History of the Middle Eastern people in Metro Detroit
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|Ethnicity in Metro Detroit|
In 2004 Metro Detroit had one of the largest settlements of Middle Eastern people, including Arabs and Chaldeans, in the United States. As of 2007 about 300,000 people in Southeastern Michigan trace their descent from the Middle East. Dearborn has a sizeable Arab community, with many Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac, and Lebanese who immigrated for jobs in the auto industry in the 1920s along with more recent Yemenis and Iraqis. In 2010 four Metro Detroit counties had at least 200,000 people of Middle Eastern origin. Bobby Ghosh of TIME. said that some estimates give much larger numbers. From 1990 to 2000 the percentage of people speaking Arabic in the home increased by 90% in the Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties region, with a 106% increase in Wayne County, a 99.5% increase in Macomb County, and a 41% increase in Oakland County.
From 1990 to 2000 Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties had an increase of 16,632 people who were born in Iraq. The publication "Arab, Chaldean, and Middle Eastern Children and Families in the Tri-County Area" of the From a Child's Perspective: Detroit Metropolitan Census 2000 Fact Sheets Series states that "Arab and Chaldean representation cannot be determined" in that figure. During the same period there was an increase of 7,229 people born in Lebanon. The Iraqi community in Metro Detroit supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
- 1 Arab Americans and Arabs
- 2 Chaldean Americans and Chaldeans
- 3 Economy
- 4 Media
- 5 Diplomatic missions
- 6 Notable people
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Notes
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Arab Americans and Arabs
By 2007 Metro Detroit, if defined as Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties had the United States's largest Arab American population, larger than that of Greater Los Angeles if that region was defined as Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura counties. As of that year Arab Americans are one of the largest immigrant groups into Southeastern Michigan. As of 2000 the majority of Metro Detroit's Arabs are Lebanese, Palestinian, Yemeni, and Iraqi.
According to Jen’nan Ghazal Read of the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2000, in the Wayne-Oakland-Macomb-Washtenaw region there were 96,363 persons of Arab ancestry. As of 2000 there were 92,122 people of Arab ancestry in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, making up 79.2% of Michigan's people of Arab ancestry. According to Read, within the Wayne-Oakland-Macomb-Washtenaw region there were 131,650 persons of Arab ancestry in 2004. The largest number of Arab Americans in the Metro Detroit area live in Wayne County. As of 2004 religions among Arab Americans in Detroit include Christian and Muslim faiths, with Christian varieties including Maronite, Melkite, Greek Orthodox, and Syrian Orthodox beliefs. The Sunni and Shia beliefs are present in Metro Detroit. Jordanians and Palestinians in Metro Detroit include believers of Sunni, Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Orthodox beliefs. Yemeni people include believers of the Shafi'i Sunni Muslim school of thought and the Zaidiyyah Shia Muslim school of thought. As of 2004 most recent Arab immigrants to Metro Detroit are Muslim. A 2007 Wayne University study said that the Metro Detroit Arab American community produced $7.7 billion annually in earnings and salaries. Annually these businesses produced $500 million in taxes to the state.
As of 2004 Arabs stated that they wish to come to Detroit to unify their families, escape from conflicts in the Middle East, and improve their economic standing. As of 2000, victims of population displacement, economic hardship, and political oppression included Palestinians, Yemenis, and Iraqi Catholics, and refugees from war included Shia from Iraq and Lebanon. Andrew Shryock and Nabeel Abraham, authors of "On Margins and Mainstreams", wrote that "When asked to explain why so many Arabs have migrated to Detroit, most people in the community will mention the automobile industry. As a kind of historical shorthand, this answer is certainly the best."
History of the Arabs and Arab Americans
Arriving in the early 1870s, the first Middle Eastern settlers in the Detroit area were Lebanese people. Most of them were Christians, including Maronites, Melkites, and Eastern Orthodox. Some immigrants were Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims. Some Druze also immigrated. A February 6, 1900 article in the Detroit Free Press stated that "Detroit's Colony of Syrians" included 75-100 people, mostly Lebanese Maronites. The Lebanese worked as peddlers and shopkeepers. Henry Ford's factories had 555 Syrian employees, including many recently-arrived Muslims, by 1916. 9,000 Arabic-speakers were among the residents of Detroit in 1930. Of them, 6,000 were Syrians. The remainder included Iraqi Chaldeans, Yemenis, and Palestinians. Immigrants from the Levant were originally labeled as being from the Ottoman Province of Syria. After 1920 the Ottoman Empire collapsed and European colonial administrators divided the areas in the Levant into Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria. Therefore immigrants into the Detroit began to be classified as Lebanese, Palestinians, and Syrians.
