Is Arab term ‘boater’ offensive or affectionate?

The Arab American News in Dearborn, Michigan, has been publishing occasional articles that break down stereotypes and practices that explain the ways of Arab Americans.

The latest is about the term “boaters,” which refers to recent immigrants, whether they came by boat or, more likely, by air. The article gets at the difference between new arrivals and Arab Americans who were born in the United States or who have been here a while.

In his article about the uses of the term boaters, Ali Harb wrote that he has been labeled with it himself. He wrote that it can mean, “a wide range of qualities in a person, from good cooking to bad driving. It describes a way of speech, a sense of fashion, a way of life.”

“Every time I was referred to as a ‘boater,’ it felt like an attempt to nullify my struggle, experience and name and replace them with a tag that dubbed me as inferior to those hurling the insult.”
—Ali Harb

Harb’s main source was Matthew Stiffler, a professor of Arab American Studeis at the University of Michigan and a researcher at the Arab American National Museum. Stiffler was also one of the expert editors on the guide 100 Questions and Answers about Arab Americans.

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