Monday, March 15, 2010

"Check it Right: You Ain't White"-Arabs in the Census

My sister sent me a link to this a few days ago, and I'm finally getting around to blogging about it. A group is trying to get Arabs in the US not to check "white" as their race in the 2010 census.
    from a blog post by Jillian C. York. A snippet from the blog:

    An awful slogan for an extremely interesting campaign. The “Yalla! Count” campaign, whose slogan is the above, aims to encourage Arabs to write in “Arab” as their race on the upcoming 2010 census instead of checking the “White” box. The campaign picked up traction this week when Newsweek published a feature article referencing the campaign and its background...
It links to a Newsweek article about it.
    Ten years ago, when Sarah Kazem's dad filled out the U.S. Census form for the household, he racially identified his family of Egyptian descent as "white" when he answered the question on race. But this time around, Kazem, a 22-year-old Michigan resident, is going to make sure her dad marks "Some Other Race" and write in "Arab" instead.
    "Why are we marking white when we're Arab?" she asks. But that is how the Census counts Arabs. After 20th-century Syrian immigrants won citizenship as "whites," Uncle Sam applied the label to all Arabs. To change that, a California-based group of Arab-American leaders formed the Arab Complete Count Committee and launched a campaign dubbed "Check It Right, You Ain’t White." The campaign—which has been circulated nationally through the Web—is an attempt to get people of Arab origin to write in their true ancestry... If the campaign is successful, experts say the official Arab-American population could swell from an estimated 1.2 million people to more than 4 million—a leap that could help the group coalesce into a distinct and formidable political block.
    The problem: many Arabs, fearful of terrorism-related witch hunts, are reluctant to fill out the census form at all, much less self-identify unnecessarily as Arabs. "There's fear of profiling, especially heightened after 9/11," says Masry, who is an Irvine, Calif., city planner of Lebanese and Saudi descent. "So what we try to do is educate Arabs that, by law, the information they provide can't be shared." (The Census Act prohibits the disclosure of individually identifiable information.)...
After I read that, it got me to thinking about my children. My teenagers are half Egyptian, my younger one is half Palestinian. Should all from Arab countries just put Arab? What about those who speak Arabic but aren't considered Arab (like Sudan). Maybe they should have a place to check Multi Racial and spaces for someone to put their races. Someone on a message board suggested everyone just put American when were talking about race in general. Obviously 'American' is not a race. But should all Arabs be grouped together?
Then of course there are those other than Arab. Even just among Muslims, what about the Turkish, Persian (from Iran), Kurdish, etc? I don't have to worry about this, since I'm a mixed mutt about-as-light-as-you-can-get American. I think everyone should be able to put down what they feel is their race, whether Arab, Egyptian, Persian, etc. Or maybe they can put an additional question on the census and ask about ethnicity, which is really what the campaign is about.

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Blogger Adventurous Ammena said...

what bothers me is that they deem it race.. when the options are colours.. and what does it have to do with what language you speak? I have to say I do what youre talking about.. Im a known mixed mutt from all parts of the UK and Spain, so in the census I tend to write white british :) I dont feel confident enough in my 'way back' spanish roots to write european ;)

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the 1880 census (I think) and probably others, they used MU (for mulatto) - a mixture of black and white - even just a teeny bit of black.

7:17 PM  

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