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Why Are Middle Easterners Classified as Caucasians?

May 17, 2018

Tracing the history of Middle Eastern racial classification in America A few weeks ago, I was working on a grant that would help to decrease tobacco-related health disparities among minority populations. The table I was using looked a little something like this: And this was the graph: Source: CDPH In fact, throughout most of my undergraduate and post-graduate career, I became very familiar with the “Hispanic, non-hispanic White, African American/Black, Asian/Pacific Islander” dynamic. It was clear that my professors thought this summed up every major demographic in America nicely, but to me, I never understood why Middle Easterners and North Africans such as ourselves weren’t represented in these statistics. According to the United States Census Bureau, the official agency tasked with counting every person in the country, the definition of being white in America is “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.” Middle Easterners and North Africans (also known as MENA) are therefore an invisible group here in America. Yes, we are somewhat represented through the American Community Survey, but since it’s not an actual count, disputes about the exact number of MENA people…

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