For the first time in four decades, the federal government is poised to add a new ethnic category to the U.S. census form, adding a box for people of Middle Eastern and North African descent.
Details are still being negotiated, but as the form is currently envisioned, people would be able to check the new box in addition to race identifiers, such as "white" or "black." Within the new category, they would also be able to specify national origins, such as Saudi or Israeli, and ethnic affiliations, such as Berber or Kurdish. The new form would go to Congress for final approval in 2018 in time for the 2020 Census.
The move comes after more than 30 years of lobbying, but also at a time of rising Islamophobia and calls by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to ban people from Muslim lands. Some are questioning whether the new designation could lead to profiling or otherwise put them in danger.