“Without a racial classification for Arab-Americans by the U.S. Census Bureau, the population’s mental health goes largely unstudied – particularly in a political climate that threatens it.” – Science writer Passant Rabie.
Here is an article you likely didn’t see from a publication called ScienceLine. Writer Passant Rabie is an Egyptian living in New York who is concerned about environmental justice as well as race and genetics.
In her article she argues that there should be a box for Arabs on questionnaires and on the census to identify the exact number of Arabs living in America.
She explains that their mental health suffers (even more than she says it already does!) when they must check the “white” box.
Arab-Americans’ mental health suffers due to census box
Within my first week of moving from Egypt to the U.S., I was forced to undergo a series of medical exams and receive a host of vaccinations. But it wasn’t the needles piercing into my left arm that made it an unpleasant welcome to a new country. It was the medical forms.
Before filling out my information at the student health center, I was asked to check an ethnicity box. I hovered my pencil over the given options: white, black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
I struggled to find where I fit in. And then, right there next to the ‘white’ category, it read in parenthesis, “A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.”
This was awkward. I was about to get a tuberculosis shot in order to stay in a place where I already felt like I didn’t belong.
Rather than having our own racial category, U.S. residents originating from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are made to check off “white” on their health forms. Even for someone like me, just arrived and whose jet-lag still hadn’t worn off, checking off that ethnic box was alienating. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for those who had grown up here, and all the times they were made to check off a box that wasn’t theirs.
Beyond cloaking millions of people in invisibility, the lack of a MENA ethnic box has also proven problematic when trying to conduct research on the minority group’s mental health. Approximately 3.7 million Americans claim Arab ancestry, according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. But there is no way to obtain nationwide data on Arab-Americans’ health because they are not identified as an ethnic group. This leads to major health disparities and an inability to provide for the group’s medical and psychological needs.
She tells us that Arabs in America have a lot of mental health problems:
Meanwhile, no MENA box means crucial nation-wide data on the mental health of Arab-Americans’ continues to go unrecorded at a time when anti-Muslim rhetoric and its accompanying mental health stress is on the rise.
People of Middle Eastern descent are more prone to psychological distress, as revealed by a 2013 study that was the first to estimate the prevalence of psychological disorders among the MENA population in the U.S. The study compared the mental health disparities between people grouped as ‘non-Hispanic whites,’ revealing that ‘whites’ from the Middle East were twice as likely to report serious psychological distress when compared to whites of European descent. Additionally, Middle-Easterners suffering from psychological distress were less likely to have seen a mental health professional within the last 12 months, according to the study.
Read the whole thing. She says that mental health problems already existed in the Arab community, but we made the problem worse for them after 9/11. Hmmmm?
See that she also blames Trump (who doesn’t!) because she says his administration nixed the idea of a special category for Arabs on the 2020 Census form.
What do you think?
I do think we need a special category for Arabs so that we can have a count of how many are living in the US.
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