Monday, August 31, 2015

Arab Americans: "White By Law" No More?

        The United States Bureau of the Census (U.S. Census Bureau) plans to test a “Middle Eastern or North African” (MENA) category box for possible inclusion in the 2020 Census. The box – if adopted – will afford Arab Americans, with an estimated population of six million, the unprecedented opportunity to identify as MENA and dis-identify as white if they so choose.   "Make Us Count," a study published by the Campaign to Take on Hate, outlines the structure of the MENA box, and its forecasted benefits and the perils it poses to Arab Americans.   

        Currently, Arab Americans are legally classified as white, although societal racism, state surveillance and policing functionally deems them as national security threats, prospective terrorists, and “others.” In short, in many ways the vast majority of Arab Americans are white without privilege – classified as such but burdened with many of the challenges, stigmas and struggles of minority status. While segments of the Arab American milieu have, in part, assimilated into whiteness – or gained an “off-white” status – the majority are still classified as other and treated as pariah. 

        The proposed MENA category would materially reform the legal classification and conception of Arab American identity. First, the proposal would redact “Middle East and North Africa” from the preexisting white category.

        Second, it would shift these geographic designations into a standalone MENA category; as one of eight options an applicant may choose from while filling out the 2020 U.S. Census.  If adopted, MENA American will be included as a separate box along with White; Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin; Black or African American; Asian; American Indian or Alaska Native; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and Some Other Race.  Instead of being submerged into a generic and amorphous “white” category, Arab Americans will have the opportunity to select a standalone box that explicitly includes it as a broader group.

        Third, the proposed MENA designation, like its seven counterparts, would be supplemented with a fillable box, allowing the applicant to “print specific ethnicities” that fall within the broader (racial or ethnic) classification.  As a result, it will enable applicants to identify along new ethnic or racial terms and, in addition, specify which subgroup or nationality they belong to.  Arab American applicants would be able to write in “Arab American” or “Moroccan American,” for instance, into the fillable box. And, therefore, articulate their identities in the manner they see fit, in addition to identifying broadly as MENA. The proposed framework enables individuals to identify as specifically as they like and as broadly as they choose. 

        The US Census Bureau is currently testing the new category.  Arab Americans are, overwhelmingly, supportive of the MENA Box because of the economic, existential, political legal benefits it will extend.  As illustrated in my recent White Paper for the Campaign to Take on Hate, "Make Us Count," Arab American grassroots support for the proposed box is also strong.  However, in addition to the anticipated benefits, criticism of the box has focused on the possibility of enhanced profiling and policing of (an already vulnerable) population, made possible with more "precise and comprehensive" demographic data. 

        While the benefits Arab Americans stand to gain with the MENA box are clear, and a number of possible perils coming to fore during the protracted "War on Terror," a population long imagined as "other" may have the option - in 5 years - to choose a racial classification that corresponds with their lived reality.    


August 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Convert or Die" - Ethnic Cleansing of Muslims in the Central African Republic

Below is an excerpt from my recent article, "Convert or Die," analyzing the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR).  The full article can be read here, at the Al Jazeera English site - 


Muslims are only newsworthy when behind the gun, not in front of it.

Modern journalism continually reaffirms this baseline with regards to domestic crises and, perhaps even more so, international human rights calamities.

The systematic targeting of Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR), a nation ravaged by strife since March of 2013, has devolved into massive scale ethnic cleansing.

However, few outside of the African nation and beyond the human rights community are even minimally aware of this humanitarian crisis.

In the past several weeks, armed militias have roved through the western part of the nation,intimidating and brutalising Muslims.

Anti-Balaka, a fundamentalist group comprised of animists and Christians, is forcing Muslims to worship in private, remove religious garb, and convert at gunpoint.

Brandishing religious fervour

While the term fundamentalism seems reserved exclusively for Muslim actors, Christian and animist militias in CAR have brandished religious fervour in one hand, and endless rounds of ammunition in the other to terrorise the nation's 750,000 Muslims - which make up 15 percent of the nation's population. 

Anti-Balaka's aim is as plain as it is gruesome: rid the nation of its Muslim population. At any cost.

While the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) remains in the headlines and at the tip of everyone's tongue, the mere mention of anti-Muslim terrorism in CAR - which has claimed at least 6,000 lives, pushed 30,000 Muslims to live in UN protected enclaves, and left scores of mosques destroyed - remains a largely unknown menace.

This would not be the case if Muslims were the villains of the human rights atrocities in CAR, instead of victims.

Mainstream media outlets have long neglected the humanitarian plight of black victims, particularly on the African continent. 

This is most vividly highlighted by the genocides in Rwanda and Burundi in the 1990s, which was brought to the attention of the masses too late, and only garnered international sympathy a decade later with the popular film, Hotel Rwanda.


August 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hiring Update: University of Iowa College of Law Seeking Tenure-Track Professors

The University of Iowa

College of Law



August 2015





            THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA COLLEGE OF LAW anticipates hiring several tenured/tenure track faculty members and clinical faculty members (including a director for field placement program) over the coming year. Our goal is to find outstanding scholars and teachers who can extend the law school’s traditional strengths and intellectual breadth. We are interested in all persons of high academic achievement and promise with outstanding credentials. Appointment and rank will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. Candidates should send resumes, references, and descriptions of areas of interest to:  Faculty Appointments Committee, College of Law, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa  52242-1113.


            THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply and will receive consideration for employment free from discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, religion, associational preference, status as a qualified individual with a disability, or status as a protected veteran.

August 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)