Arab Americans Chafe Over Census Form

New America Media, Commentary, Ray Hanania Posted: Jul 20, 2009

The first question I always get from “Americans” is, “Why do you keep calling yourself ‘Arab-American?’ You are American!”

It represents the rock and the hard place where American Arabs have been pushed by the lack of education among most Americans.
Palestinian American
columnist Ray Hanania.

It’s aggravated by what I also call the U.S. government’s split personality when it comes to American Arabs. On the one hand, they want to know us. On the other, they don’t. Here’s what I mean.

The only time the United States government wants to know about American Arabs is when they are “profiling” us at airport and border security to “protect” the country from “the terrorist threat.”

But when it comes to counting people in the U.S. Census (so they can participate and share in government programs like grant funding awards, defining the borders of election districts for Congress, state legislatures or municipal councils), the U.S. government pretends American Arabs don’t exist.

That is exactly what’s happening now in the massive 2010 U.S. Census drive.

The government is neither completely stupid nor naïve. It is dishing out just enough money to American Arab organizations and PR agencies to do the outreach to the American Arab community.

The government could do it but doesn’t have a positive file on who we are. The government only has “the negative file,” the one where American Arabs have been followed and investigated by FBI agents repeatedly over the past 75 years.

The FBI investigated me over a two-year period beginning in August 1975, right after I had completed my active duty military service for this country during the Vietnam War. They said I must be a terrorist, because I was Arab; but they concluded the 45-page report by saying, in small type, that I’m just an American who is concerned about advancing his ethnic community.

During the two years, they talked to banks, employers, neighbors, friends and anyone who had anything to do with me. It was all in the report, most of it blacked out with marker. When I finally received a copy in 1979, it explained why I had been dismissed from jobs, why some neighbors and some friends had stopped talking to me or associating with me, and why several prospective employers had refused to hire me.

Hey, when the U.S. government puts its attention on American Arabs, it’s usually not for a good reason.

That’s why I am upset –- no, angry -- that the government is pretending that it cares for us American Arabs by reaching out and asking us to complete our federal census form for 2010.

They tell us there are benefits we will get from participating.

Yeah? Like what? What benefits do we as American Arabs actually get from supporting anything this government does?

For example, when I go through an airport, I am immediately identified as an “Arab.” I’m pulled aside and my bags and possessions are thoroughly searched. The friends I am with who are not Arab are made to feel like they are traveling with Osama Bin Laden. And strangers who pass through normal levels of security look at me like I’m going to cut their throats or blow myself up when I get on the plane.

It’s humiliating. But no one really cares. Better to be safe than sorry. If we have to make Arabs go through embarrassing and humiliating procedures that single them out solely because of their “look” or their “profile,” so be it.

Meanwhile, Caucasian murderers and killers walk through security thankful that the government is doing at least part of their job to remove the Arab scourge. More than 95 percent of serial killers are Caucasian. Some of the biggest terrorists in the United States historically have been white supremacists and members of hillbilly militias and Neo-Nazi organizations based in the so-called “American heartland.”

But if you have olive skin and look Middle Eastern –- a profile that fits more than 200 nationalities and ethnicities mainly from Middle Eastern and Asian countries -- you are the person they have to stop.

This is the “negative attention” we get from our government.

Then, this same government that has spent a fortune screwing us as American Arabs, spends a fortune trying to convince us that if we participate in the 2010 Census, we’re going to benefit?

I ask again, what is the benefit? There is no benefit. And there is no benefit for a reason. Arabs are not included on the census forms anyway.

The census form asks for your race, listing Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin. And they ask if you are Mexican, Mexican American (I didn’t know there were two categories of Mexicans), or Chicano. What kind of race is Chicano? What country do Chicanos come from? Chicanostan?

They ask the same question again on the long form: Are you white? Black, African American or negro? Are you American Indian or Alaskan Native? They even give you a place to write in your tribe name.

That’s not all. The form asks if you are Asian Indian, Japanese, Native Hawaiian, Chinese, Korean, Guamanian or Chamorro, Filipino, Vietnamese, Samoan or other Asian. They give you a space so you can print your “race” like Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian “and so on.”

Oh, they don’t stop there. They ask if you are Pacific Islander and ask you to print your race like Fijian, Tongan “and so on.”

Way at the bottom, in case they missed someone, someone not so important, they have the throw-away line, to check here if you are “Some Other Race – Print Race.”

That is where I have to handwrite that I am Arab. And proud of it too, by the way.

Now, the U.S. government argues that Arabs are not a race. So we can’t be counted. They consider us Caucasian, although the last time I looked, it was the Caucasian hate groups in this country, like the former Bush administration, that singled out Arabs for special mistreatment, harassment and discrimination.

