Nicole Salame, 19, was filling out an application to UCLA last year when she got to the question about race and ethnicity. She thought a mistake had been made.
"I read it five times and was like, where is Middle Eastern?" the freshman recently recalled. "Is it on the other page, did it get cut off? I thought they forgot."
Her Lebanese-born mother told her Arabs are considered white, but Salame didn't believe her. Her high school counselor told her the same thing.
"It did not make sense to me, it's so far-fetched," said Salame, who ended up checking "Other."
For years the federal government has classified Arab Americans and Middle Easterners as white. But confusion and disagreement have led some students to check "Asian" or "African," depending on what part of the Middle East they came from. Some, like Salame, simply marked "Other."
Now several UCLA student groups -- including Arabs, Iranians, Afghanis and Armenians -- have launched a campaign to add a Middle Eastern category, with various subgroups, to the University of California admissions application. They hope to emulate the Asian Pacific Coalition's "Count Me In" campaign, which a few years ago successfully lobbied for the inclusion of 23 ethnic categories on the UC application, including Hmong, Pakistani, Native Hawaiian and Samoan.
The UCLA students said having their own ethnic designation goes beyond self-identity and has real implications for the larger Arab and Middle Eastern communities. (More)