Why “Persian of Color”

Welcome to Persian of Color, an online platform where I will share my concerns with race and identity, primarily within the Iranian-American community, but also within a global perspective.

I self-identify as a person of color, an opinion not always shared by other Iranians.”Person of color” refers to someone who does not identify as white and does not benefit from “white privilege.” My experience as a person of color (POC), though it differs with that of other POCs in critical ways, informs my identity and shapes my perspective. Some Iranians identify as white; however, those who identify as white can and often still do experience some form of discrimination for being Iranian. Identifying as white is complicated and relates to other factors including privilege, assimilation, and differing historical views.

I do not, however, identify as Persian. Persian is a term referring to an Indo-Iranian language (known as ‘Farsi’ in Persian) and an ethnicity; however, it does not refer to a nationality. All Iranians are not Persian and all Persians are not Iranian. Persians span across several countries including Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In Iran, Persians comprise nearly 61% of the country’s population, excluding mostly Azeris, Kurds, Lurs, Baloch, Arabs, and Turkish inhabitants. I happen to be Lur and Kurd, which makes me an ethnic minority.

Additionally, Iranians in diaspora who prefer “Persian” often use the term to disassociate themselves from “Iranian.” After the 1979 revolution and Iran hostage crisis, many Iranians in the US feared discrimination based on national origin, and used Persian to self-identify instead. Others shared an intense dislike for the Islamic Republic and avoid Iranian to minimize any association with the current government. The ongoing political tensions between Iran and the US, the deep-rooted Islamophobia, and the current rise in xenophobia have all further complicated the use of these terms.

So yeah. Persian of Color is my cheeky way of talking about these topics. It’s also (hopefully) pretty clever.

 

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