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Film sends note to Census Bureau: Arab Americans are not “white”

Aug 29, 2017

Dearborn likes to boast that is has the highest proportion of Arab Americans in the country. But according to the U.S. Census, about 89 percent of the city’s approximately 100,000 people are white.

Amer Zahr is an Arab American comedian and writer.
Credit Stateside Staff / Michigan Radio

That’s because according to the United States’ government, Arab Americans are white.

“It’s a real mis-identifier [sic], you know,” said Michigan-based comedian and writer Amer Zahr “It’s one thing to not be identified. It’s worse to be misidentified because we’re not white in any way that ‘white’ means.”

Zahr recently released a documentary titled We’re Not White, and he joined Stateside today to explain what motivated him to create the film.

“I mean, we don’t get any white privilege, for sure,” he said. “If I commit a crime, they’re not going to say, ‘Hey, that white guy committed a crime.’”

Many of the young Arab Americans Zahr talked to while filming his his documentary agreed they aren’t white. Take a listen:

Zahr said the ramifications of not being counted as Arab Americans are serious.

"Having a box means that it would be finally accepted that we are part of the American fabric, and we are a group that deserves recognition and protection."

"Not being counted means that you are not seen as part of the fabric of America," Zahr said. "You know, when your box is not there, you feel like you don't belong. And that is something has been perpetrated in American society and American media for such a long time – this idea that Arabs and Muslims, because these terms get conflated even though they’re not the same, are perpetually foreign, perpetually other.

"And having a box means that it would be finally accepted that we are part of the American fabric, and we are a group that deserves recognition and protection."

Listen to the full conversation above to hear why Zhar says not having a box leaves Arab Americans without the same legal protections as other minorities.

Watch We're Not White below:

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