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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thank God I Am NOT A White American Male...


The other day I was talking to a friend who is a white American male—Bear with me. I know mentioning someone’s race is not very PC these days, but there is a point to this race calling. He was basically telling me that the people who don’t vote for Obama are racist and if he loses it is because he is black.

“And if he wins, are you willing to admit it is because he IS black? I didn’t vote for either Kerry or Gore, does that make me a racist too?” I asked

“Of course not, you are different,” was the response.

“How am I different?” I asked.

“Well, you are Persian,” was the answer.

“So, you think because I am not white, I can’t be racist?” I asked with a funny look on my face.

“No, that’s not what I meant. It’s this country that is so racist,” answered my friend looking rather serious.

“What do mean, ‘It’s this country that is so racist?” Now, it was me who was serious.

This was not the first time I had had a conversation like this with Americans who honestly believe that we live in the most racist nation in the world and somehow only white people are perpetrating this act of racism. What I find interesting is, here I am, a naturalized American citizen from the Middle East, having to defend America against American-born Christians and non-Christians alike.

Have you noticed how the Chinese, the Koreans, the Persians, the Arabs, the Blacks and the Hispanics can all have their own churches which are called the Korean, the Persian or the Black church of such and such without anyone ever walking out of those churches saying, “My goodness, that church is all Hispanic or all Arab!” or, accusing those churches of being ethnocentric? Yet, I can’t tell you how often I have heard Christians tell me, “Last Sunday I went to an ALL white church!” as if they were referring to a KKK gathering.

I have lived in the United States for almost 40 years. I went through the Iranian hostage taking in the late 70s and the two Gulf Wars when, if the above people were correct, I should have faced some kind of discrimination and yet I can’t prove that at any time in these last 40 years I have experienced any such thing. Even when the pastor of a mega church referred to me as “our token Iranian pastor” in front 900 people, did I take it to be a racist act? No. Stupid and ill advised? Definitely! But, not racist.

This is not to say that there are no racist Americans. There are many of them. But, they come in every shape and color – not just white. But that does not make the whole nation racist.

A few months back, Karen and I went to Montgomery, Alabama for the commissioning of our son, Todd, into the United States Air Force as a Second Lieutenant. While there, we visited Rosa Parks’ Museum. I can’t tell you the emotion I experienced and how I wished I had lived here at the time so I could participate in the Civil Rights marches and have the honor of walking side by side with Dr. King.

As I watched the reenactment of that memorable evening when Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, with tears in my eyes, I marveled at a nation where, in the span of only 50 years or so, things have gone from considering the black man so unequal that he was forced to sit in the back of the bus so the white man could sit in the front of the bus to today when a black man – I am aware that Obama is only half black, but he considers himself to be a black man – has the possibility of becoming the president of the same nation, and under my breath I whispered, “God bless America.”

Please compare what America has accomplished in her short history with some parts of Africa or the Middle East where people have been killing each other for hundreds of years because people of tribe A consider people from tribe B to be inferior and therefore worthy of being wiped off the face of the earth. Racism is a disease that plagues every race, color and nation and white people do not have a corner on it.

A few years ago a black pastor asked me the following question:

“Shah, I have tried very hard to befriend the Muslim foreigners who attend the mosque next to my church, but these people won’t even come near me. Why do you think is that?”

“Well, there could be couple of reasons. First, they might be racists and dislike black people. After all, some Muslim countries still use black people as slaves. However, there is a second reason. They are afraid of you,” I responded.

“Why so?”

“Rosa, how many blacks do you know that have been mugged by Iranians?” I asked.

“None!”

“I have two Iranian friends who were mugged by black guys and my third friend’s father was shot to death by a black man. Do you blame these friends of mine for being afraid of blacks in general? Is it possible that your Muslim neighbors might also have friends and relatives who have experienced the same things?” To her credit, my dear friend, agreed with me.

The other night, as I was channel surfing, I came across Chappelle’s Show. Dave Chappelle is a black comedian who, like most ethnic comedians today, gets a lot of laughs by making fun of white people. I guess it is considered comedy when other races make fun of white people. However, when it is done the other way around, it is called racism. To his credit, on some occasions, Chappelle also pokes fun at his own people. On this particular episode, using all black comedians, he did a skit called something like, “If people don’t like you, it could be that you are a jerk and has nothing to do with your race.” Is it possible that some people don’t like me and won’t hang out with me because I am a jerk and my race has nothing to do with it? Abso-freaking-lutely! And this brings me to why I wrote this article.

I am tired of all the America-bashing I hear constantly. Yes, she has done many wrong things in her past—which nation hasn’t?—but she has been quick to fix it. NO, she is not perfect, but, as one who was raised under a totalitarian system, I believe America is still the best nation on the face of the earth. Let’s stop looking at what she should have done right and start being grateful for how far this young country has come to correct her past.

I am willing to bet my last dollar that some of you would never dare to even think about what I have said on this posting lest you be called a racist. But don’t forget, I am not white and therefore, couldn’t possibly be racist and that is why I say, “Thank God I am not a white American Male.”
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