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MENA Category

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

Light blue square flier with text in shades of blue and red. A drawing of a stack of ten books in multiple colors is in the middle left of the page. Logos are at the bottom, one includes a silhouette of four individuals with varying skill color, hair color, texture, and covering, and various necklaces.

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:

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

Light beige background with a drawing of an olive tree in the center with a shaded background of the map of North Africa and West Asia in light blue and yellow geometric art shapes. Text is in Brown

If you are unable to access these resources through your university library, email us at and we would be happy to share them with you.

Articles and Opinion Pieces Heading link

Specific to Campuses in the US Heading link

Multimedia Resources Heading link