Monday, 13 January, 2020

How an Iranian-American is being discriminated against

Discrimination is a word Parisa Shamaei-Zadeh uses often when describing her experience of being an Iranian-American in Eastern Kentucky.

Shamaei-Zadeh, a senior at Paintsville High School and a student at Johnson County / Paintsville Early College Academy at Big Sandy Community and Technical College, wrote about her struggles and received $42,000 for the William C. Parker Diversity Scholarship at the University of Kentucky.

“It’s quite a paradox, I believe, because I was born in America. I was born in Kentucky and I’m discriminated as a second-class citizen most of the time,” said Shamaei-Zadeh, 17.

She is a member of the University of Kentucky Iranian Association and is a cheerleader for PHS. When she graduates in the spring, she will have an Associate in Science degree from BSCTC. She would like to go on to study pre-medicine and wants to be a physician so she can work in undeserved areas. Her father, Dr. Ali Shamaei-Zadeh, is from Iran, and her mother, Patricia Nelson, is from Lawrence County. She makes annual trips to Iran for about five weeks to visit her family.

Growing up, Shamaei-Zadeh would experience name-calling from fellow classmates. In middle school, students would call her family “terrorists,” something she recalled crying about when returning home. Over the years, Shamaei-Zadeh became more outspoken against racism and discrimination. This has pushed negative comments away from her for the most part, but they still occur.

She remembers a time when a women commented on a Facebook photo of her wearing a head scarf telling her “to go back to my country and that I need to leave America.”

Parisa Shamaei-Zadeh is shown during one of her trips to Iran.

“It’s really hurtful because I was born in this country and I know people who are just like me, who are naturalized citizens … but they’re being discriminated because of their heritage,” said Shamaei-Zadeh.

She blames this discrimination on how Middle Eastern individuals are portrayed in the media and how many in eastern Kentucky do not know anyone who is Middle Eastern.

“They just see the news, that’s their only outlet to the current events,” she said. “So when they see the news, they form this stigma around Middle Eastern people, but they don’t meet actual Middle Eastern people to know what their lives are like and what they go through, how the news affects them and how the recent laws affect them.”

Shamaei-Zadeh tries to use her own heritage to educate others on the issue by meeting and speaking to as many as she can. She said she tries to form relationships so that every time others see the news they can “think of me and my family and think of how it affects us and how we feel about it.”

Parisa Shamaei-Zadeh is shown cheering for the Paintsville Tigers during a football game his season. Shamaei-Zadeh, has been awarded the William C. Parker Diversity Scholarship from the University of Kentucky.

Though Shamaei-Zadeh has experienced a lot of conflict because of her heritage, this discrimination has only fueled her beliefs for racial equality even more.

“I believe whole-heartedly that everyone should be a whole within America and should not be judged by their race.”

From: Daily independent


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