Mostafa Hefny was classified as white, he is blackWhen Mostafa Hefny immigrated to the U.S. in 1978, he got a rude awakening. As the customs agent welcomed him into the country, the brown-skinned Egyptian-native was told that he was now considered white. 

Despite the fact that Hefny, now 61, looks like a black man, he was classified on his government-issued documents as Caucasian, a designation he’s been fighting ever since.

Due to Directive 15 of Office of Management and Budget Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity, a person is defined as white if they have “origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa or the Middle East.”

While some would relish the opportunity to be classified as white, Hefny has been actively fighting to get his legal designation changed for decades. An educator, Hefny says he’s lost multiple jobs slated for minorities because he’s listed as a white man. But his fight is deeper than that. Hefny argues that being classified as white, despite the fact that he’s a proud black man, is a slight to his heritage.

“As a black man and as an African, I am proud of this heritage,” he told the Detroit News. “My classification as a white man takes away my black pride, my black heritage and my strong black identity.”

Hefny considers himself an Egyptian Nubian, and filed a lawsuit with the government in 1997 to have himself classified as black; his case was dismissed. Now, he’s appealing to President Obama for help.

Hefny recently wrote a letter to Mr. Obama about his situation.

“As you can see in the enclosed photo, I am a black man,” the letter reads. “My complexion is darker than yours. I was born and raised in Africa (Egypt) and you were not, yet you are classified as Black and I am classified at White.”

Hefny, who started an online petition to gain support for his cause, is also appealing to the United Nations and the Justice Department to have his racial designation changed.

  • Kelly Hawkins

    “a person is defined as white if they have ‘origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa or the Middle East.’”

    But the original peoples of North Africa were not white, they were black! See white people are still trying to rewrite history and erase our origins to this day. My sister and I were just having this conversation yesterday about a classmate she had who believed Egypt was a part of Asia.

  • aziza

    He’s so much darker than the regular egyptian. But like latino’s you have black and white arabs.

  • Calla

    That classification doesn’t even make sense. So if one if your parents is a white European, can you be classified as white since you have origins in Europe – doubtful, they (meaning Office of Management and Budget Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity) would consider you black.

  • LaNubiana

    I’m half Ethiopian and half Egyptian and every time I come to the US (for school research), my documents state as white/Caucasian as well. The funny thing is I was born and raised in East Africa, still live her. However, when I enter the US, my temp status visa identify me as Caucasian and they will not correct it. My bloody passport clearly says: brow hair, brown skin, brown eyes, yet I’m Caucasian :). As a student visa holder, I’ve no rights to fight them about it.

  • karmell

    They’ve been trying to say Egypt isn’t in Africa forever. Sadly there are ppl who actually believe this nonsense. I live in the northern part of America, does that classify me as as Canadian? bullshit.

  • LaNubiana

    Original Egyptians are not Arabs. Some of us take offense to it because it’s incorrect. My mother is Egyptian and she has the skin complexion Halle Berry. That’s not an Arab skin tone. That an African (Nubian) skin. SMDH

  • marian

    He May be a Nubian but because he is from North Africa i.e the arab speaking countries like Morroco, Libya, Algeria, they consider themselves arabs, now he is in the predicament he is in because he is born in Eypt but but his ethnicity is nubian. (This is one of themany racism and ethnicity problems thats found in the war between Sudan and South Sudan, the new Sudan consider themselves African but North Sudan doesn’t.. most would consider themslelves arab, despite appearances). Therefore why he has been classified as white. But good luck to him

  • Sweetles

    I don’t know what you consider a “regular” Egyptian to be, but Egyptians have varying complexions and there are many that are darker than him.

  • Leo the Yardie Chick

    Trying to maintain hegemony, at least on paper, I see. >_> I wish you all the best of luck in your fight, Mr. Hefny.

  • LaNubiana

    Actually, the diverse skin completion came after the invesion of North Africa by Arabs. Original meaning the indigenous people of Egypt were never Arabs nor light in skin completion. Even in Egypt the Arabs call the indigenous Egyptian sub-Saharan (meaning black) not in a good way either. In their own county the original people are mistreated because of their dark skins. How do I know this? I was born in Alexandria Egypt from an indigenous Egyptian woman and still go visit often.

