Thursday, July 16, 2009

Take your 2010 U.S. Census form and shove it!

Take your 2010 Census Form and Shove it!
By Ray Hanania
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.

It’s aggravated by what I also call the U.S. Government’s split personality when it comes to Americans Arabs. On 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 Americans 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 like 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 isn’t completely stupid, nor are they naïve. They are 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 they don’t have a positive file on who we are. The Government only has “the negative file,” the one were American Arabs have been historically followed, investigated and probed 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 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, 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 pretty much explained the dismissal from jobs, why some neighbors and some friends had stopped talking with 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 they care for us American Arabs by reaching out and asking us to complete our Federal Census form for 2010.

There are these benefits that we will get from participating. Yea? 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 supremicists 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 East 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 spends a fortune screwing us as American Arabs, spends a fortune trying to convince us that if we participate in the 2010 Census this year, we’re going to benefit?

I ask again, what 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? “Chicano-stan?”

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 and they even give you a place to write in your tribe name.

That’s not all. The form asks are you Asian Indian? Japanese, Native Hawaiian, Chinese, Korean, Guamanian or Chamorro, Filipino, Vietnamese, Samoan or Other Asian where 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 are you “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 hand-write that I am “Arab.” And proud of it too, by the way.

Now, the U.S. Government argues “Arabs” are not a race. So they 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 us 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


Anonymous said...

The United States Census does give people the opportunity to list their ancestry on the long form. It always has. The short form only asks race. Arab isn't a race, it's an ancestry. No different than Italian or Irish.

Anonymous said...

Wow, real mature. This is the United States, and we need to follow rules and procedures while living here. You don't like it? Move somewhere else!

Anonymous said...

I don't think the lack of "Arab" category from the census form is a conspiracy against Arabs. Jews are not listed there either. Relax, US government is more interested to break down the numbers of Asians and Hispanics.

Alex said...

I find defining my race on the census form somewhat difficult. I am English, Scotch-Irish, French, German, Czech and Egyptian. I have no problem figuring out the first five ethnicities; they're all white/Caucasian. The Egyptian one is the difficult one... Well, at least for our government.

For me, it's obvious: I am Arab. The U.S. government, and in fact most Western cultures, would claim me as their own. It's funny that we're not treated this way.

They're very happy to claim us when it comes to our rich history: "We built the pyramids!", they would say. In reality it was people of a much darker complexion even than us Arabs who began the practice: The Nubians, but that's a whole other story.

Speaking of complexion, I don't look remotely Egyptian. I look like my dad, who, as cultured as he is, is still a white guy from the South-side of Chicago.

In fact, my friends, who are mostly black, have called me "Whitey" since high school. I except that because A) they're my friends and I know it's just a joke and B) as race is defined in this country, I am simply white. I look white, I'm treated white, so I am white.

That brings us to the confusing part of the census. Race is a social construct that is completely created by humans, not genetics, only culture. Many of the check-boxes on the census identify ethnicity, not race. For example, Hispanic/Latino is widely considered a race in this country, but they want to know if you're Puerto Rican, Mexican etc. which are ethnicities, not separate races.

I think the misleading thing is to, in one instance identify ethnicity, (Hispanic, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian, Pacific Islander) and in others not identify ethnicity at all (white, black or African American).

I think what should happen is to keep these wide open racial categories that we have historically made for ourselves, add Arab as one of those races, and then allow everyone to identify themselves ethnically. I understand that it is difficult to define for African Americans, which is why I think identifying ethnically should be an option, rather than a requirement.

For now however, I don't think that simply not filling out the census is the answer. Those proud of their heritage should simply fill in the 'some other race' check-box if one part of their heritage is not represented. I realize there may be an issue if you have more than one unrepresented race to fill out, but it seems to be the best we can do for now.

It is important that everybody be counted in at least some capacity. In the future, I would say you should continue to advocate for your people, whoever they may be.

Nabil said...

it is very annoying. u.s. census b. is calling us on the phone and asking to verify some info. filled out?! coercion language used to make us comply. the answer was not to give any info out on the phone, the "white" lady did not like that. however, we ended the call politely.

"they" call the second time with almost the same claim, yet the person's pronunciation of english sounded like an asian background! i spoke with her trying to convince "them" that i cannot give that info on the phone. instead, they can set an appointment to send an agent and then discuss things, doesn't this sound reasonable? no, we cannot do that; i asked why, the voice said: for security reasons. i said: for the very same purpose i am not going to give information out on the phone.

apparently, with the arab, palestinian and christian background we are labeled by the democratic free country of the united states of america and that we are citizens of this country as terrorists.

was i questioned on the side before boarding the plane, yes as well as fellow dark complexioned people from asia e.g. india and srilanka...etc. we were delayed almost 15 minutes while the white folks were boarding.

i know one thing only that regardless of what a bunch of people, agencies, policies and admins. are saying or doing there is only one Truth. God has given all his creation to live in His light whether i am just or unjust. yet, i am assured that when i ask of the Father in Heavens to help me through any man made struggle or abuse against ones fellow mankind the Lord responds with kindness in love to cover our sins.

now, need i worry about the evil from those who say or do, i say who cares. meaning, i forgive and forget that is the love that overwhelms the many sins, Amin.