Being an Iranian-American has always introduced certain challenges, but in today’s political climate, the issues are starting to pick up some attention. But believe me, the issues have always been here. In middle school, the kids in my class provided hilarious, original commentary on my life. Some highlights include labeling my “foreign-looking” father as a terrorist, calling our outdoor shed a bomb shelter, and, perhaps my favorite, asking if my family rides camels. In suburban Pennsylvania. Priceless. The combination of these comments and my family’s history in America leaves me with a complicated relationship with privilege. On the one hand, I am an immigrant and always will be. While I came to this country at the tender age of two, to some people, I am still only seen as an Iranian, not as an American. On the other hand, I have access to free education, the First Amendment, gender equality, and overall safety. All of these privileges would not have be available to me if my family had stayed in Iran. I suppose the simplest way to explain my relationship with privilege is my stance in both countries: here, I am a foreigner. In Iran, I am also a foreigner. This leads me to conclude that privilege is a very subjective matter. Overall, I believe the first step to a solution is to educate. No, we don’t speak Arabic, we’re not all Muslims, and we do not belly dance. While these false assumptions are specific to my Iranian heritage, similar accusations are placed on all types of people. While some are privileged enough to make these assumptions without affecting their own lives, that does not mean it should not matter to them. Everyone, black, white, or anything in between, needs to make more of a conscious effort to understand and respect one another. We should not constantly apologize for the inherent privilege we are born into, whether it is for our ethnicity, sexuality, or gender, but we certainly need to be more aware of our positions. History’s pattern of oppression and class have certainly not gone away, and pretending that they have only makes matters worse.
Originally published on Crybaby Zine’s March Online Issue.