  • Brook

    The irony here is Arabs aren’t even Caucasian :)

  • Beautiful Mic

    MMM. he doesn’t have the distinct look of any Egyptian man I’ve ever come across. You sure he isn’t repatriated African-American to African, and then, back to the U.S.?

  • Picabo

    You’re not the first. In college I remember talking to a professor about the fact that some Ethiopians were classified as white shortly after the founding of America. It had something to do with the idea that Ethiopia was a respected country because of it’s biblical history. The prof said that it wasn’t always fully accepted by people but, legally, Ethiopians had that designation.

  • Beautiful Mic

    The purest Arab bloodlines are some of the first Caucasian lineages to evolve. Arab Caucasian evolved before Nordic Caucasians.

    You do have lineages like in Iraq and Oman that have sub-Saharan ancestry, but in places like Saudia Arabia, they are straight Caucasian, despite not really being seen as such by whitebred western types.

  • Sweetles

    @ LaNubiana
    Your statement is completely accurate, this is information that I already knew.

  • Peter John

    Race is not a scientifically definable term. People that are from originally different geographic regions tend to look different because of local adaptation to climate and genetic drift. Today the situation is even more complex since most people ancestors tend to come from different regions of the world. So, you are neither black, white or Chinese. You are a human being. But you are free to pick a group to belong to if that makes you feel more comfortable.

  • LaNubiana

    As a Muslim woman, I’ve made three Hijj pilgrimage to Macca Medina and I can honestly tell you that Saudi Arabians are not Caucasian even in looks. If anything UAE has more white Arabs from places like Bosnia and Croasia. From my assessment, there were no superficial different that I saw in Saudi that is any more or less distinct than other Arabs from Qatar or Bahrain. However, I do agree that people from Yeman and Omen are darker and similar in facial/body features of people from across the red sea like Eritreans, Ethiopians, Somalians, etc.

  • ChillyRoad

    Are you sure that the original people of North Africa were black?

  • ChillyRoad


    But Arabs can be quite dark. Yemenis, Omanis, etc. Basically Arabs from the peninsula. I maintain that ethnically Egyptians aren’t Arabs but Arabized North Africans or Copts who ever converted to Islam after the invasion. Similar to the Berbers Tauregs, and other North African people. Egypt is a melting point still because of its location.

  • rkahendi

    “Arab” is similar to “Hispanic” in that it designates shared language and culture. You don’t have to have the same ancestors to speak the same language and have a similar culture. Arabs have varied ancestral roots, as do Latin Americans. It’s only in the USA that sharing a culture and language for a number of generations makes you a “race.”

    The idea that dark skinned, curly haired people from North Africa and North East Africa can miraculously become vanilla white while crossing the Atlantic is a testimony to the stupidity of racial classification. I look forward to the day when we can flush that pseudo-scientific category down the toilet.

  • rkahendi

    When you really think about it objectively, classifying somebody who’s half black and half white as a black person doesn’t really make sense either. The reason why the current system of racial classification has remained with us through the centuries is because it helped a bunch of people (colonialists, slavers, plantation owners) to make money.

  • Kelly Hawkins

    I’m sure that the original people of ALL of Africa were black.

  • LaNubiana

    @ chillyroad

    Indeed there are dark skinned Arabs. However, I disagree on your statements in regards to Arabized North African. If we go back to our African history pre-slavery and European colonization of Africa, it’s clear that the whole continent of Africa as we know it (excluding arab and caucasian mix) came from the great African empires like Kush, Zulu, Nubian, Axumawit, etc. These bloodlines did contain the true African DNA so North Africa was no Arabized influence rather ‘dark/Nubia/tselem/tikur’. In fact Axumawits/Abyssinians now known as Ethiopia,Eritrea, Dejibuti, Somalia, part of Sudan East of the Nile River was considered a few shades lighter than the Nubians hence the name Habesh (meaning the burned skin people).

    I believe North and North East Africa Arabic or Middle Easter cultural and language influence came after Prophet Mohammed and his following travels through that part of Africa. Most of his followers and holy men stayed behind in the continent to finished what he started.

