Hasan: One region, no representation

Middle Eastern people do not receive recognition in race surveys and this needs to change.

by Aleezeh Hasan

As a graduating senior, I have spent countless hours filling in job applications. On every application, I come across the same question: “What is your race/ethnicity?” 

While I can answer the question quickly, these surveys do not include a choice many people find applicable. They are stuck with selecting “other” or picking a race that doesn’t correlate to their own identity. Among these people is Celine Ammash, a senior at the University of Minnesota majoring in global studies. Ammash was born in Minnesota, but her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon during the 1980s. Her identity is a large part of herself, and she’s seldom able to find representation within race-based surveys. 

“When I am applying for places, I have to put another race, so usually I’ll put Caucasian or white. … I just feel like I’m putting down something that’s not me, so I think it just creates a false portrayal of who I am,” she said. 

At the University of Minnesota, there were over 7,000 students of color enrolled in the undergraduate programs in fall 2017. These students deserve to feel represented within the campus community. For the number of students who are Middle Eastern, this recognition isn’t there. “When I applied to the U, there wasn’t a Middle Eastern category,” Ammash said. She made up for the missing choice by writing her race later in the application: “I wrote that I was Lebanese, to make it a point that I was Middle Eastern. And I remember, like, purposely doing that just so that they knew what my background actually was.”

Students should be able to select their racial background or identity. The privilege of representation is one that Middle Eastern students and people do not get to experience. Adding another choice to race-based surveys, specifically those within the University, is vital to achieve equal representation of all students. 

The U.S. is a land filled with immigrants; it is a land made up of many different races. Ammash explains why she feels her race needs to be recognized on these surveys: “I definitely think there needs to be more representation. Everyone needs to understand that America is a melting pot, and it’s not just little minority groups here and there — America is turning into the entire world in one nation.” 

It’s important to properly recognize diversity because of the makeup of the U.S. Adding the choice of Middle Eastern could lead to several political benefits for minority groups. Besides visibility, the added choice would monitor discrimination, desegregate schools and allow small minority business owners to receive federal loans. This being said, adding “Middle East” is just the start. Other choices should be expanded even more. Eventually, it may make the most sense to allow people to fill in their race in a blank space, rather than having them select from a few options. 

When it comes to the University of Minnesota, our school should not advertise diversity when it doesn’t allow all races to make their backgrounds known on applications. In order to actually uphold the countless identities within our school, all race choices should be recognized.