Arabs are “not” a race, but we are a “people” that must be profiled at airports, security centers, thrown out of buildings in New York City, expelled from seats on airplanes, and denied jobs and government grants and rejected by voters on Election Day.

“Not” a race, the government insists. Really? Wow. Is that why they have taken the other “races” and broken them down into so many miscellaneous categories? It is not enough to know that someone is Asian. They want to know what kind of Asian? What kind of Native American? What kind of Mexican? Is “Chicano” a race? Are “Latino” or “Hispanic” races?

But not “Arabs.”

We’re not a race.

We’re just a bunch of people that ignorant Americans can step all over and use as punching bags when the times get rough or some nut job we’ve never heard of before decides to declare himself the spokesman for all Arabs and Muslims.

So here’s the bottom line, U.S. government. You don’t put “Arab” on the form, I don’t fill it out.

Either add the category “Arab” to the form or throw out all of the categories and stop lying to us American Arabs about how much you care.

Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American Arab columnist, author and Chicago radio talk show host. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com



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Omar E. on Jul 26, 2009 at 23:45:25 said:

I am an Egyptian-American 19 year old and I've lived in Egypt for 8 year, New Jersey for 8 and Lebanon for 1 year, so I have quite a lot of experience with how both the Arab and the American cultures are. When the 9/11 attack happened, I got all kinds of abuse from kids (like being called a terrorist) in my middle-school, and I had not even known who the hell Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda was! I felt isolated as the only Arab in my middle-school to begin with, this added on to that fact was just crushing to my social confidence.

Anyway, I'd like to say that the reason why there are terrorists in the world, whether arab or white or black or asian, is because they feel there is injustice and discrimination towards them, so they want to inflict pain on others (usually in an extreme way), so this cannot be solely blamed on the arabian terrorists and certainly not Islam!, the word islam itself means to become one with peace. There are however, poor and uneducated muslims in minority and isolated areas within some arab countries that have nothing to lose and use the name of Islam to justify their ignorant actions, when in reality they are framing the entire Arab and Muslim population who know nothing or can't believe their views and actions.

Sincerely,

Omar E.

email: 3omarbe@gmail.com feel free to dicuss this with me through email.


Mark on Jul 24, 2009 at 08:47:26 said:

Ray:

I completely and utterly agree with you. We had the same problem on the 2000 census, and, despite letter after letter, complaint after complaint, it's not rectified.

When the folks from Guam have their own box, you'd think a group of people that comprise a much more significant portion of the population might get something more than "Other"


Ray Hanania on Jul 22, 2009 at 03:50:30 said:

Thank you, everyone, for commenting and sharing your views. It helps me as a writer better understand the opinions of those who take the issue seriously enough to comment; and also thanks to the New America Media for showcasing it.

My points are simple:

Americans DO NOT know enough about who Arabs are and in some cases that lack of knowledge borders on ignorance

Arabs are discriminated against in this country and the bigoted, biased and racist mainstream news media doesn't care and the topic of my new book coming out in a few weeks

I have nothing against Chicanos or anyone, but when the Government says they can't include "Arabs" as a designated group on the Census, but includes all kinds of other sub-groups of other races and ethnic groups, that is hypocrisy and I believe evidence of an intentional effort to oppress American Arabs.

Thanks and best regards
Ray Hanania
www.RadioChicagoland.com


Michael Lopez on Jul 21, 2009 at 23:09:48 said:

Hello there, I want to answer some of your questions about Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and Chicanos. First, a Mexican is a citizen or person from the country of Mexico. A Mexican-American is an American citizen of Mexican descent who has a long family history in the USA. Chicanos are the EXACT same thing as Mexican-Americans but most of these people want to make "their own" group and would prefer to not be called "Mexican" because they are not Mexican or from Mexico. Mexican-Americans and Chicanos have a LONG history in the United States and most of them were in the U.S when it actually was Mexico!


Michael Lopez on Jul 21, 2009 at 23:08:30 said:

Hello there, I want to answer some of your questions about Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and Chicanos. First, a Mexican is a citizen or person from the country of Mexico. A Mexican-American is an American citizen of Mexican descent who has a long family history in the USA. Chicanos are the EXACT same thing as Mexican-Americans but most of these people want to make "their own" group and would prefer to not be called "Mexican" because they are not Mexican or from Mexico. Mexican-Americans and Chicanos have a LONG history in the United States and most of them were in the U.S when it actually was Mexico!


NY Jeremy on Jul 20, 2009 at 16:48:17 said:

Evan Greene, you are simply wrong. "all terrorists happen to be Arabs" This is not true. A better statement would be "Western media only covers Arab terrorists." Was Timothy McVeigh Arab? I think not.

