Because Arab Americans are deemed ‘white’ in government records, they suffer an unseen COVID-19 crisis.
Featured in USA Today is a story highlighting the absence of data concerning COVID-19 infection and death rates among Arab Americans. What is reason for this lack of data? Because most Arab Americans are categorized as “white” by the federal government.
The article states “The nation’s 3.7 million Arab Americans are unable to self-identify as such on the census and other government forms. As a result, official health care data can be hard to come by, and experts and community leaders are forced to rely on patchwork, often self-compiled data.”
How do we fix this? Well, the first step would be to establish a MENA (Middle Eastern/North African) category on the US census. Instituting a designated minority status is extremely important for data collection, and as this article points out, a failure to count Arab-Americans as a designated minority has health implications as well as the other issues.
AMVOTE discussed this story with Dr. Louise Cainkar, Author and Associate Professor Sociology & Social Welfare and Justice, Marquette University. This is her take:
”The USA Today story is VERY well done! Rather than being a surface piece, it covers lots of ground that we have been writing about for years. It does contain a small error on the reason MENA was not implemented by Trump Admin. It was not because of a race v ethnic category issue. (Do we really think Trump would care about that anyhow?) As there is lots of mis-information about the whole Census process going around, let me say this much as someone who was there: It was decided by the leadership of the Census campaign (esp. AAI) that MENA should be an ETHNIC category, like Latino/Hispanic, and that persons were otherwise free to choose their race separately. Not all agreed with this, but that is how it ended up. If the OMB under Biden agrees to go forward, that is how it will be implemented, as the Census Bureau has completed testing and is otherwise ready to go forward. I think it is important to get accurate information out there.”
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