Someone Please…Explain To Me, Why Is This Man NOT Black?

Some time ago, I understood a very simple concept about race. But now I realize that the concept was wrong. More recently, l also learned how race was/is but a construct having little to do with anything scientific. I now understand race to serve as a political function that our practice & the color of our skin is not the source of who we are in that realm unless we agree to it. Now this brings me to the subject of this post. To the general public, why was this man classified as white?

A little over a year ago, it was brought to my attention of an Egyptian man. I’m sure you’ve heard of him before. If not, then just know he’s the Egyptian man who came to the USA and was classified as white. He even went so far as to file a lawsuit to get his status changed from white to black. The only weird issue about this case is the guy has the same amount of melanin in his skin as Morgan Freeman. So, why was he classified as white and not black? It made me wonder that the idea of race was not entirely based on skin tone, but instead of a document called Federal Directive 15.

I’ll even briefly quote what the American Anthropological Association had to say about it:

“Race” as a concept is controversial because of the numerous instances in human history in which a categorical treatment of people, rationalized on the grounds of biology-like terms, have been used. Common examples of this include arguments about which “race” is more intelligent, better at mathematics or athletics, and so on. The ultimate use of categorical notions of race has occurred to achieve political ends, as in the Holocaust, slavery, and the extirpation of American Indian populations, that, while basically economic in motivation, has received emotional support and rationale from biological language used to characterize groups. The danger in attempting to tie race and biology is not only that individuals are never identical within any group, but that the physical traits used for such purposes may not even be biological in origin. — Read AAA’s full response.

Now, after briefly reading about the origins of race and Federal Directive 15, I have to revisit my topic relating to the Egyptian man who was classified as white because this all ties in together. On his Facebook page in June of 2015, he writes:

My name is Dr. Mostafa Hefny. I am a Black Man but I am classified as White by the U.S. Government, according to Federal Director 15 of the Office of Management and Budget. I am an Egyptian Nubian and a naturalized U.S. Citizen. I am proud of being black and I am organizing thousands of Egyptian Nubians, so that they would file a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Government to have their racial classification changed from whites to blacks. Read full response here.

Now I don’t know about you, but after reading the responses from the AAA and Dr. Mostafa Hefny, it makes me question my entire understanding of what race is and what it is not and the true intentions behind each classification? Because from the looks of it, this man does not appear white, however the US government says he is. Welcome to the twilight zone folks!

It’s like all my life, I was under the impression I was black because of my skin and everybody else who had the same complexion as I was black as well. However, from the two examples I’ve provided above, I get a whole different description of what being black means and part of it has nothing to do with skin color at all.

However, the question remains open. Why would the Federal Government knowingly structure race the way it did in the 20th century? Also, what does each racial classification imply from a political perspective in terms of rights? Lastly, could this play a part to how inack people in America are so often treated by the system?


Originally published at medium.com on August 5, 2016.

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