Count MENA in

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently announced their proposed revision to Directive 15 to include a Middle Eastern and North African category. Since 1977, Directive 15, which identifies the data that federal agencies must collect, has set the terms for racial and ethnic categories in the United States. It has systematically excluded Middle Eastern and North Africans from equitable opportunity and protection for decades.

Our communities have struggled with severe cultural, linguistic, and systemic barriers to accessing government services. This has led to troubling disparities in health, education, employment, housing, and civil rights. For example, in 2021, USA Today published an article referring to the impact of COVID-19 on MENA communities as an “unseen crisis” because our communities are placed in the White category. With these standards, our communities cannot effectively tell the stories of surveillance, school suspensions and expulsions, voter suppression, and other forms of discrimination. We have been invisible for far too long.

If we are successful, MENA communities will finally be eligible to receive better federal funding and protection, allowing for more equitable health, education, political representation, and support for small businesses in our communities. If they don’t receive adequate feedback, they could decide that this is not an efficient use of resources. We cannot let that happen.