ACTION ALERT: Support the MENA Category on the U.S. Census


American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Help our Community be Counted:
Support the MENA Category on the U.S. Census

Washington, DC | | January 8th, 2015 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee calls on the Arab-American community to support the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) category for inclusion on the U.S. Census. The U.S. Census Bureau announced that it will test the MENA category on the 2015 National Content Test, and is inviting comments on the proposed collection of information through February 2, 2015.

According to the Notice in the Federal Register, the 2015 National Content Test will test a separate “Middle Eastern or North African” category and the collection of detailed groups. The MENA checkbox category will have the examples of “Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Algerian, etc.” This regional definition will also allow the many sub-national minority communities such as Assyrians, Chaldeans, Kurds, Berbers, etc. that originate in this region to self-identify.

Take action to make sure that our community is counted: Click here to submit a comment to the Federal Register supporting the MENA category on the 2015 National Content Test and urging inclusion of the MENA category in the 2020 Census. To ensure consideration, written comments must be submitted on or before February 2, 2015

Comments may also be submitted via mail to the following address:

Jennifer Jessup
Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, 
Department of Commerce, Room 6616 
14th and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20230 

Why do we need a MENA category?

There is currently no category on the U.S. Census that includes Arab-Americans. Under current Census Bureau standards, Middle Eastern and North African responses are classified as “White.” This classification results in the MENA community not being accurately counted on the Census.  Not being counted on the Census means that the government is not able to allocate resources towards providing our community with certain services and opportunities that are available to populations which are counted on the Census. 

Inclusion of a MENA category would have a positive impact on our community:

The government uses Census data to determine whether to provide equal opportunity services for minority communities including language assistance, educational grants, and funding for cultural competency training.   For instance, minority language populations that our counted in the Census receive translation services at polling places according to the Voting Rights Act.  The data would also allow school districts with large populations of Arab-Americans to receive funding for cultural competency training and more English language programs.

Being counted in the Census would also allow for more effective implementation, monitoring, and enforcement of civil rights protections for our community, such as protection from discrimination in hiring practices. Additionally, the data would also help health professionals to research health issues that are ethnic-specific, such as lactose intolerance. Therefore, it is important for the Arab-American community to take action to make sure that we are counted on a list that would actually benefit our community by providing us with equal opportunities and services. 

DC’s work to promote accurate and inclusive data collection on the MENA population:

As a Board Member of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, ADC has been working with a coalition of national organizations to ensure a fair and accurate 2020 Census. The Leadership Conference is a diverse coalition of more than 200 national organizations that work to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. Over the past year, the Leadership Conference has worked to examine the Census Bureau’s research and testing program from the perspective of civil rights stakeholders, including ADC.

In November of 2014, the Leadership Conference released a report titled “RACE and Ethnicity in the 2020 Census: Improving Data to Capture a Multiethnic America.”  Following the release of the report, the Leadership Conference held a press conference with ADC President Samer Khalaf and representatives from the Latino and Asian American communities to discuss the civil rights implications of changes to 2020 census, including the possible addition of the MENA category. 

Over the past year, ADC has continued its efforts to discuss identity within communities from the Middle East and North Africa.  ADC circulated an identity questionnaire to gather data about how ADC’s supporters identify, and encouraged the community to express their identity through the #MyIdentity campaign.  ADC also held a panel session at the 2014 National Convention devoted to discussing identity. The panel was titled, “Racial, Religious and Ethnic Self-Identification: Beyond Categories.” The panel addressed the history of the Census categories, as well as the need for a category that accurately identifies communities from the Middle East and North Africa. 

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