Andrew Robinson
By Andrew Robinson on May 09, 2023

MENA identification: making all Highwire Walkers feel welcome

In the spirit of our agency value: Inclusion, Always, and in honor of April's Arab American Heritage Month, we are proud to announce that we have updated our self-reporting tracker for race/ethnicity to include Middle Eastern and/or North African (MENA) descent.

Thanks to a compelling all-agency DIBs Council presentation delivered by former intern, Mary Mikali, we learned about the inherent challenge of manifesting a sense of belonging when your identity is erased from the U.S. Census, along with federal and healthcare data systems. Today, individuals in the MENA community are forced to self-identify as “White.” Mary, who identifies as Assyrian, shared a moving perspective about how her lived experience navigating this ethno-racial paradox, as she doesn’t perceive herself to be White given cultural traits like: ancestry, naming and religion. 

Looking Ahead 

The Biden administration has recommended that the MENA category be added to U.S. federal surveys and censuses. 

According to a Federal Register notice, “research suggests that many MENA respondents view their identity as distinct from white — and for over 30 years, stakeholders have advocated for collecting MENA information separate from the census’ “white” category. Among the countries of origin that would get a check for the MENA category would be Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Morocco and Israel.”

In alignment with our fiercely distinct value, Highwire is thrilled to usher in this much-needed change. We’re so proud to be able to take swift action in order to better meet the inclusion needs of our Highwire Walkers. 

If you are interested in learning more, here are some helpful Resources about MENA 

  • Do I Look White to You?” Rep. Rashida Tlaib accused Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham of “erasing” people of Middle Eastern descent 

  • MENA: America’s ‘White’ Minority Group New “Middle Eastern or North African” checkbox proposed for U.S. Census forms in 2030

Published by Andrew Robinson May 9, 2023
Andrew Robinson