Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Looking for a Line on the Census Form

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Looking for a Line on the Census Form

Article excerpt

IMAGINE a child who turns on the radio during the holiday season, only to discover there are no songs on the air for his holiday. Imagine that same child going to the amusement park, looking to purchase one of those key chains that have the name of every possible consumer on them -- except there is no keychain that has his name on it. And imagine that same child being given a survey in school that asks what his ethnicity is, and discovering there is no column to check for his ethnicity. Imagine being that child, and then ask yourself: Would you feel irrelevant?

It would seem that same child is indeed irrelevant to the U.S. Census Bureau, which released new state population estimates last week that show a change in New Jersey's ethnic makeup. Hispanics remained the largest minority group in New Jersey, at 1.4 million; they made up 15.9 percent of the state population. Blacks were the second-largest minority group in New Jersey, at 1.3 million, comprising 14.5 percent of the population. And about 650,000 New Jersey residents listed their race as Asian, making them 7.5 percent of the state population.

Upon close scrutiny of the report there is a curious piece of information missing -- there is no category for Arabs.

This is a recurring problem for Arab-Americans, including the thousands who live in Bergen County, who do not see themselves as Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Native American or Hispanic. Anytime they are called upon to identify their ethnicity on a college application, employment form or survey, they find that the form has no column marked "Arab-American."

The 'other' option

Sometimes, however, they might get lucky with a form that includes a column marked "other," but even then it's not as if Arabs are raised with the proud culture of "other." They do not dance to "other" music, they do not eat "other" food and they are not given "other" names. …

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