To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Olive-Skinned White Man's Burden

Question: Is an Arab a caucasian or a member of a different race?

Answer: It depends on which one is better at the moment for the Arab.

The Los Angeles Times ran a fascinating piece yesterday on some of the racial politics on the UCLA campus. It was one of those articles that in its effort to be perfectly up to date with political correctness manages to unintentionally shine a light on the ironies and absurdities inherent in affirmative action and other diversity programs:
For years the federal government has classified Arab Americans and Middle Easterners as white. But confusion and disagreement have led some students to check "Asian" or "African," depending on what part of the Middle East they came from. Some ... simply marked "Other."

Now several UCLA student groups -- including Arabs, Iranians, Afghanis and Armenians -- have launched a campaign to add a Middle Eastern category, with various subgroups, to the University of California admissions application.
Okay, so this is just an ethnic pride thing, right? Err, not exactly:
The UCLA students said having their own ethnic designation goes beyond self-identity and has real implications for the larger Arab and Middle Eastern communities.

The "white" label can hurt them with universities and companies that use the information to promote diversity, they say ...
Anything to get that foot in the door, get a boost up the ladder, etc., etc ... But it's understandable, right? They are a disadvantaged minority, right? Err, not exactly:
In a 1997 report on the census, the Office of Management and Budget pointed out that while Arab Americans suffer from stereotyping, they tend to be more educated and affluent than the average American (emphasis added). The report questioned whether they should be placed in a minority category, which could increase their chances for benefits aimed at the socially and economically disadvantaged. Some in the Middle Eastern community agree.
Oh, I see. Well, they are are at least finally getting their voices heard by the government about how they would like to be classified, right? Not exactly. You see, it was the Arabs themselves who demanded to be counted as white back when that did provide automatic advantages:
Syrian immigrants, who were considered Asian, waged a legal battle in the early 1900s to be classified as white and thus eligible for citizenship. At the time some were barred by the courts under the Asian Exclusion Act.

That classification was cemented in the late 1970s when the Office of Management and Budget, a federal agency, listed all Middle Easterners as white.

But in the last few decades there has been a push to establish a separate category as the general population has grown more diverse and because of the possible benefits it could bring.
And so there you have it: They're white when it's good to be white but ethnic minorities when there are diversity programs in the offing. I can't say that I'd blame them. If I were in the same position I'd take whatever advantage I could. But can we at least acknowledge that diversity programs -- favoring one race over another in the name of justice -- are inherently absurd?

Labels: , , ,