Little Arabia is the model of recognition of ethnic communities | Opinion

Radwan Soueidan (left) and Ali Karin (right) work for Al-Amir Bakery, a family business, on Brookhurst Street in Anaheim. (Chloe Hong/Daily Titan)

The City of Anaheim has officially designated a section of Brookhurst Street between West Broadway and Ball Road as “Little Arabia”. According to Voice of OC, this is the first designated Arab-American district in the United States. This designation is a huge accomplishment for the residents, merchants and members of the organization who wanted to see this dream come true.

While this can be an incredible step towards inclusion, this designation should not be an isolated event. When done well, these historical and cultural designations can greatly benefit and inspire other ethnic enclaves.

Brian Su-Jen Chung, assistant professor of Asian American studies at Cal State Fullerton, said historical designations can provide an important symbolic function for communities seeking that designation.

Chung also said communities that have not felt recognized as part of their city’s history or included in their city’s narrative may feel more included. A city designating a particular community can help revise or generate new ideas about what the city should look like in the future and create new conversations about the city’s identity.

Formal recognition of ethnic enclaves is not only important for the native Americans who live here: it can also be a sign of support for their country of origin.

“It’s really significant considering that many of our fellow citizens in the Middle East are oppressed,” said Sababa Falafel Shop worker Sabreen Othman.

There are also economic benefits, as Koftegi owner Wasim Bakyur explained to Little Arabia. People who want to try Mediterranean cuisine will now have an idea of ​​where to go, the same way he goes to Korea Town when he wants Korean food.

An official designation means people know exactly where to go when they want to try Middle Eastern cuisine or browse Middle Eastern-owned stores. He also points out that there is a community that people from the Middle East can visit in order to connect with their cultures.

Despite the advantages of designations, there are also some disadvantages to consider.

The designation of Little Arabia is not perfect. Radwan Soueidan, an employee of Al Amir Bakery, said the designation should have included more businesses in the surrounding area.

Additionally, Chung mentioned how gentrification can be a concern, as historic designations can reflect the interests of those outside of communities.

According to KCET, downtown Santa Ana, which has always been home to many working-class Latinos and immigrants, has undergone redevelopment that has reduced population density and increased the white population.

Downtown Santa Ana is an example where the stakeholders in the redevelopment were real estate developers, property developers and city officials who did not necessarily have ties to the residents and business owners of that area, which which is not a real representation. Instead, it is a group of profiteers speaking on behalf of a community of which they are not a part.

If a community wants to create an ethnic enclave, they need to bring as many people into the conversation as possible. Although historical designations are not in themselves a method of gentrification, they can be subject to abuse if not managed properly.

One way to try to avoid gentrification is to use a democratic approach that includes everyone’s voices and needs, especially when historic designations are meant to honor a community. Community members should have a say in the decision-making process of the economic, cultural or symbolic representation of their community and how their city should be recognized.

Communities wishing to work towards recognition of their ethnic enclaves or general presence in the community should follow the example of Little Arabia: show up at city council meetings, gather support and organize within the community, and do not accept “no”. for an answer.

The benefits of proper designation are clear and do not appear to be lost on residents or council members. We can only hope that other ethnic enclaves will take inspiration from this historic achievement and fight to do the same for their own communities.

Nollyanne Delacruz contributed to this story.