The Arab American Cultural Center at UIC working closely with students and student organizations at UIC and UIUC generated a MENA Category campaign during Spring 2021 documenting students stories and experiences and educating our campuses. According to the US Census, people from the Middle East and North African region are counted as White. There have been campaigns to advocate for changing this categorization and recognizing our community as a minority group in demographic data for years. Look through the resources below to understand better or to help you advocate for the creation of such a category at UIC and beyond.
While the MENA category is seen by many as problematic given the particular colonial history of the term Middle East, it continues to be the most widely spread term to refer to the region and thus the choice for us to use it here. SWANA (or Southwest Asia and North Africa) is a new term that has been gaining traction particularly within some academic and activist circles, while some criticize it for the overemphasis on its geographical base.
Advocate for OMB to Adopt a MENA Category Heading link
The Office of Management and Budget of the federal government has proposed a long overdue revision of Statistical Policy Directive Number 15 (SPD 15). SPD 15 was first issued in 1977 and has since served as a crucial element in the continued oversight and administration of policies and programs that address racial and ethnic disparities. SPD 15 has origins in the Civil Rights Movement and a desire to ensure equitable distribution of resources in our country. The OMB has vital responsibility to distribute federal funds and coordinate statistical policies that make civil rights and racial equity possible.
The period of public comment, where our community and allies can provide comments on the proposed changes to the OMB office, is now open until April 12th.
To Submit Public Comment, use this LINK.
For Instructions on how to submit a public comment directly, check out this guide by NNAAC
To submit a public comment through the National Network for Arab American Communities portal: https://bit.ly/supportMENA
To Understand the issues more, check out more resources below and check this policy brief by NNAAC.
For coverage of OMB decision to review and possibly add other categories, read this coverage
Making the Case and Understanding the Issues Heading link
If you are unable to access these resources through your university library, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to share them with you.
- Beyond Erasure and Profiling: Cultivating Strong and Vibrant Arab American Communities in Chicagoland, IRRPP report, Feb, 2023.
- Arab American Research Gaps and a Survey of its Solutions by Kaitlyn Akel. Harvard Medical School Primary Care Review, Jan 25, 2022.
- Chicagoland Study Shows Why we Need a MENA Category in the U.S. Census, by Nadine Naber. The Chicago Reporter, January 17, 2022.
- Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum’s Policy Recommendations: Health Equity Cannot be Achieved Without Complete and Transparent Data Collection and the Disaggregation of Data (Feb 2021); READ HERE
- Censusless: Arab/Muslim Interpolation into Whiteness and the War on Terror by Loubna Qutami (2020); https://doi.org/10.1353/jaas.2020.0017
- Arab American Institute Amicus brief to Supreme Court on the adding MENA category to census (2019); https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/18/18-966/94850/20190401151445423_AAI%20Amicus%20Brief.pdf
- Fluid Terror Threat: A Genealogy of the Racialization of Arab, Muslim, and South Asian by Louise Cainkar (2018); https://doi.org/10.17953/aj.44.1.27-59
- Boxed In: Reclassification of Arab Americans on the U.S. Census as Progress or Peril? by Khaled Beydoun (2016); https://www.luc.edu/media/lucedu/law/students/publications/llj/pdfs/vol47/issue3/Beydoun.pdf
- No Longer Invisible: Arab and Muslim Exclusion After September 11 by Louise Cainkar (2002); https://merip.org/2002/09/no-longer-invisible/
- Becoming “White”: Race, Religion and the Foundations of Syrian/Lebanese Ethnicity in the United States (2001); https://www.jstor.org/stable/27502745
- Ambiguous Insiders: An Investigation of Arab American Invisibility by Nadine Naber (2000); https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/014198700329123?journalCode=rers20
Articles and Opinion Pieces Heading link
- I am Middle Eastern. Not White by Dalia Azim (2021); https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/08/12/i-am-middle-eastern-not-white/
- The Story of Arab and Muslim Students is Often an Untold Story by Larry Ferlazzo (2020); https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-the-story-of-arab-muslim-students-is-often-an-untold-story/2020/10
- The 2020 Census continues the whitewashing of Middle Eastern Americans by Laura Measher (2020); https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/2020-census-continues-whitewashing-middle-eastern-americans-ncna1212051
- White Without Privilege: MENA Underrepresentation in Corporate American by Musa Faidi (2020); https://sites.law.berkeley.edu/sustainability-compliance/white-without-privilege-mena-underrepresentation-in-corporate-america/
- Will you Count? Middle Eastern and North African Americans (MENA) in the 2020 Census by the Leadership Conference Education Fund; http://www.georgetownpoverty.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Fact-Sheet-MENA-HTC.pdf
- I am a brown Arab-American, and the US census refuses to recognize me by Moustafa Bayoumi (2019); https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/14/arab-american-census-america-racism
- Are Arabs White? by Khaled Beydoun (2015); https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/7/16/are-arabs-white
- Michigan in Color: On Being an Exception by Rima Fadlallah (2014); https://www.michigandaily.com/uncategorized/michigan-color-being-exception/
Specific to Campuses in the US Heading link
- University Needs to do Better When Identifying Race by Nadine Naber (2021); https://www.chicagoreporter.com/university-needs-to-do-better-when-identifying-race/
- We are Still Here: the Continued Need for SWANA recognition at the University of Michigan by Layaill Mustafa, Eman Naga, Grace Garmo, and Yasmine Slimani (2021); https://thedailytexan.com/2018/03/30/census-and-college-apps-misrepresent-middle-eastern-and-north-african-people/
- Ibrahim: Northwestern renders Middle Eastern and North African students Invisible by Sara Ibrahim (2021); https://dailynorthwestern.com/2021/05/13/opinion/ibrahim-northwestern-renders-middle-eastern-and-north-african-students-invisible/
- Census and College apps misrepresent Middle Eastern and North African People by Laura Doan (2018); https://thedailytexan.com/2018/03/30/census-and-college-apps-misrepresent-middle-eastern-and-north-african-people/
- From the Daily: Support #WeExist by the Michigan Daily Editorial Board (2017): https://www.michigandaily.com/editorials/daily-support-weexist-mena/
- Resolution to recognize ME/NA as a racial category passes unanimously by CSG (2017); https://www.michigandaily.com/student-government/resolution-recognize-mena-racial-category-passes-unanimously-csg/
Multimedia Resources Heading link
- Video by Al-Jazeera on Are Arabs White? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec7J1yIKVdQ
- Amer Zahr’s Ted Ex Talk: We’re Not White https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMy53GTpJ3k (reflecting on the 2010 census)
- Don’t Erase Me: The Modern Arab American, Jeremiah Stinnett Ted Ex talk at Ohio State University. About being Arab (Lebanese) and relationship to race, are we white or not? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jdeTYJNULg
- “No We’re Not White”, a Long film (45 minutes) by Amer Zahr. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJ08l2mUu-Y