This post is dedicated to Shayan Mazroei and his family. My thoughts and prayers are with them in this difficult, painful time.
Dear Iranian-American community,
You have entertained me with the idea that we are white one too many years of my life. Now, I am 22 years old, the same age as the young Iranian-American man who was brutally murdered by a white supremacist gang member 10 minutes from where I live. I’ve gone my whole life hoping that one day we would see our struggles for what they truly are, alas I am disappointed in our lack of conviction and fear of politicization. We are still complacent, still acting as though we live in a color-blind society, and still prioritizing aspirations of whiteness over the realities of our experiences.
Whiteness is not synonymous with greatness. It is not only absurd to actively erase the struggles and narratives of our immigrant community, but racist to imply that being a person of color is a downgrade. It’s sickening enough for a white supremacist to openly commit a lethal hate crime toward us and worsens the situation when we don’t discuss it or even recognize the issue at hand. This is not the first time a member of our community has been severely injured or taken from us by white supremacist violence.
We are not white by American standards. We never were.
To white supremacists, Iran’s direct translation of, “land of the Aryans,” means absolutely nothing. “White people” in the United States are Nordic, with blue eyes, blonde hair, and fair skin. It doesn’t matter how much you try to dye your hair, wear blue contacts, and bleach the Iranian out of your culture, you’re still “the other” in the United States. Your white-passing privilege can only get you so far.
I love being Iranian. I love our Iranian-American community. I love our culture. I love our customs. I love our spirit. I love our perseverance. I love our struggles. I love our personal narratives. I love our diversity. I love our complex identities.
My grandparents, mother, and father did not wrestle with violent racism, resulting in psychological anguish and physical danger to be erased from our immigrant community’s narrative. My grandfather did not get the windows of his 7-11 store bashed in regularly or deal with someone trying to burn my family’s house down for us to lay low and stay quiet about our inherently politicized experiences.
Silence is violence. We cannot continue to deny we do not experience real, violent danger as a result of our identities. We cannot continue to deny that our elders’ racist vices and shame of our “other” identity are primary reasons for our youth dying now. We cannot continue or afford to speculate when our lives are at stake.
Justice cannot be served if we remain complacent to injustice. The conversation is overdue and we cannot wait any longer to take action. We owe it to ourselves and our future generations to make things right.
With love and strength,