By Ray Hanania
Patrick Quinn has been touted often as a “friend” of the Arab American community in Illinois.
As a governor, elected in 2009 to succeed his former running mate who was sent to jail, Rod Blagojevich, Quinn romanced the Arab community leading them to believe that in exchange for their support they would be rewarded with involvement in state government.
After all, Arab Americans are taxpayers in Illinois. They vote. They participate in the electoral process and share public concerns on every issue from education to jobs.
Yet in his final hour as governor, as he surrendered the office to Bruce Rauner, who soundly defeated Quinn and won the November General Election, Quinn chose to turn his back on Arab Americans filling 102 vacancies on the state’s long list of boards and commissions including several that directly impact Arab and Muslim concerns.
On Monday, Jan. 12, just before Rauner was sworn in as governor, Quinn submitted 102 nominations to fill vacancies on existing commissions, new positions on boards that he created, and expanded positions on some of the boards. Not one of th e102 appointees was Arab American.
There were representatives from the Irish, Italian, Polish, Asian, Hispanic, Jews and African American communities. But Gov. Pat Quinn, the so-called “friend of Arab Americans” didn’t appoint one Arab American.
Appointees included the wives of elected officials, elected officials including mayors, state senators and Chicago aldermen, and even the spouses and children of elected officials. The appointments include Democrats, Republicans and independents. But no Arab Americans.
Illinois has more than 300 boards and commissions with more than 3,000 positions. Most are compensated for their expenses but many, like those on the Illinois Human Rights Commission, which has one Arab member (Nabi Fakroddin) receive salaries and health insurance benefits.
There is an Illinois Holocaust Commission, which is great. But why not a commission that addresses Arab and Muslim concerns just as specifically?
Since 2009, Quinn has appointed nearly 2,500 people to the boards and commissions who serve varying terms of four and six years each, including the 102 appointments he turned in on Monday.
It’s a slap in the face of American Arabs who worked hard not only for Quinn but also for the State of Illinois.
Ironically, many Illinois politicians claim they support Arab Americans and gladly accept their funds and donations. But only a few really have hired or appointed Arab Americans not only to board or commissions, but to government staff positions.
The Better Government Association, which monitors the politics of governments it dislikes and seems to throw softballs at those it does like, didn’t mention this “oversight.” Neither did any of the mainstream news media which often claims that it supports diversity in government and also in their own ranks, which is just not true. There are even fewer Arab Americans working int he mainstream media, in part because they are intentionally discriminated against and excluded because of racist politics and discrimination.
Click here for the complete list of state commissions.
There are several boards and commissions that have a direct impact on Arab American interests, such as the Illinois Human Rights Commission, the Illinois Arts Council, the Illinois Humanities Council, the Children and Family Services Commission, the New Immigrants Commission, and the Racial Profiling Commission.
Imagine, only one Arab on the Illinois Human Rights Commission even though Arabs and Muslims make up more than 50 percent of all the acts of racism and discrimination that takes place in Illinois and this country, driven by the continuing violence in the Middle East that has nothing to do with American Arabs but for which American Arabs are often forced to share or accept blame.
The truth is that under former Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois was a “No Arab” state. He took our support. He took our donations. He took our awards. But Quinn also took the Arab Americans for a ride.
Some might argue that we should be happy with what little we have, and to shut up. Others will say that the appointments are useless because they have nothing to do with the Middle East conflict. That last one is ironic because the fact is many Arabs are left off of government appointments specifically because government officials and politicians don’t want to have anything to do with the Arab community because of the Middle East violence and the often heated, emotional debate.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and managing editor of The Arab Daily News. Reach him at email@example.com.)