Body Love: X is for Xenophobia
It might seem weird that I would want to talk about xenophobia in connection with loving my body. I am white, right? I can already see some of you look at this post with an angry expression on your face, expecting me to say something about how racism against white people is bad and how all lives matter. Let me soothe you: this is not what this post is about. I don’t want to hear about racism against white people right now either, hell, I will not allow anyone in my closer circle to even say “all lives matter” out loud. This post is about the internalized racism that I struggle with as a person who is white-passing, but actually is biracial.
I am half-German and half-Iranian. Half-white, half-brown. My father is very dark-skinned and so are my siblings. They all have faced and still have to face racism on a daily basis because of the colour of their skin and the way that they look. I am lucky enough to have been born with whiter skin: my mother is blonde, blue-eyed and pale. It is all just luck, not something that I am happy about, or proud of.
So as long as I don’t tell anyone, people don’t assume that I am biracial. That is when they see me. Back in the day, I had a difficult to pronounce Iranian last name and the moment people knew about that name, they treated me slightly different than they did before. Questions about where I am originally from, if I am Muslim, if I am going to have to marry my cousin. Applying for jobs just on paper often lead to assumptions that I am some oppressed hijab-wearing uneducated woman. And I am obviously not that. I have felt racism in a more structural way, than in a way that is based on the way that I look. And now, that I don’t have that last name anymore, I can easily pass as white, and no one will ever know.
But that is not really how it works. There are things about my looks that are Persian. My eyes, my nose, the colour of my nipples, my rainbow cunt. My facial structure in certain angles. If you know what an Iranian looks like, and you look closely, you can see that I have Iranian blood in me. And there have been instances where people made fun of my Persian looks and I had to endure racist remarks. But those instances are nothing much in comparison to those who are obviously not white and have been oppressed because of it for centuries. I don’t want to compare myself with them, I stand with them instead, and want to highlight their struggles. Always.
Internalized Biracial Racism
But despite my luck of being white-passing, I had to endure racism. And I internalized that racism. I started to despise and hate the parts of me that don’t look white, because I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to be like my white friends and have it easier in life. And I didn’t want to be picked on because of my Persian roots. So I did everything I could to avoid being spotted as biracial. I didn’t bring it up when someone asked where I was from. And I stayed away from wearing or displaying any cultural symbols that would tie me to anything else than the Northern European culture.
I couldn’t change the way that my nose looked, or my eyes. But I tried to hide it. Clever make-up and only taking pictures from certain angles. Without make-up I look way more Iranian than with, so I would never leave the house without any. I felt like being biracial was a bad thing, like it made me uglier, less attractive, less wanted in the public sphere. So I tried my very best to look white-passing.
Part of my unwillingness to be okay with looking a bit biracial (because I am!), is my terrible childhood with my Persian father. I get that he is not a representative of Iran, the Iranian people or the Persian culture. But I have always felt a sort of reluctance to speak Farsi (although I sort of understand it and can speak it a bit), to embrace any of the culture and to connect to other Iranians. The only cultural thing that you will see in my life that is any way Iranian, is food. I do love the food, I grew up with it, and I cook it quite frequently.
So my internalized racism, my dislike of my body having signs of its biracial roots, comes from how other people treated me, wanting to be white, and having not much of a connection to the Iranian side of who I am. I can’t change the way that I look though. When I meet other Iranians, they always pick up right away that I am one of them. I have had instances when a random person started speaking Farsi to me. It might not be obvious to everyone, but I am not as white as I look to the untrained eye.
I don’t know where I stand with all of this. I still don’t take pictures from a certain angle. And I still don’t leave the house during daylight without make-up. I still hide the fact that I am half-Persian from others when they ask where I come from. Being biracial is hard enough, because you are neither one nor the other. In Germany, I was always the Iranian chick. In Iran I would probably be the German woman.
I can see the positives with being biracial, with having two cultures to embrace and love. But I would also rather be white-passing so I don’t have to deal with racism, although I know that I’d never have to endure the sort of things my father or my siblings have to go through. But most of all, I think the first thing I would have have to unlearn is to shame and dislike the parts of me that look Persian, and learn to love them like I do with every other part of my body. It is hard though. Because somehow I’d rather be white and ignore it all. It makes life so much easier.
I am doing the A to Z challenge during the month of April (and apparently May and June too). My theme is Body Love. So you will get 26 posts from me, following the alphabet, related to the topic body love. You can check out more about the to A to Z challenge by clicking on the banner. You can find a list of sexbloggers participating in the challenge on Mrs Fever’s site.