The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is the largest grassroots Arab-American civil rights organization in the country — and it’s in crisis.
Since the brilliant leadership of Hala Maksoud, the grassroots, advocacy nature of the organization deteriorated. This began with the failed presidency of Ziad Asali, which I witnessed firsthand as an intern in 2002. Asali’s legacy as President is undoubtedly defined by his divisive, incompetent leadership that ruptured a once united institution built by Maksoud. He contested the grassroots quality of ADC, favoring a top-down organization that resulted in an abundance of internal conflict. His departure led to the arrival of former Congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar. Like Asali, Oakar has been a liability, her command characterized by distant mismanagement and a refusal to rebuild the grassroots.
With the grassroots character of ADC having been dismissed, we are now left with a total lack of genuine representation and organization in the Arab-American community. This has allowed groups that work directly against the interests of the community (such as the American Task Force on Palestine) to fill the void.
Oakar’s mismanagement materialized Friday with mass layoffs (made public on several Facebook accounts). Sadly, the partially dysfunctional organization has recognized its own state of crisis but has tried to fix it from the bottom, and not where the problem really lies: at the top.
After Friday’s layoffs, there remains a skeleton of a legal team, no lobbying function, and what is sure to be a continuation of ADC’s floundering ways that is increasingly leaving it detached from Arab America. Unfortunately, the mishandling of ADC will continue until Mary Rose Oakar (who commutes from Ohio) steps down as President, and the mantle is given to someone who realizes that power comes from the bottom-up. Isn’t the lesson of Obama’s campaign just that? There is no political efficacy without a base, and ADC’s board and Presidents have let the base dwindle.
But all is not lost, as there are still many good employees at ADC: its communications director, some organizers, and others offer a good infrastructure and credibility. What’s missing is that leader who – like Maksoud – can effectively bring the community together in order to rebuild ADC as a grassroots, advocacy group that confronts the continued oppression of Arabs in America, an oppression only made clearer by the anti-Arab bashing so prominent in the current elections.Filed Under arab-americans, civil rights, Fadi