What If America Looked Like Dearborn, Michigan?

What would it look like if the rest of America followed Dearborn's example? What if, instead of trying to make Dearborn like the rest of America, the rest of America looked like Dearborn?
02/26/2016 04:55 pm ET Updated Feb 26, 2017
Volunteers Zahraa Debaja, center, and Zeinab Makki, right, prepare meals from food provided by the Yasmeen Bakery in Dearborn
Volunteers Zahraa Debaja, center, and Zeinab Makki, right, prepare meals from food provided by the Yasmeen Bakery in Dearborn, Mich., Friday, April 25, 2014. The reach of one of the nation’s few charitable organizations exclusively providing halal food to the poor could be greatly expanded under the new federal provision. Zaman International Inc. is based in Dearborn, which has a large Muslim population has provided about 250 tons of hot and dry food since 2010 and serves about 150 families with a monthly food box and vouchers. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

In this small town of a hundred-thousand residents, folks are used to being accused of living under Sharia law, of living in a place called everything from "Little Baghdad" to "Dearbornistan." This is all thanks to the Fox News filter put on a city that embraces its Arab-American and Muslim minority population.

But what would it look like if the rest of America followed Dearborn's example? What if, instead of trying to make Dearborn like the rest of America, the rest of America looked like Dearborn?

First off, the education system in America wouldn't be broken. Dearborn invests heavily in education, consistently raising the funds necessary to have a nationwide-leading schools.

This is especially remarkable because Dearborn Public Schools are one of the most socioeconomically diverse school districts in Michigan, where the bottom quartile of students, who come from primarily minority backgrounds, wildly outperform national numbers. Fordson High School on Dearborn's east end is consistently praised for beating the odds and sending Dearborn's poorest students off to Yale, Harvard and top schools nationwide in disproportionate numbers.

Oh, and you know how all across America, transportation investments are going down? Not if it were like Dearborn.

Dearborn just recently opened a large new rail and bus transit center. Dearborn's malls and downtown businesses weathered the recession better than other Detroit suburbs because of its embrace of mass transit.

Problems with the Veterans Administration? If America looked a little bit more like Dearborn, that wouldn't be an issue.

Dearborn hosts one of the largest Memorial Day parades in America and proudly has a "Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council" where leaders of local veterans groups come together to set the agenda for veterans across the city. Rather than having a country that ignores its veterans' sacrifices, if America were more like Dearborn, veterans would be actively engaged in deciding policies that impact them.

And Donald Trump? Yeah, that guy wouldn't have any political future here. It's not because Muslim Americans make up a majority voting bloc, either. Arab Americans make up about 44% of Dearborn residents, but make up a smaller proportion of the active voters - and many Arab Americans are not Muslim, a common misconception. In reality, it's because the broad-majority of Dearborn residents are committed to equality. Oh, and they're Democrats, through-and-through.

When politicians try to make Islamophobic statements, residents come together and protest. When unarmed African Americans are shot by a police officer, protesters aren't stifled, but instead invited into the Chief of Police's office and their concerns are actually listened to. Long before LGBT rights became an "in" issue in America, Dearborn passed housing and employment protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. Just think of how far ahead we'd be as a country if we were following Dearborn's lead!

And yes, if America looked like Dearborn, we'd have a lot more love and spiritual energy. Time and again, religious leaders from all over Metro Detroit meet in Dearborn to pray and praise together. The Dearborn Area Interfaith Council regularly hosts gatherings where Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and Jews gather to celebrate the many masks of God.

Wouldn't you love to see an America where Muslims, Jews and Christians prayed together? Well, you can find it in Dearborn.

I've often said it: When the rest of the world looks like Dearborn, they'll call it "peace." And hey - maybe the world's not ready for it yet. But instead of asking Dearborn residents to be more like the rest of America, maybe America should consider being more like us.