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Fact Check: Are Iranians 'Black and Brown People'?

Qassem Soleimani. (Source: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

After President Donald Trump killed Iran Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike Friday, liberals suggested the president’s decision was based on — drumroll, please — racism.

“There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism,” NFL quarterback turned liberal commentator Colin Kaepernick tweeted.

Naturally, Kaepernick got a great deal of flak for that statement. But on Monday, the oh so august Southern Poverty Law Center — which of course NEVER had a racism and sexism scandal, never had bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, and never weaponized its history against the KKK to demonize conservatives, Christians, and Muslims, HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST SUCH A THING — echoed Kaepernick’s statement.

After the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) claimed Iranian-Americans had been detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — a claim CBP has vehemently denied — the SPLC rushed to repeat the racism charge against Trump.

“Reports that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is detaining and questioning Iranian Americans is in direct violation of their constitutional rights, and every single one of us should be alarmed,” Karen Baynes-Dunning, interim president and CEO of the SPLC, said in a statement. “Since day one, the Trump administration has used fear to target black and brown communities, and it continues as Iranians and Iranian Americans are being held at ports of entry for hours and asked about their beliefs.”

She also compared CBP’s alleged actions to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. “We cannot sit by and watch as this administration uses fearmongering as a weapon to strip men and women of their dignity and their rights just as the nation did during World War II with the Japanese and Japanese Americans,” she said.

Even if CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans for a limited time, this is nothing like the horror of Japanese internment, which involved forcing millions to live in separate camps for years. This war measure violated the rights of Americans, but it must be understood as a war measure — in the context of fears that Japan would infiltrate the U.S. during an existential war.

After the death of Soleimani — which came days after Iran-backed militias besieged the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad reportedly on Soleimani’s orders and before attacks the Quds Force was reportedly planning against U.S. soldiers in the region — Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei vowed “severe revenge.” In light of various Iranian threats — including an $80 million bounty on Trump’s head broadcast by Iran’s state television — it seems some suspicion about Iranians entering the U.S. may be warranted.

Regardless of the propriety or impropriety of the actions CBP has denied taking, the claim that Iranians like Soleimani are “black and brown” is absurd.

Iran is a multi-ethnic country, including Persians, Kurds, Azerbaijanis, and others. Arabs only account for 2-3 percent of the population. Persians, the vast majority, have a skin color commonly referred to as “white.” The “white” classification is sticky, of course — I personally descend from Irish Catholics and Belorussian Jews, two people long excluded from the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant identity along with Italians, Spanish, and Greeks. Today, “white” includes Irish, Eastern Europeans, Italians, Spanish, Greeks, Turks, and — yes — Persians.

If I am white, then Qasem Soleimani is white. In fact, the correct census designation for people of Persian descent in the U.S. is still “white,” much to the chagrin of people who want a separate Middle East/North Africa racial marker. Yet the Middle East is ethnically diverse, even though it is majority Arab. The Persians and the Turks are not Arab, however.

Many American liberals are so used to slamming President Trump as racist, they keep plugging along when he attacks white people like Soleimani. It’s far more convenient for them to lump in the white Persians with dark-skinned Muslim minorities like Somalis (Ilhan Omar) and North Africans. Of course, Trump’s strike on Soleimani had everything to do with fighting terrorism, protecting U.S troops, and responding to the embassy attack — and absolutely nothing to do with racism. Americans could be forgiven for thinking this is painfully obvious, but apparently it’s not obvious to the SPLC or Kaepernick.

The SPLC has a history of rushing to race in their attempts to tar President Trump. When an evil man killed 11 people at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, the far-left group blamed the president for the anti-Semitism behind the attack. Not only is Trump the most pro-Israel president in American history, but he welcomed a practicing Jew — Jared Kushner — into his family and his business, and he recently signed an executive order protecting Jews on college campuses. The Pittsburgh shooter actually hated Trump, a fact the SPLC conveniently ignored.

The SPLC did important work in bankrupting racist terror groups like the KKK, but the organization has itself been accused of racial discrimination — putting black employees in more menial jobs. Many black former employees called the group a “plantation.”

Race is a convenient cudgel for the SPLC, but only because the mainstream media refuses to call this group out for its own sordid history. In fact, The New York Times recently uncritically cited the SPLC in an attack on Prager University, and the article stubbornly refused to mention the massive scandal that cleared out the SPLC’s leadership last March.

Perhaps the SPLC should examine its own internal culture rather than straining to connect Trump’s every action to a secret racist motive.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.