Egyptian Immigrant Wants to be Reclassified as Black

Mostafa Hefny feels he's been black his whole life. The U.S. government doesn't agree.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Max Ortiz / Detroit News / AP

Dr. Mostafa Hefny

Anyone who’s ever filled out a census document or taken the SATs is familiar with that odd moment when you have to bubble in your racial classification. For many, the choices are confusing, limiting, and problematic. In the end, each person bubbles in what they best feel represents their identity. But when Mostafa Hefny immigrated to the United States from Egypt in 1978, he didn’t get a say in that decision.

“The government [interviewer] said, ‘You are now white,” Hefny told CBS Detroit.

Since the 1980s, CBS reports, Henfy has been fighting to have the U.S. government reclassify him as black, which is how he’s always seen himself. “My classification as a white man takes away my black pride, my black heritage and my strong black identity,” Henfy told the Detroit News.

Hefny, 61, filed a suit in 1997 against the U.S. government to be reclassified, but his case was dismissed. Hefny has also reached out to President Obama for help, writing him a letter on June 29, the Detroit News reports, as well as the Justice Department and the United Nations.

“I have been awarded, inadvertently, the negative effects of being black such as racial profiling, stereotypes and disenfranchisement due to my Negroid features. However, the legal demand of my racial classification of ‘white’ prevents me from receiving benefits established for black people, “ he told CBS. Hefny says he’s lost out on university teaching positions because they were positions designed for a minority and he did not qualify.

Currently, Directive 15 for the federal Office of Management and Budget Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity defines race by the following categories: Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black of African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific islander, White, Nonresident alien, Resident alien, and Race/ethnicity unknown.

(READ: Should the Census Be Asking People If They Are Negro?)

“White” is defined as “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa” — which is why the U.S. government classifies Hefny as such. However, the desgination for “Black or African American” applies to “a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.” According to CBS, Hefny says that he is descended from the Nubians, the ancient group of Egyptians from the northern part of Sudan and southern part of Egypt.

An article by Charles Whitaker in Ebony in 2002 entitled “Was Cleopatra Black?” explored this topic of racial classification in Egypt, and found that, among scholars, “discussions of Cleopatra’s race were so couched and so guarded that professors even fear engaging in the discussion publicly.”

“Cleopatra is one of those figures whose race often depends on the lens you use to view her,” Julia Perkins, associate directors of community programs for the Art Institute of Chicago told Ebony. Whitaker talked to various scholars who all found classifying Cleopatra to be “full of complexity, full of odd historical twists, and that there was no real, easy answer.” Her father’s mother may have been a concubine from Nubia, Whitaker writes, so that would make her African Egyptian.

Hefny also classifies himself as African Egyptian, and has co-founded The Association of Black Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Nubian Advocates to drum up support for his cause. He’s posted a petition online, and currently has collected 188 signatures.

MORE: How to Read Political Racial Code

9 comments
JohnGalt666
JohnGalt666

Does anyone seriously believe this nut cant get a job because of some paperwork filed 30 years ago that misclassified him as white? He can put down that he is black on any job application or census form and no one would ever question it. 


His lawsuit was dismissed because it was ridiculous. 

LevonTostig
LevonTostig

Now hold on a moment... if we can legislate the meaning of words away (marriage, boy/girl, profit, earning), why not legislate color away, too?  Let's ALL be black!  Then we can ALL get the same benefits established for blacks.

This guy has something - he's found THE way to end racism.  If we're all black, there won't be any racism, whatsoever.  Okay, so maybe some of us will be "lighter" - but "high yellow" isn't something new to black culture.

I say that, from now on, we are all black.  There.  Racism has ended.  Let's all hold hands now... and line up for the gravy train.

swift2010
swift2010

This Bloke looks black to me / but then i may be being racist 

Edward_Teach
Edward_Teach

So you came over here for the entitlement programs? Deport now

Doubleutf
Doubleutf

"However, the legal demand of my racial classification of ‘white’ prevents me from receiving benefits established for black people, “ he told CBS. Hefny says he’s lost out on university teaching positions because they were positions designed for a minority and he did not qualify."

And there you have it! The sad thing is no matter what color the teacher is, the position should be given to the most qualified person, not the darkest...

Kimberbunny
Kimberbunny

Or at least the hottest applicant. Base it on something worthwhile...

Doubleutf
Doubleutf

Exactly! Hire people using the restaurant Hooters standards, or Tilted Kilt. I'm assuming you guys have Hooters and Tilted Kilt restaurants...

Doubleutf
Doubleutf

It's a restaurant full of women almost as hot as you wearing short kilts, and not much else...

Kimberbunny
Kimberbunny

Hooter, yes. Tilted kilt, I have never heard of. Is it peen or vag focused? LOL