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Arab Americans lose major benefits from ‘discriminatory’ exclusion from US census

CHICAGO: According to Samer Khalaf, National Chairman of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee.

During an interview on The Ray Hanania Show on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News, the head of ADC said that while he was in favor of using the term “Arab” in the census, the community consensus to use MENA, or Middle East and North African, has the support of the Biden administration and crosses the many divides of the community.

Census exclusion, Khalaf said, resulted in the loss of benefits for Arab Americans — from receiving federal grants to inclusion in congressional political empowerment programs.

“It’s not just that we lost things. We never got anything we were entitled to. It’s not just a financial aspect. There has never been a National Institute Health study on the Arab community. And the reason is that there is no reliable data that can be used in the study because we are not counted. We have become the invisible minority,” Khalaf told Arab News.

“So there are things other than financial that we don’t get. We don’t know what our COVID infection rates are. We don’t know what percentage of our community is vaccinated because that data just isn’t not collected. It’s more than just a financial loss to our community. We’ve lost a lot… we don’t even realize it.

Khalaf pointed out, “It’s (the exclusion from the census) discrimination because it basically excludes us from a lot of the programs that we think we’re entitled to. Plus, it’s treating us like we don’t exist. Literally, because we don’t exist in this country at all and that’s the biggest problem we have.

Khalaf said that over the years, the diversity of the Arab world and the Middle East has actually worked against the fact that the US government has adopted the term “Arab” as a possible designation in a future census, perhaps. be in 2030. That’s why the focus was on “MENA”. .”

“The ADC’s number one preference is still ‘Arab’. This has always been the case. We use the term and will use the term, and will continue to use the term in the future. Our biggest (concern), again, what we thought was the big picture, is that as long as we were counted as a separate and distinct Arab (or) MENA group, we just need to be counted,” Khalaf said.

“We want the problem to be transformed away from what (term) to use, so that we are counted. Let’s set aside (of) the question and the terms we are going to use and at least settle the question of being counted and out of the way. That’s why we as an organization said very well. If it is to be the MENA region, as long as we are counted, we are fine with that.

Khalaf said the Arab community has not received its share of support from the federal government, which ranges from funding to political recognition and support for cultural and health programs.

One example of how Arabs have been marginalized, Khalaf said, is the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic’s impact on Arab Americans. He said the government has instead asked the Arab community to gather the community data needed to qualify Arab families and businesses for COVID-19 assistance.

“One of the pushbacks we get from the federal government is … that there are no statistics, or there are no numbers on how many Arab-American companies are there. Where are they located? Are they successful? They want to know if we have any problems getting loans. Are our interest rates higher than others because of discrimination? This information is not available,” Khalaf said.

“They came to us and asked us to collect this information. So CDA is doing a study. We try to collect data. We are asking Arab American business owners across the country to complete a questionnaire that we have on our website which is located at ADCRI.org.

“Business owners can go there and fill out a questionnaire. It will be anonymous so no one knows who they are. But at least now we can get the data and take it to the government and say hello, here’s the data we have for you. Now give us the minority business designation.

“It changed and transformed the landscape. So we have seen problems with our own businesses. We have seen other issues develop due to COVID. And a lot of that was more or less related to the fact that our community was unable to take full advantage of all the benefits that the federal government and the state governments provide to individuals.

“And part of that was due to our own lack of knowledge. Part of it was because of our language barrier, language barriers. And part of that was the fact that as a community we are not recognized. We are still classified as white. We were therefore (by) definition not even able to obtain some of these advantages.

Khalaf said exclusion from the census as “Arab” or “MENA” is “holding us back”, and that Arabs have become an “underserved community” when it comes to providing resources to address the challenges. challenges faced by all communities, including family services, domestic violence, disability, mental health and health care.

“We are being denied the resources to know how these issues affect our community and how serious they are,” he said.

Khalaf said the Arab community was close to being fully included in the census under President Barack Obama’s administration, but noted that former President Donald Trump had blocked it. President Joe Biden, he said, is “looking into it.”

“There is a good chance that will happen. It’s a question of time. But we have to be vigilant,” Khalaf said.

“We have to organize the census and the OMB – and don’t forget that the OMB is a big player in all of this, the Office of Management and Budget. The OMB is the classification setter, and we have to keep our feet on the fire and say that was a done deal and you were on your way to doing it if it wasn’t for the old administration.

The Ray Hanania Show airs live every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit, including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington DC, including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show reairs Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 p.m. on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.

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