DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – An Egyptian immigrant who lives in Detroit is asking the U.S. government to classify him as black, not white.
Mostafa Hefny has been trying to get the racial designation since the 1980s.
“As a black man and as an African, I am proud of this heritage,” Hefny told The Detroit News for a story published Tuesday. “My classification as a white man takes away my black pride, my black heritage and my strong black identity.”
Hefny is brown-skinned with curly hair. The 61-year-old was born in Egypt and came to the United States in 1978. When he was admitted to the country, he was classified on government papers as a white person, Hefny said.
“The government (interviewer) said, `You are now white,”‘ said Hefny, who said he is a Nubian, an ancient group of Egyptians considered more African than Arab, from the northern part of Sudan and the southern portion of Egypt.
A white person is defined as “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa or the Middle East,” according to Directive 15 for the federal Office of Management and Budget Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity.
Hefny said he was denied promotions because of his insistence that he is black.
“There are two versions of the ideology of white supremacy and black inferiority — a hard version, which was prevalent in the 17th and 18th centuries, and a soft version which was prevalent in the 19th and 20th centuries and which continues to exist to the present,” Hefny said in a media release.. “The hard version of this ideology argued that Negroes did not have a soul, had a tail, and were only one link above the apes …The soft version, which continues to exist to the present, argues that blacks are intellectually, culturally, and morally inferior to whites.”
He also said he lost out on a teaching position at Wayne State University in the early 1990s because it was a position designed for a minority, and he didn’t qualify.
“I have been awarded, inadvertently, the negative effects of being black such as racial profiling, stereotypes and disenfranchisement due to my negroid features,” Hefny said. “However, the legal demand of my racial classification of ‘white’ prevents me from receiving benefits established for black people.”
In 1997, Hefny filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government to be classified as black, but the case was dismissed.
Hefny also has taken his fight online, where an organization he co-founded, The Association of Black Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Nubian Advocates, has posted a petition.
The site had collected 31 signatures as of Tuesday.
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