What first seemed like a simple mistake has turned into a three-decade battle for Egyptian immigrant Mostafa Hefny to claim his heritage.
When 61-year-old Hefny immigrated from Egypt to the United States in 1978, he was classified on government documents as “White,” due to the government’s interpretation of the geographical location of his homeland.
Hefny has filed a lawsuit that targets Directive Number 15 of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, which defines a White person as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa or the Middle East.
“As a Black man and as an African, I am proud of this heritage,” Hefny told reporters. ”My classification as a White man takes away my Black pride, my Black heritage and my strong Black identity.”
Hefny claims that insisting he is Black has cost him promotions in the workplace and opened him up to further persecution. He says he lost out on a teaching position at Wayne State University in the ‘90s because the position was reserved for a minority.
“I have been awarded, inadvertently, the negative effects of being Black such as racial profiling, stereotypes and disenfranchisement due to my African features,” he said. “However, the legal demand of my racial classification of ‘White’ prevents me from receiving benefits established for Black people.”
Hefny has lost five jobs thanks to his battle to be classified as a Black man and is currently unemployed. As he continues to fight for the right to be classified as a Black man Hefny has contacted some powerful people, even reaching out to President Obama.
“I need your help,” Hefny wrote. “As you can see in the enclosed photo, I am a Black man. My complexion is darker than yours. I was born and raised in Africa and you were not, yet you are classified as Black and I’m classified as White.”