An Iranian-American fashion blogger was told she didn't "sound American," and was asked about nuclear weapons during a TV interview about style — and the video of her well-informed response has gone viral.
Hoda Katebi, 23, who blogs at JooJoo Azad, was asked to appear as a guest on Chicago’s WGN News morning show to talk about her book, Tehran Streetstyle. The interview began with a discussion about Katebi's childhood in Oklahoma, a predominantly white and conservative state, as a woman who wears a hijab, and continued with insight into women's fashion in Iran, before one of the hosts swooped in with an incongruous geopolitical question.
“Let’s talk about nuclear weapons," host Larry Potash said. "Some of our viewers may say we cannot trust Iran. What are your thoughts?”
Katebi, who studied international relations and Middle Eastern politics at the University of Chicago, had a measured response despite being slightly taken aback. “I don’t think we can trust this country [the US]... I am a pacifist, I don't believe in violence. But also when we look at the legacy of imperialism and colonization in the Middle East and we see the legacy of this country and the violence that it has not only created but also created the capacity for, a lot of these weapons in the Middle East are completely brought in by the Unites States.”
Host Robin Baumgarten then told Katebi: “A lot of Americans might take offense to that. You’re an American, you don’t sound like an American when you say [this]… you know what I mean.”
Katebi replied, "that’s because I’ve read," adding that it is important people "look beyond these simple narratives that we’re told, whether it’s about Muslim women or the legacy of the country knowing that this country was literally built on the backs of Black slaves and after the genocide of indigenous people."
Katebi has since addressed the interview, criticizing the hosts' line of questioning on Instagram. She said being told she "didn't sound American" was a loaded statement towards a "visibly Muslim woman on live TV, pushing every stereotype of 'other,' 'foreign,' and 'incompatible with America' that Muslims are so systematically characterized as. I was born in this country yet they demand I am suspicious of my Iranian-ness but unquestionably patriotic of America. The double standards are wild." Of course, many people have shown support for Ketabi on social media, agreeing that the inquires were inappropriate.
She also wrote about the subject on her blog, claiming "hindsight is always 20/20" and that she "should have just stopped [Potash] right there and questioned why he thought it was okay to make this ridiculous comment and pose it as a question." But in the heat of the moment, she added that she was "too excited to answer the question than question his premises."
"[It had] 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," she said. "The title they gave me on the show was 'fashion blogger,' yet here I am being asked about nuclear weapons. Would they ever bring on a white chef to their show and then ask him about Brexit or his thoughts on the rise of white supremacy?"