i’ve been seeing it on my dashboard a lot.
i’m not comfortable using this term to describe iranians of “afro-” descent and i’d like to explain why (whoweretheqajars pointed out to me that it can’t not be used in academia because of how academia works, and that’s fine. i’m talking about blog posts and discussions and how we see the world in general). these are just some thoughts. if anyone wants to engage in a discussion about it or something related (iranian- or not) please message me. that’s what i’m posting it for. i did my best to translate all the farsi i use to english so non-farsi speakers don’t get confused.
also i apologize in advance if this sounds angry or belittling to anyone who has used or does use the word. i’ve used the word too, i’m not angry (even if my writing sounds that way sometimes) and i don’t mean to criticize anyone.
i’m uncomfortable using the term afro-iranian because we don’t refer to other groups as “sino-iranian”, “indo-iranian”, “cauco-iranian”, etc. also “iranian” is a national identity that some ethnic groups choose to ignore when describing themselves. most kord people will tell you they are “kord” or “kord-e (insert kurdish nameplace here).
plus i’m not going to label someone as “afro-iranian” unless they label themselves that way. some seemingly “afro-iranian”s are farsizaban (farsi speaking) and refer to themselves as “irani” or “irooni”. i’m not going to stick the word “afro-” in front of that just because they are “african” looking. if they are irani they are irani, and maybe the rest of us have female ancestors who had non-irani hamsaye (neighbors) and are the ones who need to add a race-identifying prefix to our national identification. in which case all light-skinned iranians with nosejobs should be known as “euro-iranians”. my point being there are alternative ways of understanding and perceiving the diversity of “looks” in iran, and maybe we should pick one that is more threatening to the white cis hetero-patriarchal world order.
my guess is that people from communities like “zangiabad” or “dehzangi”, probably refer to themselves as “zangi” or “zanji”. this word btw, does not mean “coon” or the n-word even though its listed as such on some online english-language dictionaries. zangi comes from zangibar,
the parsi or arab-cization of zanzibar (in east africa).CORRECTION:
BTW, the word zanzibar/zangibar is actually Persian in origin.
a friend who recently visited from iran told me that in iran’s academia dark-skinned people who live in the south are referred to as “adam-ha ye boomi-e jonoob” (indigenous peoples of the south) or “jonoobi” along with everyone else who lives in southern iran. peoples of the south are further divided into classifications based on the language they speak (i.e. arabi, balochi, pashto, dari, farsizaban, etc.) and the province they live in (i.e. khuzestani, hormozgani, sistani).
in farsi the word used to described “dark” skin is “siah-soukhte” (black burned) or “siah” (black) regardless of ethnicity and should not be confused with the english or american meaning of “black”. “tanned” is siah-soukhte, even if you are a white amerikkkan cracka. “brown” and “black” are both siah. again this is regardless of ethnicity so if you are african-american but really light skinned you are called “sefid” (white). if you are that crazy tan-addict from new jersey you are called “siah”. anything that is not white bread white is “siah” or “siah soukhte”. there’s also “sabzeh” (green) but it mostly refers to people with olive undertones.
the words used for the amerikkkan meanings of “black” and “white” are “sefidpoost” (whiteskin), and “siahpoost” (blackskin). these are imports from amerikkka because of the film industry. my guess is that it started with “redskin” being translated as “sorkhpoost” in the subtitles or dubbing of amerikkkan westerns (which were really popular in iran in the 1960s). up until recently people only referred to african-americans as “siahpoost” but that has started to change and they refer to black african peoples and diaspora peoples that way as well. i blame a lot of the current racism amongst iranians on amerikkkan and euro-peon film and television media that people watch (illegally) via satellite.
people who live along the coast are called “bandari” sometimes, “bandar” meaning port, because they are a mix of all the different people who go through the persian gulf for trade or work. this is usually used in reference to the culture though, not the people themselves.
one reason the term “afro-iranian” makes no sense to me is that there has been cultural exchange between the middle east and africa for thousands of years. people have been migrating back and forth between these two landmasses this whole time but since it hasn’t caught the attention of europe, we don’t hear about it in the west*. all we hear about is the “arab slave trade” which, in combination with the myth about africa being an undeveloped, uncivilized landmass of primitive jungle people, gives the impression that all peoples of “african” descent living in the middle east are descended from slaves.
some iranians are descended from slaves kidnapped from somewhere in africa, others are descended from sailors originally from somewhere in africa, and there are also iranians whose genetics suggest that their ancestors migrated from north or east africa at some point in the past, and have since assimilated as farsizaban or some other ethnic group. “afro-” doesn’t make sense because a lot of people in iran have ancestry that originated somewhere in africa even if they don’t look “african”**. this is not privileged information but it gets ignored because of western mythologizing. if you want to know someone’s history ask them. if you want to know how they identify, then ask them. as annoying it is when people ask me “what are you?” i would rather you do that than apply a label according to what you assume i am.
in the 1930s anthropologists from the university of chicago did a study on the peoples of iran, and from measuring our facial features etc. they determined we were predominantly “negroid”s with some “mongoloid”s and some dark-skinned “atlanto-mediterranean types”. now we are considered “white” on the u.s. census? i have to wonder if some of this talk about race in iran isn’t somehow politically motivated. demonstrate that “iranian” is not “black” so that it can be white.
this worries me because i think about how other light-skinned minorities have been assimilated into whiteness, contributed to anti-black racism passive-aggresively (by not resisting the white identity assigned to them) as well as perpetrated violence onto blacks and other non-white minority groups in the name of white supremacy (like the irish in the early days of california). we should be working against whiteness with black americans because if we don’t it’ll end up hurting us in the long run.
and african-americans, by using the word afro-iranian to describe any iranian who looks “african” regardless of how they actually identify, end up claiming some of us and leaving the rest of us searching for an amerikkkan culture to identify with. you have names like us (darius, jafara, zahara, malik, etc.), you rap like us, a lot of you look like us, we’re honestly not that different and it sucks that there seems to be more rabateh (interaction) between iranian-americans and white people than iranian-americans and african-americans.
anyways as whoweretheqajars explained to me, since its the accepted term in academia, it has to be used when writing academic papers and that’s fine. i don’t even really have beef with people in general who want to use “afro-iranian” because i am not sure how i feel about it. i don’t mean to criticize anyone for using it. i do think in general its a good rule to just ask someone what to call them instead of making up a name for them that may or may not be on-the-mark.
*western academia has constructed this idea of the “indo-european” using linguistic similarities that are most likely a result of trade through the silk road, and a result of europe being conquered by north african and middle eastern empires over and over and over again, and not a result of the “aryan” race migrating to europe as they would like to believe. from my own research cultures and languages of iran have more in common with cultures and languages of africa and asia than with cultures and languages of europe.
**about us not “looking african”: let’s not forget that in the 19th and 20th centuries iran was occupied by white people. the only reason it wasn’t a colony was because england and russia both wanted it, and neither dared to claim it for fear of the other declaring war. during world war i and ii several major cities in iran were occupied by both allied and axis forces. seeing as how white people sexually assaulted womyn everywhere else and used politics and myths to cover it up, i am not surprised that there are so many light-skinned iranians with europeon features.
Bolded parts, then realized I bolded a whole lot.
I <3 you.