I’m a Mizrahi Jew. Do I Count as a Person of Color?

I’m a Mizrahi Jew. Do I Count as a Person of Color?


Sigal Samuel, Deputy Digital Media Editor

Eye of the Beholder: Sigal Samuel has been considered white and non-white, depending on who’s looking. (Image: Martyna Starosta)

Am I a person of color?

You’d think there would be a straightforward answer to a question like that. And for a while, I thought there was. I thought the answer was yes.

When I look at my grandparents — four Mizrahim, or Jews from Arab lands — I see people who were born in India and Iraq and Morocco, who grew up speaking Hindi and Arabic. When I stand in Sephora buying makeup, the shade I choose is closer to “ebony” than to “petal.” When I walk down the street, perfect strangers routinely stop me to ask: “Where are you from? Are you Persian? Indian? Arab? Latina?” When I go through airport security, I always — always — get “randomly selected” for additional screening.

I was pretty sure all this made me a person of color.

And then an acquaintance, who is Jewish and African-American, told me in the course of a casual conversation that no, actually, I don’t count…

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