The Obama administration is pushing to create a new racial category for people from the Middle East and North Africa. At the moment, those from the middle east do not have an official racial category to differentiate them from Whites, Blacks or Asians.
Under the new proposal, people from Morocco to Iran, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, would be designated as Middle East and North African, or MENA.
If approved, the new designation could appear on census forms in 2020 and could have far-reaching implications for racial identity, anti-discrimination laws and health research.
Under current law, people from the Middle East are considered white, the legacy of century-old court rulings in which Syrian Americans argued that they should not be considered Asian — because that designation would deny them citizenship under the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. But scholars and community leaders say more and more people with their roots in the Middle East find themselves caught between white, black and Asian classifications that don’t fully reflect their identities.
Under the proposal, the new Middle East and North African designation — or MENA, as it’s called by population scholars — is broader in concept than Arab (an ethnicity) or Muslim (a religion). It would include anyone from a region of the world stretching from Morocco to Iran, and including Syrian and Coptic Christians, Israeli Jews and other religious minorities.
The new designation should do wonders for middle eastern relations between Muslims, Christians and Jews, all of whom will now be classified as the same racial group.
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