Arabs, Hispanics seeking better US Census recognition

Arabs, Hispanics seeking better US Census recognition

Aljazeera America

Haya El Nasser, Los Angeles Digital Reporter

 Many community organizations hope for a new Middle East and North Africa category in the next Census.

When Hassan Jaber, a Lebanese-American, fills out his Census questionnaire, the race question gives him pause. White? No. Black? No. Asian? American Indian? Native Hawaiian? No, no, no.

So he checks off the only other option: “some other race.”

“The categories really don’t represent us,” said Jaber, executive director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) in Dearborn, Mich. “Even putting it under ‘other’ makes the reliability of the information very questionable.”

But all this could soon change.

In the face of an increasingly multiracial and multiethnic population that no longer fits neatly into traditional classifications set by the government, the Census Bureau has been testing major changes in how it asks people to identify their race and ethnicity.

Hispanic, an ethnicity, not a race, may soon be lumped into a broader “race and origin” category, effectively treating it as a race for the first time.

The line between race and ethnicity has become artificial, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and the author of an upcoming book on the nation’s diversity. “What’s the definition of race? It’s not nationality. It’s not skin color, necessarily,” he said. “It’s sort of a mishmash.”

Last summer, the Arab American Institute sent a letter signed by 30 advocacy groups asking the Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which sets race standards, to create a MENA (Middle East and North Africa) category.

Nicholas Jones, chief of the Census racial-statistics branch, calls the letter “historic.”

Several populations are clamoring for their own categories, but, Jones said, “it’s the only group we’ve received a letter from requesting a separate ethnicity box.”…

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