Ethnic Group Takes Different Approach to Census

FRESNO, Calif.

There is a new movement in the Arab-American community spreading on YouTube. The creators of a short video want Arab-Americans to check "Other" on the 2010 Census and fill in their heritage rather than checking "White."

Along with Syrians, Arabs have been considered "White" according to the Census. Fresno's Kamal Abu-Shamsieh disagrees with the video's message. "Personally I don't like to be categorized as 'other,'" he said.

Abu-Shamsieh will be checking 'White.' "My religious identity supersedes my ethnic background while I am still proud of my heritage as well," he said.

Abu-Shamsieh is the Director of Fresno's Islamic Cultural Center and said there's a bigger challenge than race in getting Arabs to take part in the Census. For many its a lack of trust due to the Arab backlash after 9/11.

Abu-Shamsieh: "Whether it be wire tapping, whether it be use of informants, the spying on the community. That created some sense of fear. What is the government going to do with our information?"

"Where they come from the governments are very repressive so they fear governments in other countries when they ask for information," said Dr. Sarbjit Johal, social science professor at Fresno City College.

Johal said the 2000 Census counted close to one-million Arab-Americans and believes that number could easily hit 4-Million this time around.

Johal: "It's to their advantage to fill it out. Just put "Other" race."

If not Nereida Murillo said the Arab-American community and other minorities could miss out on money.

Murillo: "For every 100 individuals it is estimated that a community losses approximately $1.2 (M) over the course of ten years."

Murillo travels up and down the Central Valley dispelling Census rumors. She said all information is confidential. "It is not shared with your landlord, not shared with your school, employer, it is not shared with immigration services or any other organization," she added.

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