violated the fifth amendment guarantee of due process.  Since the other acts were committed by private individuals or companies, they would not be violations of the Constitution.  However, they would violate federal and state Civil Rights Acts.

    • Assign a research project in which students make an annotated list of governmental agencies that Middle Eastern Americans or other ethnic groups could turn to if they are victims of hate crimes and/or discrimination.

Possible approach: Students should first look up federal agencies that deal with cases of discrimination in housing, employment, education, and public facilities such as restaurants and hotels.  Then they should see what offices of the state, county, and city deal with these types of discrimination.

  • The PATRIOT Act
  • Call on students to read aloud parts of Handout # 4, Section 412 of the PATRIOT Act. Explain the terminology they may not understand.
  • Using Handout # 4, have students fill out the chart in Handout # 5, The PATRIOT Act and the Constitution.
  • Discuss the answers they wrote on the chart.  See Handout #6.
  • Ask the students to write an essay on the following question:  In times of emergency, should parts of the Bill of Rights be suspended?





♦ Retrospectives

♦ Celebrating Ethnicity

The Last Harvest
The Last Harvest: The Yemenis of the San Joaquin

Voices from the Heartland
Voices From The heartland: Young Yemeni Americans Speak

Middle Eastern American Youth