Los Angeles Times

Census Bureau says Arabs and Persians are white, but many disagree

Samira Damavandi knows that when she fills out her 2020 census form, she will be counted. But it pains her that, in some way, she will also be forgotten.

When asked to mark her race, Damavandi will encounter options for white, black, Asian, American Indian and Native Hawaiian - but nothing that she believes represents her family's Iranian heritage. She will either have to choose white, or identify as "some other race."

"It erases the community," she said.

Roughly 3 million people of Southwest Asian, Middle Eastern or North African descent live in the United States, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. No other county has more of these communities than Los Angeles, where more than 350,000 people can trace their roots to a region that stretches from Mauritania to the mountains of Afghanistan.

In past census surveys, more than 80 percent in this group have called themselves white, The Times analysis found.

Arab and Iranian communities for years have lobbied the bureau to create a separate category for people of

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