A group of organizations are pushing for New York lawmakers to pass a bill that would disaggregate data of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) individuals, according to a letter sent Monday.

The bill (S6584-B/A6219-A) would direct every state agency, board, department and commission that collects demographic data to use separate categories to collect data for the “White” and “Middle Eastern or North African” groups.

“Our organizations have seen firsthand the impact of the systemic exclusion of Middle Eastern and North African communities from data collection,” the letter reads. “Our communities do not perceive themselves to be white and are not perceived to be white. We also experience various disparities compared to non-Hispanic whites that go unseen because of the lack of data.”

The group says those communities categorized as “White” hinders those communities in education, employment, housing, health care and political representation.

“Miscategorizing a New Yorker’s race is not only offensive, but has real-world impacts on services and resources my particular communities receive,” Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris said in a statement. “It should be obvious that people from the Middle East or North Africa are not white, yet that is how our laws define them."

Gianaris said the legislation would give many New Yorkers better representation and a more powerful voice.

“The lack of a MENA category has hindered our understanding of the needs of MENA communities and our ability to consider those needs in decision-making and resource allocation,” according to the letter.

The legislative session ends June 6.

“For too long, Middle Eastern and North African communities have been made invisible by our federal and state governments' lack of data collection or lack of disaggregation," Assembly sponsor Jessica González-Rojas said in a statement. "By not including categories for these various communities in the data compiled and analyzed by our state institutions’ data, the needs of neighbors have been unaccounted for and ignored."


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