Don’t call me MENA, call me Arab

Don’t call me MENA, call me Arab

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Don’t call me MENA, call me Arab

President Obama is considering placing an all inclusive category called “MENA” (Middle Eastern and North Africa) on the US Census forms going out soon to identify the nation’s 2020 demographic population, but I think the designation should be sweet and simple “Arab.” I’m not MENA, I am Arab and I am proud.

By Ray Hanania

Columnist with the Arab News,

RayHananiaColumnPodcast_In continuation of his efforts to change the US census, President Barack Obama has proposed a new classification to identify “Middle Eastern and North African” people in a new category called “MENA.”

Although many are hailing Obama’s efforts, placing Arabs in the “MENA” category might actually dilute American Arab empowerment by avoiding the word “Arab.”

We should be called “Arabs” because that is what we are.

Classifying people by race and ethnicity began during the 1960s Civil Rights era and focused mainly on the status of African Americans but by the 1970s was expanded to allow for the US census to provide detailed statistics on up to 29 ethnic and sub-ethnic identities.

America conducts a population census every 10 years. Data from the census is used to ensure that minorities receive their fair share of American society.

Photo by USDAgov

US Census taking Photo by USDAgov

The census is used to enforce the Voting Rights Act, and drawing congressional and state legislative district boundaries. It is used in Federal affirmative action and evaluating employment discrimination claims in the private sector. It is used to fight racial discrimination in housing and mortgage lending, and to enforce school desegregation. The census also defines how identified racial and ethnic groups receive Federal grants and small business loans.

Award given to Ray Hanania from the U.S. Census in volunteering to help promote the Census among American Arabs with the goal of creating a new Census category for Arab Americans

Award given to Ray Hanania and is newspaper in 2000, the Arab American View, from the U.S. Census in volunteering to help promote the Census among American Arabs with the goal of creating a new Census category for Arab Americans

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(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. American Palestinian Arab, Hanania writes a weekly column for the Arab News at He also writes each week for several mainstream American newspapers on American politics and life in Chicagoland. Reach him at

This post has already been read 482 times!

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites and (Illinois News Network at

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post,, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

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