Posted by on March 13, 2015 in Blog
Two weeks ago, the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) appointed Arab American Laura Blundy to its Florida State Advisory Committee. Laura will be the only Arab American and American Muslim serving on the Florida committee. The USCCR is an incredibly important body, one that is required to fill its advisory committees with a balanced, diverse representation of political and philosophical viewpoints; Laura’s appointment is a huge step forward in giving official capacity to the Arab and American Muslim communities. USCCR is charged with “studying issues relating to discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin or in the administration of justice.” Growing up as a daughter of a Palestinian Muslim father and an American Christian mother, Blundy was instilled with a passion for inclusion and justice, education and civic duty at a young age. She also is no stranger to the danger and sting of discrimination.
Blundy first remembers encountering discrimination in her ninth grade world history class. As part of the regular school curriculum, the film “Not Without My Daughter” was shown. Critics have pointed out that the movie is racist and incredibly one sided. After finishing the movie, Blundy recalls feeling that the film was not representative of Islam or of Arab and Iranian culture, and she decided to take action. Along with her parents, she reached out to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) to see if they could eliminate the film from the school curriculum. At the end of the meeting with her school’s administrators, the officials sided with Blundy and ADC; the film would no longer be used as part of the ninth grade world history curriculum. Speaking of the success, she commented, “It felt good to stand up for myself, my heritage and my religion.” At 14 years old, Blundy knew she wanted to stand up for civil rights and to move toward a career in law.
Blundy’s father was adamant about his children pursuing higher education, a directive Laura carried out very successfully. Blundy graduated cum laude from the University of Florida with a Bright Futures Scholarship, a B.A. in Political Science, a minor in Mass Communication, and certificate in International Relations. She went on to earn her J.D. as well as a Certificate in International Law from the College of Law at Loyola University New Orleans. For the past 3 years, Blundy has been in private practice, where she particularly takes great pride in helping people stay in their homes. Blundy also has faced discrimination in the legal field, which she says has improved in recent years but is still ingrained in the legal profession. Blundy has been able to combat the sexism that she faces because of her family’s, and particularly her father’s, emphasis on education which has equipped her with confidence and acumen to fight back. She reflects that “as an Arab American woman, that encouragement and support made a difference and gave me confidence.”
In addition to valuing higher education, Laura’s family also held civic involvement as a high priority. Their love for politics and civic engagement runs deep in the family and it stems from admiration for the United States and the fact that they want to continue to make our country fair and just. Blundy’s mother and grandmother were both very politically active. Her grandmother was a poll-watcher for decades and Laura remembers receiving a call from her grandmother on her 18th birthday to make sure that she registered to vote. While Blundy was in law school, she came to a turning point: she saw some people in political office who she thought were not making the right decisions for their constituents. Blundy vowed to do everything that she could to get more involved in politics. She wanted to make sure that young people got involved, registered to vote, and understood the issues. She also continued to believe that that she had a role to play in positively promoting Arab American issues that needed to be addressed, not only locally, but also on a national level. Blundy was involved with get out the vote efforts and held positions for the Orange County Democrats as well as the Florida Young Democrats.
Blundy’s appointment to the United States Commission on Civil Rights is a unique opportunity, not only because she is the only Arab and Muslim American, but the fact that she can pass on her passion and commitment to justice and civil rights to her daughter. Blundy has taken on the responsibility to be the eyes and ears on the ground for the state of Florida, to investigate and research civil rights issues and then to document their findings. Reflecting on the appointment, she said, “I feel truly honored. It’s going to be great to be on the ground to institute changes that can really help people. ”