Judicial Watch Urges Trump Administration to Reject New Middle Eastern-North African Racial Census Category
JUNE 15, 2017
‘The primary effect of the systematic reliance on crude racial categories is to perpetuate misinformation and reinforce irrational beliefs and stereotypes about others.’ – Judicial Watch letter to OMB
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today it submitted a comment opposing an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) proposal to add a new Middle Eastern-North African (MENA) ethnic category to the 2020 U.S. Census.
In March 2017, OMB presented the proposal, developed by the Federal Interagency Working Group for Research on Race and Ethnicity, which would allow people to specify Middle Eastern and North African national origins and ethnic affiliations along with traditional race identifiers such as “white” or “black.” Racial classifications in the U.S. Census have been unchanged since 1997. OMB asked for comments on this proposal, which was prepared and developed by the Obama administration last year.
Judicial Watch said in its comment that it has “serious concerns about the proposal and submits that OMB should reject the Working Group’s proposal to establish a new pan-ethnic, pan-national classification for Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) as a distinct reporting category.”
The “primary effect of systematic reliance on crude racial categories is to perpetuate misinformation and reinforce irrational beliefs and stereotypes about others,” Judicial Watch said in its April 30, 2017, comment to OMB.
Judicial Watch cited the American Anthropological Association, which says that racial categories do not bear scientific scrutiny:
“Genetic data show that, no matter how racial groups are defined, two people from the same racial group are about as different from each other as two people from any two different racial groups”… [While Americans] “have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences,” [the] “vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century” [shows] “that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups.”
The MENA classification “does not appear anywhere else in the world, not even in the region defined by the proposed MENA category,” Judicial Watch noted. “Yet, the OMB may now institutionalize this useless, new classification.”
Judicial Watch argues that the MENA category will lead to “less precise and more arbitrary data classifications that, contrary to OMB’s disclaimer, will be used to combine and recast numerous small groups of individuals, with different ethnic origins, into one homogenized minority group.
The Working Group’s report indicates that the MENA classification will include individuals “having origins” from any one of 27 countries, spanning three continents. “The distance between some of these points exceeds 2,500 miles,” Judicial Watch noted.
An Arab American Institute supporting the new classification and MENA Advocacy Network representative estimated there were 3.2 million U.S. residents who possibly could be identified as having MENA “ancestry.” That amounts to less than one percent of the total population, Judicial Watch noted. “Given the Working Group’s finding that only 33.9 percent of those residents see themselves as MENA exclusively, the projected MENA-classified population” may be as small as “about 0.34 percent of the population,” Judicial Watch added.
“This new Middle Eastern racial category is a sop to Islamist activists seeking to gain political power and government benefits,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “By adding ‘Middle Eastern’ to the already divisive government racial categories, Americans can expect all sorts of negative consequences, such as ‘civil rights’ lawsuits over criticism of Islam.”