    As we all know, from then on Europeans used our diversity in our tradition, language, and especially skin complextions to divide and conquer. The Mid Easterns have played the same game to gain access to the natural resources of Norther African countries. This is even evident in Sudanese issues in recent years as well as darker Moroccan or Egyptian women bleaching their skin to resemble what’s considered pretty. I’m ashamed to say this but the very faith I follow (Islam) has been used to indoctrinate Northern indigenous Africans.

    My personal issue comes about the ‘not Africans’ while they are living and milking this blessed continent. In the words of Marcus Garvey, “The black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.”

  • Jess

    i agree Kelly Hwkins. The original north Africans were Black. Plus,North Africans in these modern times are not white – just because you are light does not make you white. For example, the majority of the population in Morocco are Berbers (not Arabas, as commonly and incorrectly assumed) and Berbers are a native African ethnic group, although history and invasions have led to moroccans having some racial admixture. But they still aren’t white, just light.

  • Jess

    there are many different types of “regular egyptians”, as you call them. just as there are many different types of black americans of varying hair and skin shades/textures, there ar different egyptions. southern egyptians are as dark, and darker, than the man profiled in the article. plus, don’t you think this man knows who he is? he said he’s black and pure african, as the egyptians were anyway before being invaded by the greeks, persians, etc. he’s the realer deal than most black americans, whether he was dark or light.

  • Gigi Young

    And this is why I’ve never believed America’s demographics about how many white folks there are in the US. Once I realized that marking “Other” was counted as “white”, and that folks from India and the Middle East were classified as “white”, I just give a side-eye to all of the people screaming and hollering that the white population will decline due to Mexican immigration.

  • African Mami

    this post PISSED me off! And it had absolutely nothing to do with whatever is being referred to. URRRGH. There’s is sooooo much anger in me, for a certain Northern African country, SHIT.

    Sissy, if you happen to come across, this eh, I need a hug!

  • Ms. Information

    This is how they skew statistics.

  • chanela17

    hell, it’s amazing that somebody actually wants to claim being black and won’t just brag about how they pass for white.guarantee you that if any other black person was given the “opportunity” to be considered white, they’re sell their left lung and wouldn’t complain.

    you see black people claiming to be indian,chinese,korean,italian,french,cherokee,puerto rican ect yet never the other way around with someone claiming to be black.(until now) very interesting!

  • LeonieUK

    My friend had the same issues about being an African-American in the UK, she was seen as being an “other” on any ethnic form.

  • Beautiful Mic

    What do you mean, even in looks? The first Caucasians to evolve were brown/darker skinned people. They were not pale.

  • RObleu

    First and foremost, “Arab” is not a racial designation but an ethnic/cultural one.
    Secondly, there is prehistoric evidence to support the belief that north Africa was initially inhabited with darker skinned people (the rock paintings of Tassili N’Ajjer for example).
    Lastly race is such a flawed construct that even on the continent of Africa (as you can see) the notion of a “black identity”, which was primarily influenced by the trans- Atlantic slave trade and the involvement of Africans from the Western part of the continent, is problematic.

  • ananas

    No. Egyptians have various skin tones and hair textures.

  • Jess

    Actually, this guy has been fighting to be recognized as Black for YEARS. This is an old story – not the literal article itself, but this mans story has been featured in media in past years.

  • Sue

    In the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, there is a very impressive collection of Egyptian artifacts. In the hieroglyphics, some of the drawings feature people with darker skin and hair that looks kinky. Many ancient drawings depict life as it was then and how people saw themselves.

  • Sue

    I also remember learning about Nubians that lived in the Nile Valley in history class. The Nile flows from Lake Victoria all the way north, cutting through Sudan. I’m not sure how far North the early Nubians lived though but it’s not hard to imagine that people were constantly on the move. So, yes the early Egyptians were dark skinned but so many people argue against this.

  • Sue

    I’ll say that race is a social construct, genetically we are all the same! Something like ~99% of human DNA is the same. The variations that we see from evolution based on the environment our ancestors lived in and the culture people come from. The 0.1% of the DNA that varies seems miniscule but the human genome has 3 million base pairs, so it’s no wonder almost all of us look unique! But unfortunately we cannot wish race or tribe classifications away because they are now so ingrained in our psyches with so many political, social and economic implications.

  • Stop whitening BLACK history!

