Friday, September 08, 2017

In 2015, the Census Bureau held public meetings asking about new categories for the 2020 census.

At one point a panel of "experts" was called upon to answer these questions:

Linda answered that for question 2, Middle Easterners should absolutely not be considered "white."

Here is her entire answer:

So I wanted to answer question number two, and this is more actually for what I would consider our community to really think about this. I'm having a hard time understanding where the context is coming from the perspective of our community. So as a social service provider thinking about what are we going to use this information for? Like I don't really care  about just counting how many people there are who are “MENA” it's how we utilize  this information that can be beneficial to our community. So the answer to number two  for me is no because we have to understand that the way that people respond is based  on the political context that we live in.

So in 2010 we actually started a national  campaign that probably made a lot more work to do for the census bureau - but we started  a campaign: “Check it right- you ain't White.” And we actually asked people to go into the “other” category and identify themselves as whatever, Yemeni, Arab-American, whatever they  wanted to say even though we knew eventually those others go back in the White category,  but seeing the response of more people wanting to fill out the census with the understanding  that they weren't White.  
So I'm very personally just for the - as folks are thinking about the feedback what benefit  do we get as a community from being White in the current political context as Arab-Americans  in the United States of America. Does it serve us right to call ourselves White and put ourselves back in the white box and then to think about, you know, for example when we look at accessing  federal - you know any types of federal support for example we lose out dramatically because  we don't have the separate category to say so we end up, even in the area where I live,  because of we’re “white” we're not seen as a priority area and for city or state or  federal funding.  So we really need to understand what we're saying and how it impacts the community on the ground. I'm just trying to push us more in a less academic conversation because I know there's a lot of academia in the room and a lot of researchers which is great and  wonderful and we need that, but really understanding what the implications of the data and how  it's going to be used to impact community.

So my recommendation is that MENA that we are not White and also not be dwelling too much on the categories because at the end  of the day it's self-identification. I'm Palestinian, if I want to say I'm Black I'm Black - that’s on me, I can check whatever box. Getting into the nitty gritty there I don't think is really helpful for this discussion to kind of move us forward but for people to understand the  political context that we live in in 2015 and understanding the benefits of being White  or not White and understanding you know kind of maybe because I'm an activist but privilege  that comes with being White and not having the white privilege.  I mean these people really have to understand the deep impact this has by considering us being able to say I'm Palestinian but then still having to go and say I'm white, like, I'm personally not cool with that.  
Sarsour is saying that race is a choice. You can identify as whatever race you want - and Arabs should never be considered white because that way they lose out on the benefits of being a minority!

So much for "white privilege." Sarsour is arguing that Arabs should do everything they can to avoid being called "white."

Sarsour, who admits that she was "white" until she put on a hijab, would probably not be thrilled if Israelis in the US - or even Jews altogether - would identify as coming from the Middle East. Because along with her "Palestinian" identity comes the narrative that Jews never lived in the Middle East and are only latecomers.

(h/t Irene)

UPDATE: Irene found an old tweet from Sarsour where she claims she used to be "white" and benefited from "white privilege." But this video is all about her wanting herself and her community to be considered non-White - she admits, to gain more privileges and benefits!

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