‘White’ designation creates a barrier to equal protection under the law
By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – The City Council supported a resolution March 21 to urge the Federal Office of Management and Budget to include Middle Eastern or North African as a race and ethnicity category.
Currently, MENA populations are included under the “white” category on the U.S. Census and other federal forms, which have not updated data collection categories in more than 25 years.
The resolution notes that diversity in the United States has shifted significantly since 1997, while at the same time conditions have worsened for marginalized groups that are not identified through federal data collection categories.
Recognizing a “Middle Eastern or North African” category as part of “Statistical Policy Directive Number 15,” SPD 15 will end the exclusion of MENA populations from accessing equal protection from discrimination, as well as opening the door to receiving the benefits from federal program that serve culturally specific or linguistically isolated groups.
Race and ethnicity data is also used as an important tool to advocate for protection under the Voting Rights Act, for assistance under the Small Business Act and to access health care services under the Public Health Services Act.
Dearborn has launched language initiatives to help provide services and protections, and it is hoped that the MENA classification will provide data that will become a tool to address inequities in health care, education and employment.
ACCESS and the Intercultural Community Center of Dearborn support the MENA designation and hope the data will help the federal government recognize and meet the needs of the MENA population.