“You’re white-passing, you aren’t discriminated against!”

Sanaz Chloe Homayounieh,
Irvine, CA

It’s a common joke among Iranians: “They used to classify us as Caucasian, but once 9/11 happened, now we aren’t white!”

Traveling has always been an interesting experience for my family. Growing up, being stopped at airport security was not unusual. Whether they checked our hair, ankles, or even our bare wrists, there was always something that caused airport security to pat us down. So much for “random security checks”, right? Some trips result in quicker checks, while others lead to quite uncomfortable situations. Even now, my mother and I in particular are stopped every time we pass security. Every 9/11, I await the never-ending jokes about how Islam is the motivation behind the attack. How my people are terrorists. How every Middle Eastern was directly involved in the attack. Even years after 9/11, the comments do not stop. It also did not help that my younger brother was born on the same day, his teachers end up thinking he is trying to cause a disturbance in class when announcing his birthday. A few years ago, my family and I went to take passport photos at Costco so we could visit Iran. It was the first instance where I had to wear a hijab in public since Iranian documents required us to wear one for any legal photos. I had never been stared at so much in my entire life. My family was met with weird looks, some even glaring at us. The walk to the photo center felt like it lasted an eternity. As a child, I never expected I would experience racism in any way, shape, or form. This was America, after all: my family traveled here to start a new life. Unfortunately, racist remarks towards my people are tossed around like their words have no meaning. I will not deny the privilege that my lighter skin holds. However, I will not deny the fact that my family has been direct targets of racism and prejudiced intentions.

 

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