    The original Egyptians are BLACK look at the pharaohs, their facial structure WIDE Nose, Big Lips and the paintings also show black color what kind of a reasonable person would deny that? The Ethiopians ruled Egypt and look at their skin tone it ranges from very dark to fair complexion and they are fully Black. Stop trying to arabize and Whiten our African history! Why are you people always trying to intentionally destroy our history our identity?

  • court

    Egyptians didn’t even consider themselves Arab until Nasser. Many Egyptians still don’t consider themselves Arab. My dad’s family is Egyptian but all of our traceable ancestors were Europeans and in America my father benefits from white privilege every day of his life. Anyhow, Egypt is a lot like Latin America or anywhere else there has been colonialism & immigration. Egyptians come in all sorts of shades and from all sorts of backgrounds, probably more so than anywhere else in the middle east other than Israel. If I had a dollar for every time some white person said “oh you are half Egyptian, that must be why your skin is such a lovely shade of brown” I would be rolling in money. Nope, I’m brown because my mother is Black person (American).

  • Ashra Aziza

    The problem is that true blacks have been classified as haveing very thick hair,very dark,big pink lips and unable to accomplish great things such as the ancient egyptains did.but people fail to realize that blacks have been around thousands of years before any other group. And blacks don’t just come in one color pitch black.they come in pitch black,dark brown,redish brown,light brown and sometime even Egyptian,Sudanese,Samalian,Ethiopian and African American and I’m like a redish brown with thick hair and I’m black. They say eitheopians and samalians are more Caucasian because of their like haveing a pointed nose Is a carcasian feature. Remember eithiopeans and Somalians have been around thousands of years before Caucasians so maybe caucasian features are actually African features. And true Africans don’t have to have very thick hair,they also have wavy hair.some have blonde hair as well.the black group is were every feature in the world comes from and you can clearly see it.Europeans want Egypt because they realize how important it was and still is. And to say African Americans have no link to ancient Egypt is bull shit. Because ancient west Africans talk of how the where pushed out of their homeland Egypt.even the bible talk of how they would be enslaved for 400years and spread through out the nations of the world,who else was that.even the the Greeks discribed the egyptains as haveing darker skin compared to them. couldn’t tell the difference between and Nubian or egyptain. Most of the people there today are not real egyptains they are whats left over from invasions. Egypt is like America.just because the majority of America’s population is European doesn’t mean their the original americans. Same with Egypt and Arabs. Watch 1000 years from now their Gunna say Obama was pure white.Anything that’s great Europeans want to put it in their image and it’s not being a racist its the truth.

  • Chrissy

    Anything that’s great Europeans want to put it in their image and it’s not being a racist its the truth.

    Yep. They’re going to turn Martin Luther King into a white man as well

  • Will wilson

    I agree

  • Pseudonym

    I’m confused about this. If you apply for a job (or most things) they don’t actually verfity your ethnicity with some “official race database” to make sure you told the truth (Unless there’s someone here in HR who knows different?). You can also decline to answer these days and then he could let the people decide he was black at the interview. If he put “black” on his applications, he’ll be put in as black in the system, no?

    I don’t understand the logic behind his argument.

  • BlackXMessiah

    It’s disgusting Caucasians are still trying to rewrite history. Even the Greek scholars were happy to admit in their writing that the Ancient Egyptians was a “Black and Brown Civilization”

  • Pingback: The Nada Zatouna Incident: The Strange Case of the Racist Egyptian Pharmacist that came out of Nowhere!! | The Agitator

  • Nigel Holland

    So they aren’t trying to deceive everyone, and making it seem as if that the Egyptians are white?….Lmao They are not white never were, and never will be.

  • Nigel Holland

    You are missing the point, they’re making it seem as if Egyptians aren’t black skinned!

Latest Stories

Watch: ‘Black People Mate’ a Parody About the Ridiculous Stats on Black Women & Dating


University President Under Fire for Wanting to Make School Less White In the Future


Taraji P. Henson Says European Men Are Less ‘Bitter’ and ‘Jaded’ Than American Men


Style Inspiration: Casual Work Outfits

More in News, race
Lupe Fiasco Threatens to Quit Rap After Chicago Rapper is Slain

Dutch film Only Decent People
Controversial Dutch Film About A Man Seeking A Big Booty “Ghetto Queen” Soon to be Released