DEARBORN — Arab Americans living outside the eighth largest city in Michigan perceive it in both a somewhat positive and negative light.
Many former Dearborn residents moved to nearby cities like Dearborn Heights, Northville, Bloomfield Hills, Livonia or townships like Canton. Others decided to move out of the state.
When discussing the positives, many agree that the city has wonderful businesses that have flourished over the years. These Arab Americans can’t deny stocking halal meat and other groceries from well-known supermarkets on the weekends, enjoying dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant or attending a relative’s wedding in the city.
And, when it comes to racism or hate, there are very little incidents to worry about since Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the country.
Dearborn Heights councilman and Century 21 real estate agent Dave Abdallah said Arab Americans searching for homes outside of Dearborn usually want to purchase bigger houses.
He explained that businesses have prospered in the city, so owners have the financial means to look for and buy larger homes outside the city.
Dearborn homes lack larger lots, family rooms and attached garages, so that definitely plays a role in their decision to leave the city, Abdallah added. He said that as families grow, more space is essential.
Mustapha, a college student who didn’t want to share his last name, said his family moved to Dearborn Heights because Dearborn has become very crowded.
He said the houses are too close to each other and people in their teens and early 20s have been driving recklessly.
As a young man in his 20s, he sees it firsthand when he visits relatives and friends.
“They don’t follow the rules,” he said. “They’re putting themselves and others in danger.”
Mustapha pointed out that the roads and homes are more developed in Dearborn Heights. He also said there’s more diversity compared to Dearborn, where people mostly interact with Arabs.
A 50-year-old businessman, who’d rather not share his name, has lived in Michigan for 35 years. He graduated from Fordson High School.
He moved to Livonia five years ago with his family.
He said people prefer to move out because of the schools and larger homes found outside Dearborn. He added that factories definitely play a role since they pollute the air in residential neighborhoods.
However, the businessman did have some positive things to say about the city.
“Dearborn is a strategic location on the map, being close to downtown and the airport,” he said. “But a lot of things need to improve like the roads and school system.”
Toledo, Ohio resident Nadia Taha told The AANews she was glad she moved away.
“When I left Dearborn, I cried,” she said. “If someone told me I had to move back now, I would cry— unless it goes back to the way it was before.”
Taha, 40, is a product of Dearborn Public Schools. She described the city now as different than it had been when she’d arrived in 1987.
“People are looking at Dearborn as the Arab territory now and that’s not good,” she said. “When I take my White friends to Dearborn, they actually get scared. They don’t believe they’re in America.”
She said the only positives are the restaurants and shops. Even then, she said she’s been grocery shopping in Dearborn Heights, since a lot of supermarkets and halal meat markets opened up there.
“Dearborn streets and parking lots are bad,” she added. “People drive recklessly. One of my friends doesn’t let her kids visit Dearborn by themselves because of that.”
Taha said there have been so many drug overdose cases and car break-ins, none of which were this prevalent when she lived in Dearborn.
She said it’s not the school system’s fault; it’s the parents’ fault for not paying attention to their kids, for allowing them to drive without supervision and for allowing them to smoke hookah.
Taha said it usually starts with a cigarette or hookah puff and then kids eventually try other stuff.
“The Arab American community think they have it together,” she said. “I just want the community to wake up. I am part of the community and I care about it.”