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The Student Prints

The Student Prints

Changing With The Times


Many probably remember the 2020 census, which was conducted a few months ago on April 1. The census asked U.S. residents to fill out several categories in order to help supply the government with data regarding things such as the age, financial status, and race of the people in every household. According to, information regarding race is collected to “evaluate government programs and policies to ensure that they fairly and equitably serve the needs of all racial groups and to monitor compliance with antidiscrimination laws, regulations, and policies.”  

This year, the options people were given for race were as follows: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian (including seven sub-categories that can be checked), Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (including four sub-categories that can be checked), or ‘Some Other Race’. Below each option, some examples are given as to what qualifies as each group.

You may have noticed a category missing. What about people of Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) descent? For those unaware, the phrase MENA encompasses countries such as Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco, in addition to many others. People with roots in countries such as these don’t entirely seem to fall under any of these categories, so what race would they be considered by the U.S. census? If you guessed ‘Some Other Race’, you’d be wrong. The description given under the option for “White” on the census lists “individuals who identify with one or more nationalities or ethnic groups originating in Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.”

This is something many MENA people and communities have expressed issue with. These groups are objectively made up of people of color, with a few exceptions, most people of MENA descent are visibly darker-skinned and are often victims of discrimination because of it. There has been much pushback to this categorization by MENA advocates and allies in the past several years, and something may finally be coming of it.

In 2017, the U.S Census Bureau used research from previously conducted surveys to reach the conclusion that adding a MENA racial category to the census would be a wise decision. This was clearly not followed through on for reasons unknown. But now that Joe Biden has been elected to become the President of the United States, his MENA supporters are looking to him to fulfill a promise made about the census on his campaign website to “support the creation of a new Middle East North Africa (MENA) category, which was recommended by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017”.

While it is unclear how much influence Biden may have on this overall, it seems as though he will at the very least be advocating for the inclusion of this category over these coming years in which he will be in office and during which discussion and writing of the next U.S. census will be taking place.

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