This is really, really important. Please take a moment to read this beautifully written piece.
I had the opportunity to talk to the author, Shaya Tayefe Mohajer, of this piece and discuss/analyze Iranian American race politics. The following is a little excerpt:
Resident Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed volunteers for a bunch of groups interested in the advancement of Iranian Americans: working on petition drives around the nuclear deal and civics education for the National Iranian American Council, helping young professionals find mentorship through the Iranian American Women Foundation, and raising awareness around racial justice issues with SWANA-LA, a group for Southwest Asians and North Afrikans.
It’s this work that puts her in touch with a community that doesn’t always seem to be in touch with its own racial identity, which is complicated by one word: Aryan.
Racist skinhead criminal syndicates surely see it differently, but Iranian Americans believe themselves to be not only whites but the original Aryans—the term is Sanskrit and denoted Indo-European people well before Hitler co-opted it. In the U.S., people of Iranian descent have long been counted as part of the white population in the census—something else Sadeghi-Movahed has been trying change with her volunteer work.
“It’s really antiquated and unfortunate,” said Sadeghi-Movahed. “A lot of us think we’re still white, so when these things happen, it’s not taken seriously. They just blow it off, or they think that’s just the way people act toward Iranians.”
In short, part of the problem is that Iranian Americans don’t always understand their own racial politics, don’t understand themselves to be minorities, don’t know their rights, and too often don’t report racist crimes.