Could Middle East/North Africa Soon Be a New Racial Category?

On September 30, 2016, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) advanced a proposal with a notice to the Federal Register to create a new racial or ethnic category.

Currently people from the Middle East and North Africa are considered “white” in the U.S. Census.  The proposed change could add a new category to the list. Middle Eastern or North Africa, or MENA, is broader in concept than Arab (an ethnicity) or Muslim (a religion).  It would include anyone from a region of the world stretching from Morocco to Iran, including Syrian and Coptic Christians, Israeli Jews and other religious minorities.

What will the data will be used for once collected?  According to the OMB, the data will be used for:

  • Enforcing the requirements of the Voting Rights Act;
  • Reviewing State congressional redistricting plans;
  • Collecting and presenting population and population characteristics data, labor force data, education data, and vital and health statistics;
  • Establishing and evaluating Federal affirmative action plans and evaluating affirmative action and discrimination in employment in the private sector;
  • Monitoring the access of minorities to home mortgage loans under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act;
  • Enforcing the Equal Credit Opportunity Act;
  • Monitoring and enforcing desegregation plans in the public schools;
  • Assisting minority businesses under the minority business development programs;
  • Monitoring and enforcing the Fair Housing Act.

So what does this mean for Federal Contractors?  Well, we have plenty of time to think about it as it would not go into effect until the 2020 Census.  If this passes contractors will most likely need to change their paper and online self-id forms to include the new race categories and re-survey the workforce.

The good news is that maybe with these changes, the OFCCP and the EEOC will sync their race/ethnicity categories. Only time will tell.

By Rosemary Cox, Senior Consultant at DCI Consulting Group

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