Immigration from Iraq started in the beginning of the 20th Century and immigration from Yemen and the Arabian peninsula began in the early 20th Century. A peak immigration of Iraqis occurred from 1927 to 1950 and a peak immigration of Yemenis and those form the Peninsula occurred from 1912 to 1925. Of those three groups, in 1951 most of them lived together in a section of Dearborn. Around 1951 there were about 50,000 people in Detroit who had descent from Lebanon and Syria. Around the same year there were about 4,000 to 5,000 persons in Detroit and Dearborn who had origins from the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Yemen, and other Middle Eastern countries. Sally Howell, author of "Competing for Muslims: New Strategies for Urban Renewal in Detroit", wrote that Yemeni people had a presence in the area since the late 1960s. Arab immigrants continued traveling to Detroit even after the automobile industry decline of the 1970s.
From 2001 to 2011 the number of members of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce increased from 300 to 1500.
Chaldean Americans and Chaldeans
By 2004 the Chaldean community in Metro Detroit was the largest Chaldean diaspora community in the world. Many Chaldeans work as businesspersons, grocers, owners of liquor stores, and professionals.
As of 2007 there were 32,322 Chaldean persons in the Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, and Washtenaw four-county region of Michigan. According to the definition of "Arab American" used by the researcher John Zogby, the Chaldeans make up 25% of the Arab Americans in the four county region. The publication "Arab, Chaldean, and Middle Eastern Children and Families in the Tri-County Area" of the From a Child's Perspective: Detroit Metropolitan Census 2000 Fact Sheets Series states that "Many Chaldeans believe they have a unique ethnic identity other than Arab and wish not to be considered part of the Arab population." Because the U.S. Census as of 2000 does not distinguish Arab from Chaldean, Chaldean leaders use church memberships to determine the numbers of Chaldeans. As of 2004 the Chaldeans in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties make up 94% of the Chaldeans in the State of Michigan.
History of the Chaldean Americans and Chaldeans
Many of the Chaldeans in Metro Detroit trace their origins to Tel Keppe (Tel Kaif), Iraq. The first Chaldeans arrived in the early 1900s, taking jobs in the automobile industry. In 1953 Faisal II of Iraq visited Detroit. At that time there were 300 Chaldean families in Detroit.
The majority of the Chaldean population as it was in 2011 settled in Metro Detroit in the late 1960s. The Chaldeans settled the area because of job availability in the automobile industry, the presence of a Lebanese Maronite community that the Chaldeans worshiped with and could relate to, and a pre-existing Chaldean community in nearby Windsor, Ontario. By and large Chaldeans initially worked in small family-owned stores. The groups first arrived in Detroit decades before 1990 and started grocery stores and small shops. As time passed, more and more Chaldeans moved to Detroit and found jobs at the existing Chaldean stores operated by their relatives. The stores became larger, becoming large convenience stores. Once the socioeconomic standing of Chaldean groups improved, the group members moved to the suburbs. During the first wave they settled Oak Park and Southfield. During the second wave they moved to Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Farmington Hills, and West Bloomfield Township.
Around 1979, after Jacob Yasso, the reverend of the Sacred Heart Chaldean Church (Aramaic: ܥܕܬܐ ܕܠܒܗ ܕܡܪܢ ܕܟܠܕܝ̈ܐ ʿēttāʾ d-lebbēh d-māran d-ḵaldāyēʾ), congratulated Saddam Hussein on becoming the President of Iraq, Saddam gave $250,000 to the Sacred Heart Chaldean Church. In 1980 Saddam gave Yasso $200,000 after Yasso told Saddam his church had $170,000 in debts. WDIV-TV (Channel 4) wrote that the funds "reportedly helped build" the Chaldean Center of America, a building on Seven Mile Road adjacent to the church. The building houses offices of the church, an English-language school, and a Chaldean cultural museum. In honor of Saddam's efforts, Yasso presented Saddam with the "Key to the city" procured by Mayor of Detroit Coleman Young. Officials from the U.S. State Department stated that, at the time Saddam was giving funds to Chaldean and Assyrian churches and organizations in the United States, with $1.7 million given to Chaldean churches and organizations in Detroit. Yasmeen S. Hanoosh, the author of The Politics of Minority Chaldeans Between Iraq and America, wrote that the giveways were called donations but were interpreted as bribes. State Department officials also stated that the Iraqi government was establishing spy networks in Chaldean communities at that time. Reports from U.S., Assyrian, and Chaldean media stated that in the period around 1979-1980 the Iraqi government attempted to Arabize Chaldeans in the United States through liaisons in churches by either bribing or threatening and attempting to improve its image.
As of 1990, there were about 50,000 to 60,000 Chaldeans in the metropolitan area. Chaldeans moved to Southfield and West Bloomfield in the 1990s. From 1990 to 2000 the population of Chaldeans increased in Oakland County by 10,903, in Macomb County by 7,579, and in Wayne County by 219. Macomb County had the largest percentage increase, at 426.5%. By the 2000s Chaldeans began moving to Macomb County including Shelby Township, Sterling Heights, and Warren. In 2002 officials from Chaldean churches estimated that 4,200 Chaldeans live in those cities.
