Yes, you’ve read the title correctly! As shocking as it may seem at first glance, white people, according to the United States Census Bureau, are “those having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.”
This categorization of people of Middle Eastern and North African descent as “White” has been in effect since 1909, a time in which political and social matters contrast issues of today.
Ironically, Arab Americans fought for the right to be considered white in the early 1900s to combat America’s exclusionary immigration practices. Now, Middle Eastern and North African people (MENA) are lobbying the U.S. Census Bureau to create a separate category.
Obviously, circumstances of Arab Americans on a large scale has changed in the past century. Though the category on the Census denotes these individuals as white people, their economic, social, and political stance in this country would not deem them so.
This is indeed what is most intriguing about this discovery. Arab Americans and North Africans are undoubtedly marginalized groups who are often identified and self-identify under the broad spectrum known as people of color. Yet, to be legally considered white no longer renders benefits as such a distinction initially intended.
In fact, from Arab Americans who fought for the “right to be white” a century ago descended an entire population of “second-class whites”, evident by the way they have been treated in recent American history.
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