Mom, I've made it -- someone turned me into a meme! Hahahah the internet gives me life, ya'll don't stop! ?? pic.twitter.com/kQlDytTYmY— Hoda Katebi (@hodakatebi) February 12, 2018
A Chicago news station faced internet backlash for telling a young fashion blogger she did not “sound like an American” on national television.
Hoda Katebi, an Iranian-American political fashion blogger who also identifies as Muslim, was interviewed live on WGN-TV last week where she was discussing her blog, JooJoo Azad, and her new book “Tehran Streetstyle.”
The hosts began asking Katebi some very serious political questions to which she offered very thoughtful and honest responses. However, her answer to one question, in particular, garnered a disturbing response from one of the anchors.
They decided to ask Katebi about nuclear weapons in Iran, despite the fact that such a question had nothing to do with why she was on the show.
“Nothing to do with what we are talking about and yet, I'm forced to take up a role as an expert on all things related to Iranian politics — a position I know other POC/Muslims have found themselves in if they have ever been the token Muslim on a panel or interviewed about their work,” Katebi wrote in a blog post addressing the incident.
Seemingly displeased with her answer, the female host told Katebi that she didn’t “sound like an American” in her response as she took the opportunity to shed light on the double standard that exists between the United States and Middle Eastern countries.
Breh. What just happened?— KYLE A.B. (@kyalbr) February 14, 2018
A fashion blogger presumably being interviewed about such, is suddenly asked about nuclear Iran, gives a thoughtful critique, is told she doesn't sound like an American, gives thoughtful response, and then we're back to fashion.
In addition to inadvertently suggesting that all Americans must share the same views, the host’s response to Katebi also perpetuated Islamophobic sentiments.
“What an incredibly loaded statement to say to a visibly Muslim woman on live TV, pushing every stereotype of ‘other,’ ‘foreign,’ and ‘incompatible with America’ that Muslims are so systematically characterized as — and therefore used as justification to commit violence against, both here and abroad,” Katebi wrote.
After Katebi shared her experience through her own lens, she received an outpouring of social media support from people who also felt the anchor was out of line.
this @WGNTV interview with fashion blogger Hoda Katebi near perfectly sums up American Orientalism, racism, islamophobia, imperative patriotism, etc etc etc. her response is powerful, poised. also, everything I want to say to most people, most days. https://t.co/V8hPdbGKyH— Dima Alzayat (@tweetmeface) February 13, 2018
One of the most (unintended and accidental) honest n brutal take downs of the lies n false narratives re Iran on US media I've ever seen, done in the most calm, informed n sartorial manner, all done in Kat over 5mins. Bravo Hoda https://t.co/SBanzu6vGq— AK (@kiwiranian) February 14, 2018
This is enlightening; it shows how a lot of newsrooms & broadcasters just don't like complex, nuanced narratives and will seek to shut them down. The presenters have no grasp of Iranian history or politics & that "let's talk about nuclear weapons" q is just bonkers. https://t.co/hXfAdX6LdE— Jane Haynes (@JaneRockHouse) February 13, 2018
There is *nothing* more fundamentally American than the freedom to question the country's history and actions. And little more dishonorable than the "America - love it or leave it" nonsense. Thank you, @hodakatebi for speaking out! https://t.co/GPHP97zXzt— Michael Greenberg (@GreenbergSez) February 14, 2018
As of Wednesday, Katebi took to Twitter to share an update that she had received an apology from Robin, the female host who made the egregious statement. She also mentioned that she proposed an opportunity to return to the show to dissect the incident further with their audience and review a reading list she compiled.
2/ WGN just called and Robin, the female anchor, sincerely apologized. (I also didn't realize so many of you called in! Like I said, ya'll on top of this -- thank *you* for making this happen and refusing to normalize this)! I accepted, and proposed a few ways to fix this --— Hoda Katebi (@hodakatebi) February 14, 2018
4/ They're going to get back to me on this idea, but in the meantime if you have any further ideas let me know hehe ;) The apology was important, but it's also important to be able to use this moment as a teaching tool, and prevent it from happening again. Let's raise the bar.— Hoda Katebi (@hodakatebi) February 14, 2018
WGN-TV also issued an apologetic statement on Twitter.
We have learned a lot from this and our goal, as always, is to do better serving all communities of Chicago. – Robin & Larry pic.twitter.com/CJ38nH4CM0— WGNMorningNews (@WGNMorningNews) February 15, 2018
Ultimately, Katebi handled the situation gracefully. However, her experience exemplifies the different types of microaggressions experienced by people of color on a daily basis throughout this country. There may not always be malicious intent behind them, but harm is still done.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Flickr, Frank Boston