I am not Arab. I have not an ounce of Arab blood in me. I do, however, look Arab. I've donea great deal of traveling in recent months, 7 countries to be exact. I am always profiled. Customs always searches my bags thoroughly while allowing other passengers to pass. In Italy I was searched 3 times by 3 different entities before being allowed to leave the airport. Along with the searches comes the questioning. The questions can be quite invasive and the questioners make no effort to speak English. Luckily I speak Italian so I was able to communicate. I could not imagine what would have happened if I didn't speak Italian. Keep in mind that the passengers passing through unscathed are no more American than I. I am a fourth generation American, born and raised in New York. I am Roman Catholic. There is no aspect of my life which would lead to the conclusion that I have any terrorist involvements. Yet I am constantly hassled at airports based only upon on my appearance...which does not happen to match my race or ethnicity.

I think that we enter a dangerous territory when we say "Arabs blow up planes and kill people, let's give them hell at airports."


WangFu on Jul 20, 2009 at 14:04:28 said:

As someone who fits the "random profile" and with a Muslim name, I agreed with your article, until I came to this...

"Meanwhile, Caucasian murderers and killers walk through security thankful that the government is doing at least part of their job to remove the Arab scourge. More than 95 percent of serial killers are Caucasian...."

The logic here is flawed, and leads one to believe that the government condones crimes by white people. Not true.


Coral on Jul 20, 2009 at 11:54:57 said:

Your article really opened my eyes to the contradictory actions of the US government. I thought you made valid points, until the section you deemed Americans ignorant. Some Americans, absolutely. Two wrongs don't make a right, and neither do two generalizations. Don't let emotions get the best of your article next time. Otherwise, I really enjoyed reading this and I think your brought a great deal of awareness to this issue.


Evan Greene on Jul 20, 2009 at 11:37:49 said:

Sir, please do not publicly profess that this country doesn't care about Arab Americans. This country has bent over backwards to respect the rights of minorities, including Arab Americans. We are so afraid to offend anyone that we offer immense freedoms. Freedoms that, candidly, are not available in the contries from whence said Arab Americans came. Despite the politically correct world in which we live, where everyone's feelings must be attended to rather than what is right and wrong, life in this country is not perfect, and there may be some inconveniences that you must deal with (like all of us do in one way or another). I frankly don't want to hear how Arab Americans are discriminated against. The unfortunate reality is that while not all Arabs are terrorists, all terrorists happen to be Arabs, so looking at that group with a bit more cautious eye at airports is wholly justified. It is like the debate about illegal immigration - the intent is not to descriminate based on skin color or ethnicity - rather it is a simple question of economics. There is not enough money to go around to make everyone 'feel good,' so preference must be given to those here legally (it is easy to skew that situation, and claim that brown people are thought of as less important than others, but it doesn't matter what color their skin is - if they are not contributing legally, society no longer wants to pay for their benefits).

You are correct - there are people of other nationalities and backgrounds that have done terrible things throughout history. But you overlook a simple, fundamental fact - if white, blond haired, blue eyed people had been the ones to consistently blow up airplanes, then THEY TOO would be profiled at airports. It is not done for some flippant need to make people feel good. It is a response to the actions of a terrible few that unfortunately cast others in a negative light.

And do not lash out at the authorities of this country. They have an impossible job when there are so many bent on disrupting or destroying the quality of life here. Instead, where is the indignation about the murderers that did the acts that make people afraid in the first place?!?!?! Don't blame the bad people...instead blame the respondants for not handling things with the appropriate amount of discretion. Respectfully, it is simply flawed thinking!!!

Please do me a favor - if you do respond, don't imply that I am ignorant or insensitive. Rational people can debate facts on their merit.


Kbak on Jul 20, 2009 at 11:12:12 said:

I agree 100% w jsmith's comment and I am a Christian Middle Eastern. From an educated person's perspective, under anthropological terms, we are classified as caucasian. Period. Middle eastern is an ethnicity not a race. Secondly, you know understand how it feels to have been black in America since they've existed in this country. Unfortunately there are flaws in this government. Yes, all it takes is for a few people to consistently make mistakes for others to be made to bear the burden. Does it suck? Yes. Will your defensive complaining change it? No. Black people didn't gain civil rights in this country by feeling like they should protest in anger n complain. Instead they approached it in a rational manner. If people like you keep talkin about the issue in that tone, we will get no where.


Maktuba on Jul 20, 2009 at 11:06:27 said:

I hear you. My girlfriend is Palestinian-American, and she's proud of it. And I'm proud of it. But *nowhere* is "Arab" listed as an ethnicity. It's ridiculous.

I wonder, though. Might the point be better made by encouraging all Arab-Americans to write in "Arab," so that they can really see the numbers? We are also a lesbian couple, and I plan to write that in, too.


