Legally White, Socially Brown: Racialization of Middle Eastern Americans
Routledge Handbook on Islam and Race (ed. Zain Abdullah), Forthcoming
18 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2020
Date Written: August 18, 2020
What are you – Black, White, Mexican? This is a frequent question posed to people of Middle Eastern and North African ancestry. For new immigrants, the question is confounding because these categories are not in their lexicon on identity. Instead, a person’s family name, tribe, neighborhood in a city, village, or clan situate them in their home country’s social hierarchies.
In America, however, they soon discover that race is the master category for identity formation. It does not take long for new immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa to learn that being White presents privilege, opportunity, and dignity, whereas being Black leads to a litany of subjugation, indignities, and inequities in the United States. Whatever confusion they may have about how to respond to the race question, their first application for work or school dictates the answer: “White” includes persons having origins in Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. But their legal race does not always mirror their social, lived race.
Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Arab, MENA, Race, Racialization, Racism, 9/11, War on Terror
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