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I use words like thugs and siyah.

I have a lot of friends – thugs, sefeed people, PERSIAN, siyah’s, etc. Okay, I don’t actually refer to my friends like that… anymore.

officeI was raised in a pretty lenient household – I was free to do what I wanted (sex not included), stay out late, go out with friends, etc. But that doesn’t mean I was safe from hate. My parents frequently used derogatory terms to describe anyone from a race that wasn’t Persian or white.

Black people are thugs and cheaters. Mexicans are hamals. Arabs are shady.

Even with my family visiting us from Iran for the first time – their judgements of people are based solely on the color of their skin and the stereotypes that match it: “well she’s Mexican, they’re good for that type of work” or “ahhhhhh Arab??? No wonder he looks kaseef” (translation: dirty).

kanye

And it wasn’t just my family. My friends came from all different backgrounds – South American, Indian, Asian, white, black — but whenever it came to boys and dating, our rating of them included their race. We had nicknames for black guys (BBC’s = big black cock), white guys were just oh he’s white, etc. And our first question whenever a friend mentioned they had a new crush was what is he?

I don’t think I realized the error in our ways until even after college: when I entered the work world and saw firsthand how racism can change people’s lives — how much race plays a part in getting hired and moving up the food chain. I saw how gentrification can be a bad thing and how our society positions one race to be more successful than another.

Suddenly, it wasn’t so much about whether I was dating a black guy — but that…

the struggle is real and as people of color, we are all fighting against it.

books

Back then, we didn’t know any better – my family doesn’t know better and doesn’t realize that strength comes in numbers, and in college, my friends and I didn’t think that we were being harmful.

But not knowing any better is still racism.

And that’s pretty difficult to accept especially with people who don’t actually think they’re being racist – my family thinks their assertions are facts. And I’ve tried to explain to them politically, socially, and emotionally why they are wrong — but to them, I’m just “too sensitive.”

And that’s why at s&f we have posts where we use the same language that some of us grew up with. We promised we wouldn’t be PC…

We can’t change where we came from, but we can change where we are going.

We only hope you read enough to differentiate between the sarcastic from the real. We don’t claim to represent the entire generation of young Iranian Americans, but we do claim to represent ourselves and attempt to create a dialogue. 

Because without the dialogue, how will we ever grow as a community?

So hate it or love it, we want to hear it.

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tweet me @farrah_joon

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Comments

  1. kneejerk reaction article 101 — student: farrah_joon — grade: high distinction
    farrah (and saghi, and heck all the rest of you too), you’re probably a wonderful person and i really enjoy coming here to read the latest posts and comments, and believe me, i’m not half the asshole i must seem to be, but what’s still upsetting is that you not only identify the problem with inherent racism in some persian circles, which you have tried to address with your family, but you continue to use these terms which affect your language, possibly dating patterns, etc and that’s simply a demonstration of no lesson learned. just because grandma refers to buddhists as kafars (unbelievers) or dad calls them siyah (black) or bardeh (slaves), it is upon our shoulders to either accept or reject these modes of thinking and actually demonstrate it by applying it in everyday life. not every girl will describe a black man’s appendage as a footlong sub nor will every guy describe sex with his asian girlfriend as docking with the international space station and you too should hold yourself to a higher standard, especially so because of your audience (i.e. the world). most of us found s&f by accident, i certainly did when googling fessenjoon recipes.. and i read back over some of my comments and i’m pretty dismayed at how i react to certain things at certain times, and in a week’s time i may do that over this comment. it’s one thing to say you won’t be politically correct, which is your right, but try to incite dialogue without inciting racism also. plzkthnxbye.

  2. hannah_ravani@hotmail.com says:

    Nicely said Farrah! its a hard to step back from whats been embedded in us from our environment and culture, recognize whats happening, and talk about it. Its a fine line to express yourself freely and openly while being sure its never at the expense or perversion of another. That is something every person could work on, Persian or not. Good post!

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