By 2004 the Chaldean Cultural Center (Aramaic: ܩܢܛܪܘܢ ܝܪܬܘܬܢܝܐ ܟܠܕܝܐ qenṭrōn yārtūṯānāyāʾ kaldāyāʾ), the United States's largest Chaldean cultural center, was located in West Bloomfield Township. That year, a new Chaldean church was being built in Shelby Township. As of 2011 many Chaldeans are involved in the merchant trade. St. George Chaldean Church, the first Chaldean church in Macomb County, was scheduled for a possible completion in 2004 and had a cost of $5 million. It is on a 9-acre (3.6 ha) site along Dequindre north of Hall Road.
Geography of the Chaldean Americans and Chaldeans
|This section requires expansion. (February 2014)|
As of 2004, of the Chaldeans in the tri-county area, 58% resided in Oakland County. As of 2000 2,629 Chaldeans resided in Wayne County.
Areas with Chaldean residents as of 2001 include Chaldean Town in Detroit, Southfield, Oak Park, Troy, and West Bloomfield Township. As of 2007 Chaldean residents of Chaldean Town, Detroit tend to be low income elderly people and recent immigrants. Chaldean immigrants, once they gain financial well-being, move to suburbs in Metro Detroit, such as Oak Park, Southfield, Troy, and West Bloomfield. The Chaldean Federation of America, an umbrella organization for most area Chaldean groups, had its offices in Southfield. As of that year, the largest Chaldean church in terms of the number of congregants resided in Southfield. The city also had the area's sole Chaldean retirement home, the Chaldean social club Southfield Manor, and a popular Chaldean restaurant named La Fendi.
Economy of the Chaldean Americans and Chaldeans
The Chaldeans own almost all of Detroit's grocery stores, and the Chaldeans traditionally worked in groceries. Most of the customers of these stores are African-Americans. There has been resentment against Chaldean businesses because, as family-owned operations many do not hire black people, and black people perceive that overcharging occurs at the stores. According to the Associated Food Dealers of Michigan (AFD), larger Chaldean stores have black employees as well as Chaldean employees. Natalie Jill Smith, author of "Ethnicity, Reciprocity, Reputation and Punishment: An Ethnoexperimental Study of Cooperation among the Chaldeans and Hmong of Detroit (Michigan)", stated that she "met few grocers who employed Blacks" and that employees unrelated to the owning family are more likely to be Chaldean or non-Chaldean Whites. Violence has occurred at the stores, and business owners have installed bulletproof glass and obtained firearms to protect themselves. As of 2001, several Chaldean business employees and owners die in violent incidents.
In 1962, 120 grocery stores were operated by Chaldeans, and over half of Chaldean households were supported by proceeds from the grocery business. Many White business owners left Detroit after the 1967 Detroit riot, so Chaldeans took over their businesses. In 1972, there were 278 grocery stores in Detroit owned by Chaldeans. In the mid-1990s, Chaldeans owned 1,500 grocery stores in Detroit. As of circa 2014, of the 84 supermarkets in Detroit, 75 are owned by Chaldeans.
Natalie Jill Smith stated that by 2001 younger Chaldeans are starting professional careers and attending universities, and therefore are not necessarily entering the family businesses.
Culture of the Chaldean Americans and Chaldeans
Natalie Jill Smith wrote that family ties are important even to younger Chaldeans who are more Americanized.
Institutions of the Chaldean Americans and Chaldeans
The Chaldean Federation of America (CFA) oversees several Detroit-area Chaldean clubs while the Chaldean-Iraqi Association of Michigan (CIAM) oversees the Shenandoah Country Club and Southfield Manor, two Chaldean social clubs. The Chaldeans have a group participation rate above the American average.
The Community Education Center, a government-funded center owned by Chaldeans, is located on Woodward Avenue in Chaldean Town, near Seven Mile. Asaad Yousif Kalasho founded the center. The teachers and most of the students are Chaldean. It provides free education.
One group, Chaldean Americans Reaching and Encouraging (CARE), takes efforts to improve the Chaldean community such as doing food drives. As of 2001 most of the members are in their early 20s.
As of 2000 most Arab immigrants enter the service economy or work in small, family-operated stores. In Metro Detroit, in 1994 there were over 5,000 Arab-owned businesses.
The "Arab American Economic Contribution Study: Gauging the economic contributions that persons of Arab ancestry have on Southeast Michigan’s Economy" of 2007 wrote that Arab Americans are over-represented in food services industry, accommodations, and other services such as repair services and personal services. These industries pay less than other industries. The report stated that Arab Americans held about 47,924 to 58,515 jobs in Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties. It also concluded that between 99,494 and 141,541 jobs in the four county region are a part of employment associated with Arab American economic activity, making up 4.0 to 5.7% of the jobs in that region.
The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce stated in 2012 that over 200 Chaldean business owners in Metro Detroit were murdered from the 1970s to 2012. The president of the chamber of commerce and the Chaldean Community Foundation, Martin Manna, stated that year, "We've seen acceleration, unfortunately, (with) four incidents in just a year." The executive director of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, Fay Beydoun, stated that year that "We don’t have an exact number" of the Arab businesspeople who were murdered "but we are aware of many from our community who have been killed."
- Demographics of Metro Detroit
- Arab American
- Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Americans
- Iraqi diaspora
- Refugees of Iraq
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