Throughout the history of the US, White Privilege seemed to be one of the main benefits of being a Caucasian citizen. From voting rights to the best education to being arguably the race to not be oppressed, white privilege has granted white people everything a person of color dreams of.
But when one wonders what makes up this demographic, they would never imagine that it is not just those who are European decedents. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau defines White as a “person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.” Let’s examine what that means exactly.
A Persian family, which has very Brown features would qualify as ‘White’ just because they originate from Iran which falls in the Middle East. Several consequences arise from labeling people who originate from the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) region as simply “White.”
First is the misrepresentation and misguidance of the information. A Persian father, from the previous example, who has very strong features of a person of color should not qualify as White, as he is neither literally white skinned nor does he possess the privilege of not getting “randomly” selected for security checks in airports.
Second, not having a box to check for people from the MENA region will diminish their voices as they will be seen as part of the majority even though they suffer as a minority. To not count the MENA population is to make it invisible, which would lead to further consequences. A ‘MENA’ box in the next U.S. Census, for example, will help lawmakers understand their voter pool and help their needs even further.
Furthermore, some might argue that those who have MENA decent do not make up a great size of the U.S. and therefore should not be represented. Yet, if we look at the data, a minority group like Asians in the U.S. made up about 4.8% in the last 2010 census. In another survey done by the North American Jewish Data Bank in the same year found that those who originated from the MENA region make up about 3.2% of the U.S. population.
Shocking right? It won’t be as shocking when you discover that the MENA region is inclusive of many different ethnicities with Jews, Arabs, Armenian, and Iranian holding the top four positions. But when a minority group like those from the MENA region is not represented it leads to further oppression and systematic racism, as the minority group gets the worse of both sides. MENA decedents not only get discriminated against based on religion and race but also do not enjoy the benefits of White Privilege.
While many activist groups have called for a change in the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census, the United States Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration has denied these changes. This means that change is nowhere near, as people who come from the MENA region will still be labeled as White by the U.S. for at least 12 more years.