This is part of our continuing series of accounts by readers of how they shed the illusions of liberalism and became race realists.
I am a 27-year old mixed race man of German and Iranian heritage. My father was an all-American man from Ohio. He fell in love with my mother, who had fled Iran in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution. Iranians are often considered “white.” They assimilate very well into the United States, and value education and hard work. I never put “Asian” down for race when I’m filling out paperwork — especially since I’m half European anyway. For all my life, I’ve considered myself white.
My childhood was a happy one. We were an upper-middle class family: my mother studied accounting and became a savvy businesswoman, eventually becoming the CEO of a non-profit — a perfect example of an immigrant coming to America and becoming successful. She eventually made more money than my father, who was an electrical engineer. We lived near a tight-knit community of Iranians, and my grandmother — who played a big role in raising me — taught me bits and pieces of Farsi. At school I had two sets of friends, one white and one Iranian. Lunchtime seating arrangements were voluntarily segregated — as is the way of things — and I would go back and forth between my two friend groups.
The problems with my split identity were clear by the time I was ten. Although I hung out with both groups, I was never really “one of them” in either case. The Iranian kids spoke fluent Farsi as I’d mumble in primitive, broken Farsi mixed with English. The white kids were generally nice, but after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there was always a certain distance between us. Not many ten-year olds know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims, I’m afraid.
As a teenager I spent a lot of time on the Internet, reading about politics, religion, and race. At the time, I spent a great deal of time thinking about religion. My mother wanted me to be a “good Muslim boy.” My father was rather apathetic about religion, but grew up in a Christian household. I was both torn between the two and attracted to neither. What worried me was that both religions had one thing in common: Each claimed that those who worship another God will be sent to hell. This scared me, but I eventually found the atheist community on YouTube, became a non-believer, and finally found peace and clarity on the topic of spirituality.
In the ensuing years, “identity politics” became more and more widely discussed. Initially, I scoffed at the whole thing. I was mixed and everything was fine. I took pride in my enlightened opinions. I touted my identity as multifaceted and complex. Race was irrelevant. I called myself liberal. I said I was immune to racism.
But none of that posturing does much to explain my experiences in school — or in my romantic life. Just as I switch back and forth between white and Iranian friends, I switch back and forth between white and Iranian girlfriends. I’ve had a fair number of flings and short term relationships, but never had a truly deep connection. No one had a background even similar to mine. Ideally I’d like to date a half-German half-Iranian woman, but statistically speaking, that’s not very likely. Moreover, most Iranian-American women my age want a fully white man. There are family pressures that further complicate things too. My maternal grandmother has asked me if I liked Iranian or American girls more . . . and it’s obvious what answer she is hoping for.
I was reminded of all of these issues recently, when I attended a friend’s wedding in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. It was a wonderful place, but it reminded me of what I don’t have in America. Its culture is very traditional and family oriented. I stayed at the home of the groom’s parents, and they treated me like family. The sacredness undergirding the traditions and cultures was apparent and inspiring. Uzbekistan’s homogeneity makes for an extremely friendly environment: Complete strangers in the street speak to each other as if they were close friends. There is a strong sense of nationalism and pride in everything, as if the whole country were one big family. I could sense a level of flow and unity that was unimaginable in the United States. I asked myself, “Why don’t I feel this in my own country?”
The answer lies in my “multifaceted and complex” identity. It is, in fact, excessively multifaceted and complex. It keeps me from having strong roots. Too much complexity leads only to despair. Where is my sense of family? Where is my sense of brotherhood? Who is my woman? Who is my God? In my case, the answers to these questions are so multifaceted that they end up being spread too thin, leaving me rudderless. To pretend that race does not impact identity is a falsehood. Race is real and the evidence speaks for itself. It is not a virtue to have a “multifaceted identity;” it is a burden. This makes miscegenation a crime, one that bestows the tragedy of a conflicted identity on those who follow.