My dad just came home today and told me a story. Ironically, I shared a similar experience today. It had to do with our race. I’m going to tell it now.
My dad was driving home from work on the route he uses every day. He was waiting at a red light, getting ready to merge like he’s done every day since living at our home. It’s been 17 years. He’s used this route practically everyday.
Today, when he was stopped at this light, his car was next to a big SUV. My dad was getting ready to merge behind this car. A white man, smoking a cigar, was seated in the driver’s seat. Three things happened to my dad on the drive home. First, the man in the car next to him was visibly cursing at my dad, trying to get his attention. My dad wasn’t doing anything wrong, and deep down he knows (and I know) it was about his race. We’re Iranian, and we look Iranian. My dad has been approached by strangers with a “Are you Iranian?” just out of pure curiosity. He is not shocked or surprised by people being able to pinpoint his race almost instantaneously. Therefore, in this instance he knew this situation was about his race.
Next, the man literally refused to go on a green light because my dad had merged and was right behind him. Cars that were 3 or 4 spaces behind the both of them were angry and honking. The man refused. He knew he was in the position of power, and he milked this for all it was worth. My dad did not react, simply waited for the man to go (whenever he decided was the right time), and then stayed a good distance behind him. My dad had not shown one reaction the entire time.
But this man wouldn’t give up. As they both drove down a main road in our town, this man (who was in the lane to the right of my dad) began to serve back and forth, creating a fishtail effect. By this point, my dad knew his life was in low-key danger and braked, letting this crazy man get his power trip over with before finally going to wherever he was headed. They were separated by traffic lights – finally – and now my dad could drive the remainder of his route home in peace.
This insane man tried to cause an accident today for no other reason than my dad’s race. Because my dad was Iranian, this random guy decided he had the power to decide whether my dad could come home in one piece or not. I’m sick of this.
Hours earlier today, I was in a similar but totally less harmful situation. I was driving with 2 other friends in the car, one Asian-American and one Mexican-American. I was in the driver’s seat, wearing a “#REFUGEESWELCOME” shirt I bought in Berkeley during a Persian new year celebration/festival. The shirt was created as a fundraiser opportunity for the Syrian refugees.
Me, an Iranian-American female, wearing this shirt as I drive two other minorities apparently got to this old, white man as he crossed the street. I was talking to my friends as we stopped at the STOP sign, but I noticed this man’s glare never ceased. I thought he was just glancing over, as you do sometimes when you cross the street and cars are waiting for you. But this felt different. I knew what shirt I was wearing. I know what I look like. And I felt angry. Why are you glaring at me, sir?? I don’t understand??? Why does who I am or what I support make you angry??? WHY DO WE MAKE YOU ANGRY???
Whether it was this microagression I faced, or the very “macro” aggression my dad faced later in the day – these instances are disappointing and disheartening. I know our country is a little backwards right now, but I expected more from this coast and this part of the state. I’m disappointed, angry, and still going to wear that shirt — and SHOW OFF who I am and what I believe in. I’m Iranian-American, and BOTH parts of that hyphenated identity are VALID.