According to the Los Angeles Times, this year’s outreach campaign is the first time Iranian Americans have been encouraged to specifically identify themselves as Iranians on their Census forms.
The protests that followed the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are expected to help. Since the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, the LAT reports, Iranian Americans have been reluctant to identify themselves. But that’s changed since this summer:
“It has created a sea change in the way Americans view Iranians,” said Reza Aslan, author of “How to Win a Cosmic War,” who moved to the U.S. from Iran in 1979. “No doubt about it, it’s now cool to be Iranian.”
Some hailed it as a sort of coming out for Iranian Americans. The hope is that the effects of that change will be seen in the census count next year.
“It was a sort of boost or a shot in the arm,” [Census Bureau partnership specialist Nadia] Babayi said, because people were encouraged to say that they were Iranian. They weren’t hiding anymore.”
After the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, many Iranian Americans and expatriates chose to keep a low profile in what some saw as a hostile environment. The 1991 film “Not Without My Daughter” was blamed for helping to cast a negative light on Iranian men. Starring Sally Field, it depicted an American woman and her daughter fleeing Iran and an abusive husband. And in 2002, then-President Bush declared Iran a member of the “Axis of Evil.”
About 300,000 Iranians were counted in the 2000 Census, a figure thought to be highly underreported. The U.S. government classifies Iranians as “white” and some didn’t know they could specify in the “other” category that they were Iranian.