“Arab Americans are white?” This question—commonly posed as a demonstration of shock or surprise—highlights the dissonance between how “Arab” and “white” are discursively imagined and understood in the United States today. These four words also encapsulate the dilemma that currently riddles Arab Americans. The population finds itself interlocked between formal classification as white, and de facto recognition as nonwhite. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the government agency that oversees the definition, categorization, and construction of racial categories, currently counts people from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as white. The United States Census Bureau (Census Bureau), the agency responsible for collecting and compiling demographic data about the American people, adopts these definitions and classifications for the administration of its decennial census. Since the racially restrictive “Naturalization Era,” Arab Americans have been legally classified as white.
Khaled A. Beydoun,
A Demographic Threat? Proposed Reclassification of Arab Americans on the 2020 Census,
Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr_fi/vol114/iss1/12