As cen­sus ap­proaches, many Arab Amer­i­cans feel left out — again

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News - BY JOSEPH GEDEON

Yousuf Ab­delfa­tah al­ready knows the an­swer he’ll give about his race on the 2020 cen­sus ques­tion­naire will be wrong.

He’s an Arab Amer­i­can, but the only race op­tions on the cen­sus are white, black, Asian and cat­e­gories for Amer­i­can In­dian, Alaska Na­tive, Na­tive Hawaiian Pa­cific Is­lan­der. Re­luc­tantly, Ab­delfa­tah will mark white.

“If you look at me, my skin is darker. I’m vis­i­bly not white,” said the 22year-old re­search as­sis­tant. “I’ve lived my life as a per­son of color, but I’m cat­e­go­rized as white.”

With the cen­sus go­ing to printing presses later this year, Arab Amer­i­cans are again feel­ing left out of a process that helps draw the na­tion’s po­lit­i­cal map and pro­vide an ac­cu­rate pop­u­la­tion count, which in turn can de­ter­mine how much fed­eral fund­ing mi­nor­ity groups get for govern­ment pro­grams and med­i­cal re­search.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions have long pushed for a sep­a­rate Mid­dle Eastern or North African cat­e­gory.

“The cen­sus is in our Con­sti­tu­tion, and it’s meant to count ev­ery­one,” said Maya Berry, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Arab Amer­i­can In­sti­tu­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to cen­sus es­ti­mates, the Arab Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion is mea­sured at just over 2 mil­lion peo­ple. The Arab Amer­i­can In­sti­tute, how­ever, says that num­ber is closer to 3.6 mil­lion.

Un­der­re­port­ing from the cen­sus has come amid a rapid growth of the com­mu­nity, which ad­vo­cates say has in­creased by more than 72% be­tween 2000 and 2010.

Pop­u­la­tion data is a key fac­tor in po­lit­i­cal re­dis­trict­ing, re­search­ing hu­man rights, mon­i­tor­ing govern­ment pro­grams and an­tidis­crim­i­na­tion laws, mean­ing Arab Amer­i­cans are sub­ject to a lack of rep­re­sen­ta­tion and health and so­cial ser­vices.

“Right now we have that ‘white’ des­ig­na­tion on pa­per but we don’t ben­e­fit from it,” said ac­tivist and or­ga­nizer Naia Al-An­bar. “The truth is we aren’t ever go­ing to be white in their eyes and we will still be dis­crim­i­nated against.”

Al-An­bar, 24, has a Saudi Ara­bian fa­ther and would mark “other” on the cen­sus if a more pre­cise cat­e­gory isn’t of­fered.

The Arab Amer­i­can In­sti­tute con­sid­ers 22 coun­tries to con­sist of Arabs, span­ning Africa and Asia, mean­ing Arab Amer­i­cans can fall into sev­eral cat­e­gories pro­vided in the sur­vey.

This cre­ates an odd de­ci­sion dur­ing the cen­sus for Arab Amer­i­cans. Does some­one from Egypt, for ex­am­ple, check the African Amer­i­can box be­cause their home coun­try is in Africa? Would some­one from Iraq be ex­pected to mark that they are Asian?

“As an Egyp­tian, I con­sid­ered mark­ing ‘African Amer­i­can’ but I’m not black,” 24-year-old Nashville res­i­dent Dina El-Ri­fai said. “How­ever, mark­ing ‘white’ doesn’t re­flect who I am or the di­ver­sity I bring.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.