Kbak on Jul 20, 2009 at 11:06:20 said:

I agree 100% w jsmith's comment and I am a Christian Middle Eastern. From an educated person's perspective, under anthropological terms, we are classified as caucasian. Period. Middle eastern is an ethnicity not a race. Secondly, you know understand how it feels to have been black in America since they've existed in this country. Unfortunately there are flaws in this government. Yes, all it takes is for a few people to consistently make mistakes for others to be made to bear the burden. Does it suck? Yes. Will your defensive complaining change it? No. Black people didn't gain civil rights in this country by feeling like they should protest in anger n complain. Instead they approached it in a rational manner. If people like you keep talkin about the issue in that tone, we will get no where.


Mariam on Jul 20, 2009 at 10:51:16 said:

This is a Great Great Article. For the person above me, that said about the "Islamic brethren that have committed so many terrorist attacks against us", they are merely Claiming Islam as their religion. They are not following the religion that the majority of Muslims in the world follow. So you my friend, should not point out ignorance when you are proving just that. This country's judicial system is innocent until proven guilty, however for Muslim and Arab Americans it's Guilty until Proven innocent.


Michelle Johnson on Jul 20, 2009 at 10:50:49 said:

Arab-Americans are now discriminated against just like African-Americans once were, and this is a great injustice. Media organizations like CNN need to expose this evil, and give equal attention to all of our nation's ethnic groups. CNN gives an over-abundance of coverage to the challenges of African-Americans, when other groups are suffering as much or more abuse.


Bouchra on Jul 20, 2009 at 10:33:37 said:

JSmith: 3points

1. This article does not mention \"muslim\" once. It talks about Arab Americans. Google the difference.

2.\"Please have a word with your islamic brethren..\"? Seriously???? Seriously? no, I mean... SERIOUSLY?
The author will wait until you talk to your \"Christian brethren\" who have committed the most atrocious crimes and killed millions such as \"all KKK members, Hitler, Columbine Shooters, all the serial killers...\" again, Google is your friend for a complete list.

3. Your first point is a very convincing argument \"fair to dark, straight to curly hair, light to very dark eyes\"... How about \"short to tall/ thin to fat...\"? that description is so broad that a person from any other race could belong to it; therefore proving the Author\'s comment.

PS: EXCELLENT Article Mr. Ray Hanania; glad Anderson Cooper picked it up. Please keep writing, hope our voices will be heard soon

Thank you


Bouchra on Jul 20, 2009 at 10:30:34 said:

JSmith: 3points

1. This article does not mention \"muslim\" once. It talks about Arab Americans. Google the difference.

2.\"Please have a word with your islamic brethren..\"? Seriously???? Seriously? no, I mean... SERIOUSLY?
The author will wait until you talk to your \"Christian brethren\" who have committed the most atrocious crimes and killed millions such as \"all KKK members, Hitler, Columbine Shooters, all the serial killers...\" again, Google is your friend for a complete list.

3. Your first point is a very convincing argument \"fair to dark, straight to curly hair, light to very dark eyes\"... How about \"short to tall/ thin to fat...\"? that description is so broad that a person from any other race could belong to it; therefore proving the Author\'s comment.

PS: EXCELLENT Article Mr. Ray Hanania; glad Anderson Cooper picked it up. Please keep writing, hope our voices will be heard soon

Thank you


RRicci on Jul 20, 2009 at 10:29:56 said:

Jsmith's statement--"...please have a word with your Islamic brethren that have committed so many terrorist attacks against us"--reeks of ignorance.

Three points: Not all Arabs are Muslims. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all terrorists are Muslims. Get it?

And you're right, Caucasian is no longer in technical use--except on American census forms. How exactly do you expect an Arab, a North African, or even an Indian (using your definition here) to tick off "Caucasian" with full confidence when it is clear that the government means WHITE when they use this term? And what about Eurasians, what are we? Last time I checked, Central/West Asians were still Asians, but the census says otherwise, doesn't it?

Don't let ignorance be your guide.


lois freeh on Jul 20, 2009 at 07:50:44 said:

to view a partial list of crimes committed by FBI agents over 1500 pages long see
forums.signonsandiego.com/showthread.php?t=59139

to view a partial list of FBI agents arrested for pedophilia see
dallasnews.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=3574


Jsmith on Jul 20, 2009 at 04:49:21 said:

Two points.

1. As regards your race: You are a Caucasian (Anthropology. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of one of the traditional racial divisions of humankind, marked by fair to dark skin, straight to tightly curled hair, and light to very dark eyes, and originally inhabiting Europe, parts of North Africa, western Asia, and India: no longer in technical use.) Don't let ignorance be your guide.

2. If you are opposed to being treated as a security risk, please have a word with your Islamic brethren that have committed so many terrorist attacks against us. I think it's unfair to treat you that way, but I also don't want to be blown up by some misguided follower of Al Qaeda. Yes, I know many Muslims and no, I don't treat them the way you have been treated, but on the other hand, I also understand those who are being overly defensive.

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