As census approaches, many Arab Americans feel left out

Naia Al-Anbar, who has a Saudi Arabian father, would mark "other" on the census if a more precise category isn't offered. (AP)
Updated 13 April 2019

As census approaches, many Arab Americans feel left out

  • "Right now we have that 'white' designation on paper but we don't benefit from it," said 24-year-old activist and organizer Naia Al-Anbar
  • "The truth is we aren't ever going to be white in their eyes and we will still be discriminated against," she added

PHOENIX: The 2020 census is going to printing presses later this year, but Arab Americans are feeling left out of the process.
That’s because they don’t have a box to check in the race section of the census.
The only race options are white, black, Asian and categories for groups such as American Indian and Native Hawaiian. As a result, many Arab Americans check the white box.
Advocates say it leads to an undercount of Arab Americans and less representation and money for important research that’s based on the census.

Yousuf Abdelfatah already knows the answer he'll give about his race on the 2020 census questionnaire will be wrong.
"If you look at me, my skin is darker, I'm visibly not white," said the 22-year-old research assistant. "I've lived my life as a person of color, but I'm categorized as white."
Organizations have long been pushing for a separate Middle Eastern or North African category but realize it's probably too late for 2020 with questionnaires ready to be printed.
"The census is in our Constitution and it's meant to count everyone," said Maya Berry, the executive director of the Arab American Institution.
According to census estimates, the Arab American population is measured at just over 2 million people. The Arab American Institute, however, says that number is closer to 3.6 million.
Underreporting from the census has come amid a rapid growth of the community, which advocates say has increased by more than 72% between 2000 and 2010.
Population data is a key factor in political redistricting, researching human rights, monitoring government programs and antidiscrimination laws, meaning Arab Americans are subject to a lack of representation and health and social services.
"Right now we have that 'white' designation on paper but we don't benefit from it," said 24-year-old activist and organizer Naia Al-Anbar. "The truth is we aren't ever going to be white in their eyes and we will still be discriminated against."
Al-Anbar, who generally supports the idea of a new category, has a Saudi Arabian father and would mark "other" on the census if a more precise category isn't offered.
The Arab American Institute considers 22 countries to consist of Arabs, spanning Africa and Asia, meaning Arab Americans can fall into several categories provided in the survey.
This creates an odd decision during the census for Arab Americans. Does someone from Egypt, for example, check the African American box because their home country is in Africa? Would someone from Iraq be expected to mark that they are Asian?
"As an Egyptian, I considered marking 'African American' but I'm not black," 24-year-old Nashville resident Dina El-Rifai said. "However, marking 'white' doesn't reflect who I am or the diversity I bring."
In another complicating factor, the Trump administration wants to ask people whether they are American citizens on the census — an issue that is supposed to be resolved by the US Supreme Court this summer before the forms are printed. Some fear that will stifle participation among various immigrant groups, especially in the aftermath of the administration's travel ban from Muslim countries that spread fear among Arab Americans.
This question would discourage 30% of Arab Americans from taking the survey, a study by the American-Arab Anti-Defamation Committee found.
The Arab American Institute and other groups have worked on getting an Arab category introduced in the census for decades but have always been met with opposition. That was until 2009, when the Census Bureau concluded that it would introduce a Middle Eastern and North African category for the next cycle after years of trials and tests. Test results found that the vast majority of Arab Americans supported the issue and would mark the new option on the census.
But the momentum came to a halt when a new executive government was voted in to power.
"After all that work, and all the millions spent, the Trump administration came in for what we believe are political reasons to put an end to it," said Samer Khalaf, president of the American-Arab Anti-Defamation Committee. "Their reasoning was that additional testing would be required."
The Census Bureau did not comment about the Middle Eastern category, but pointed to previous news conferences where policy leaders discussed how more research was needed to include a Middle Eastern/North African category not as a race, but as an ethnicity.
"We do feel that more research and testing is needed before we can proceed to implement or propose to implement a separate Middle Eastern or North African category," Census Bureau chief of Population Karen Battle said at a program review in January 2018.
That would be a step in the right direction for many Arab Americans, as it could lead to a better count and more research and federal funding to benefit their communities.
"The most important thing is that we are on the cusp of getting the Census Bureau to finally get the category that would help identify our community," Khalaf said. "If we were able to get data, we can work on civil rights, and maybe they'll know whether or not we have a higher rate of diabetes or heart disease."


Tradition, modernity mingle at Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shouts “banzai,” meaning “long live the emperor,” during the enthronement ceremony for Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

Tradition, modernity mingle at Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement

  • Ritual-bound, centuries-old ceremony takes places at Imperial Palace in Tokyo
  • Heads of state and officials from Japan and 180 countries among the attendees

TOKYO: It was a ceremony similar to coronations used by monarchs worldwide, but combining the historical and the spiritual with modernity. Japan’s Emperor Naruhito formally completed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Oct. 22.
Purple curtains were drawn back to reveal Naruhito, 59, and Empress Masako, 55, standing before their imperial thrones as the enthronement ceremony began.
Wearing a dark orange robe, similar to that worn by his father Akihito at his own enthronement in 1990, Naruhito proclaimed his ascension from a 6.5 meter-high, canopied “Takamikura” throne.
Through the centuries-old ceremony, Naruhito declared himself Japan’s 126th emperor and vowed to “stand with the people” before roughly 2,000 guests, including heads of state and officials from Japan and more than 180 countries. Among the attendees were Japanese royal family members also wearing traditional robes.
In his congratulatory message to the emperor, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised that the people of Japan would “respect (his) highness the emperor as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the Japanese people.” He then stood before Naruhito’s throne, bowed and raised his hands three times, shouting “banzai,” meaning “long live the emperor.”
Saudi Arabia was represented by Minister of State Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, who conveyed greetings from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Japanese people.Saudi Ambassador to Japan Naif bin Marzouq Al-Fahadi, and other Saudi officials, were also present.

Japan’s Princess Mako attended the enthronement ceremony. (AFP)


The enthronement ceremony is a part of a succession of rituals that began in May when Naruhito inherited the throne, after Akihito became the first emperor to abdicate in 200 years.
As Naruhito ascended the throne, boxes containing items of imperial regalia, including an imperial sword and jewel, were presented to him.
“Having previously succeeded to the Imperial Throne in accordance with the constitution of Japan and the Special Measures Law on the Imperial House Law, I now … proclaim my enthronement to those at home and abroad,” the Japan Times newspaper quoted Naruhito as declaring.
“I pledge hereby that I shall act according to the constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the state, and of the unity of the people of Japan, while always wishing for the happiness of the people and the peace of the world, turning my thoughts to the people and standing by them.” An imperial procession that was to take place after the ceremony was postponed after Typhoon Hagibis hit Tokyo earlier this month. On Nov. 10, the emperor and empress will take part in a procession through central Tokyo to the Akasaka Imperial Residence.
To mark the enthronement, the government has granted pardons to more than half a million people found guilty of petty crimes such as traffic violations.
In an article for Arab News, Shihoko Goto, deputy director for geoeconomics at the Asia Program of the US think tank the Wilson Center, asked a question she believes will be echoed by many in Japan: “Can the country carry on its historical legacy while embracing the opportunities of the 21st century? “The new imperial couple is likely to want to further Emperor Akihito’s legacy as a conduit for reconciliation.”