Acknowledge Arab-Americans

On government documents Arab-Americans are classified as white.

Sarah Hamdan '18, Contributor

Writer Sarah Hamdan ’18

For many years, the Arab-American community has been expected to document themselves as “white” for race/ethnicity on any and all legal documents and for census bureaus is inaccurate. With no selection for people of Middle Eastern heritage, America casts us aside and denies us acknowledgement. A “white” person is usually expected to be of European descent, so for an Arab-American to have to check “white” is simply false.

As a Palestinian, I know my race is unrecognized. Often when I tell people I am from the Middle East, I occasionally am asked “So you’re a Muslim?” No, my race is not the same as my religion. I am Arab, but my religion has nothing to do with the country I am from. As someone with Middle Eastern heritage, I am discriminated against for my race and sometimes mocked for my culture and appearance. Because of this, it hurts when I have to check off “white” when specifying my race, particularly because I do not have white privilege.

Because the Muslim population is often considered the same or is just confused with the Middle Eastern population, it is important to acknowledge us as separate, individual minority groups. In order for the United States to try and adopt Arab-Americans as a part of the American society, the first step must be to recognize us as the group of people they are. With the creation of  a new race/ethnicity for us on legal documents, and at census bureaus, people of Middle Eastern descent can begin to feel accepted in the United States.

A friend of mine in Buffalo (who rather not be identified) started a petition to ask for official recognition of Arab as its own minority instead of “white.” His family is from Yemen; he started this petition after having experienced the same type of racism I too, struggle with. He asked me to share this petition with everyone I know to not only raise awareness but to truly solve this problem.

The petition was open to  U.S. citizens to sign anytime before November 24, 2016. For a petition to gain public attention, there must be at least 100 signatures. For it to be considered by the White House, there must be at least 100,000 signatures. Because the SEM community supports diversity and is against racism, I hope they will support and believe in this cause although the petition is now closed. Anyone can help fight discrimination by raising awareness, as this petition did.