Katnani: An Arab-American Makes Peace With Her Palestinian Heritage
And Champions Understanding
May 6, 2004 --
affairs major Samar Katnani has seen the power of Sustained Dialogue
change her life. Katnani, who is part
Lebanese, part Palestinian,
grew up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Having internalized the negative
stereotypes of Palestinians, she “grew up reluctant to tell
anyone the truth — I was Arab,” she wrote in an article
for the Sustained Dialogue magazine, Stereo Type.
Sept. 11 bombings forced her to come to terms with her identity. “I
was shattered. I would say it was the most difficult time in my
life.” To heal emotionally, she joined the Arab Student Organization,
and she got heavily involved in Sustained Dialogue, becoming one
of its first moderators and vice-chairwomen.
also needed my classes and professors to complete my understanding
of being Middle Eastern, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and
eventually, race and power relations. Extracurricular activities provided personal
experience and human experiential knowledge. Classes provided
and theoretical grounding,” she said.
decided to launch a pilot program for better Jewish-Arab communication.
Those first meetings, before they used the Sustained
Dialogue process, soon degenerated into political arguments,
with the students yelling at each other, she recalled.
was frustrating to see such poor relations between Jewish and
Arab students. I thought we should be able to come together
and talk about this rationally and personally,” she said.
the Sustained Dialogue process, however, turned things around.
She credits the
program with opening the
lines of communication
and helping the students build healthy and respectful
sees educational inequality and the curriculum as the root of
most of the problems
in America, she said.
for America next year in New York City to better understand
that inequality and its socioeconomic context.
fact that minorities have different, and essentially negative,
experiences [compared to] whites, and for the most part have
poorer education is something
that should be addressed much earlier,” she said.
in Jefferson’s idea that education should prepare individuals
to become active citizens, Katnani plans to go to law school eventually
and work on changing the education system.
Anne Bromley, (434) 924-6861