At the last City Council meeting, Annie Jump Vicente took to the public comment podium addressing the City Council: “You, Erickson, said last time: ‘I’m in fear of being a white gay man in West Hollywood.’ Are you joking? You don’t face the same stuff I do.”
Vicente exclaimed: “Jesus Christ, all of you are white again! Congratulations, you did it — you made it white again,” —an apparent critique of WeHo voters, who elected Chelsea Byers and John Heilman, both Caucasians, to the City Council in November.
Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne responded directly to Vicente during council member comments:
“I also want to make very clear that I am an Iranian Middle Eastern woman of color and not a white person — so let’s be very clear about that,” Shyne said.
Shyne’s identification as a person of color was not obvious to Vicente. In a previous council meeting a Black woman spoke from the public comment podium to question Shyne’s ‘person of color’ identification and accused her of misappropriating a label that did not belong to her.
Sepi Ghafouri was born in Iran of Iranian heritage. Both of her parents are Iranian. Most Iranians able to flee Iran’s revolution in the late 1970s were wealthy and privileged.
While she uses her maiden name in the title of her law firm, Sepi took “Shyne” as her last name after her marriage to Ashlei Shyne, a black woman, from whom she is now separated.
Alex Shams’ detailed research on the topic shows that throughout history, Iranians have been considered part of the white community.
ARYAN: a term originally used as an ethnocultural self-designation by Indo-Iranians in ancient times, in contrast to the nearby outsiders known as ‘non-Aryan.’ During the 19th century, the term Aryans came to be synonymous with “Proto-Indo-Europeans,” the ancestors of today’s speakers of English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Dutch, Spanish, Albanian, Armenian, Balto-Slavic, Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Indo-Iranian and Italic.
The research points to the Aryan roots of Iranians. “Although Iran is a multiethnic nation of Persians, Azeri Turks, Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs, Armenians, and many other groups, Iranians were taught to pride themselves for their Aryan blood and white skin.”
Google search: ‘types of human races’
In the United States people are often asked to self-identify as either White, Hispanic, African American, Asian or Native American – or five races. Advanced understanding of DNA reduced the amount of races accepted by scientists to three: European, Asian, African. These are the biological human races.
Google search: Are Iranians Persons of color?
Shams explains it this way: In the lead-up to the 2010 US National Census, campaigns emerged across the country calling for Iranian-Americans to “stand up and be counted.” One of the most memorable of these was “Check it right, you ain’t white,” a movement that targeted Arab- and Iranian-Americans, urging them to write in their ethnic identification instead of checking the box for “White,” as forms generally ask those of Middle Eastern descent to do.
Under what definition would Sepi Ghafouri consider herself a person of color? Did her parents check the box labeled “white” on their emigration papers? Which box do you think Sepi Ghafouri checked on her college application?
Shams continues: “Person of Color” (POC) is a phrase that emerged out of political struggles against ethnic and racial discrimination in the United States, and exists in contrast to the identity “White” and the racial privileges that identity carries. POC explicitly recognizes the commonalities of experience shared by those who are not of the dominant racial group in this country, and expresses the need for solidarity among these groups in order to dismantle the existing system of racial privilege and hierarchy.
Remember Elizabeth Warren claiming to be a Native American, and Rachel Dolezal, an NAACP leader exposed as a white woman. Most recently George Santos’s mis-truths have been in the headlines. The one things all of these politicians have in common is using race and identity politics to further their own careers.
Annie Jump Vincent called it like she sees it.