Don’t call me MENA, call me Arab
President Obama is considering placing an all inclusive category called “MENA” (Middle Eastern and North Africa) on the US Census forms going out soon to identify the nation’s 2020 demographic population, but I think the designation should be sweet and simple “Arab.” I’m not MENA, I am Arab and I am proud.
By Ray Hanania
Columnist with the Arab News, www.ArabNews.com
Although many are hailing Obama’s efforts, placing Arabs in the “MENA” category might actually dilute American Arab empowerment by avoiding the word “Arab.”
We should be called “Arabs” because that is what we are.
Classifying people by race and ethnicity began during the 1960s Civil Rights era and focused mainly on the status of African Americans but by the 1970s was expanded to allow for the US census to provide detailed statistics on up to 29 ethnic and sub-ethnic identities.
America conducts a population census every 10 years. Data from the census is used to ensure that minorities receive their fair share of American society.
The census is used to enforce the Voting Rights Act, and drawing congressional and state legislative district boundaries. It is used in Federal affirmative action and evaluating employment discrimination claims in the private sector. It is used to fight racial discrimination in housing and mortgage lending, and to enforce school desegregation. The census also defines how identified racial and ethnic groups receive Federal grants and small business loans.
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(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. American Palestinian Arab, Hanania writes a weekly column for the Arab News at www.ArabNews.com. He also writes each week for several mainstream American newspapers on American politics and life in Chicagoland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)