Classified as White: Historical Insights into the Racial Classifications of Americans of Middle Eastern & North African Descent (Videos)

Title

Classified as White: Historical Insights into the Racial Classifications of Americans of Middle Eastern & North African Descent (Videos)

Description

Dr. Randa A. Kayyali from the Elliott School for International Affairs at George Washington University about the intersections of religion and race for immigrants in the U.S. during the first half of the 20th century.

"I'd like to thank Muhannad and the staff here at the Library of Congress, the Africa Middle East Division, for their kindness and inviting me and welcoming me to this lecture series. I'd also like to thank the Arab-American National Museum and Helen Samhan [assumed spelling] for the images that you will see in this PowerPoint. This piece is a work in progress, so I hope -- and I'm looking forward to the question-and-answer session. The classification of Middle Easterners and North Africans in the US as white by race stretches back over a century ago. In light of the possibility that there might be a new Middle Eastern and North African box, MENA box, and I'll use that acronym throughout my presentation, on the 20/20 census form. This historical research has contemporary significance. In today's presentation, we will learn that debates of the MENA racial classifications are not novel, and that a deeper examination of history and critique of historical narratives offers the contemporary reader 3 noteworthy insights. Firstly, the naturalization rulings in US courts that determine the eligibility of early MENA's to US citizenship show that labels of the geographic region and the perceptions of people within them determined race. While they're ultimately classified as white, and therefore grouped with Europeans, those with Middle Eastern origins were noted as from Asia in terms of Continental assignments, but not ultimately Asiatic or Mongolian by race. Secondly, I will show that the judges in these cases drew a Christian Muslim binary and placed a premium on their origins in the Mohammed world, as it was called back then. Occasionally noting the Eastern rites of their Christianity, and generally grouping Syrian Christians with Islam by culture, even if they were recognized as Christian. Finally, the history of the US Census classifications indicates that MENA's have been identified by factors other than race and religion on official forms issued by the US government for over a century, specifically through questions relating to ancestry and language spoken at home. In other words, then is now. There are additional ways to access ethnic identity within a broad racial white racial classification."

Creator

Randa A. Kayyali

Publisher

Library of Congress

Date

November 4, 2015

Contributor

Joan Weeks, Head of the Near East section and Turkey Specialist introduces the lecture series/webcast.
Dr. Muhannad Salhi, our Arab World Specialist, introduction to speaker
Arab American Museum (images in the MS PowerPoint)

Format

mov

Language

English

Type

Moving Image

Coverage

United States

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Comments

Citation

Randa A. Kayyali, “Classified as White: Historical Insights into the Racial Classifications of Americans of Middle Eastern & North African Descent (Videos),” Anti-Racism Digital Library, accessed November 25, 2020, https://sacred.omeka.net/items/show/109.