Are Armenians White?

Examining Our Relationship to Race

Photo provided by the author

It’s a question many of us have asked, puzzled, debated, and even had heated arguments over. During this heightened national conversation about race in the US, it has become an increasingly important one for us to consider. Are Armenians white? I have seen an outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter movement among Armenian individuals and institutions recently, and it seems to me that if we are committed to translating these intentions into long-term and meaningful change, we must understand our own place within the system. 

As we all know, our ancestors did not come from a place of ethnic privilege. In the Ottoman Empire, where many of our ancestors lived, Armenians were subject to centuries of ethnic discrimination that culminated with the violence and murder of the Armenian Genocide. In light of this history, some of our experiences parallel those of Black Americans and Indigenous People of the Americas, who were driven from their homelands and subjected to ethnic violence and cultural erasure. 

However, once Armenians immigrated to the United States, their situation changed. As Aram Ghoogasian describes in his article “How Armenians Became ‘White’: A Brief History,” the Naturalization Act of 1790 limited American citizenship to “free white persons.” Armenians had to go to court twice to prove their whiteness, which would give them access to citizenship and permanently ensure their safety from the ethnic discrimination and genocide they had faced in the Ottoman Empire. 

This was by no means a conclusive declaration of ethnic privilege. The court cases revealed the incredibly unscientific basis of defining race in America, declaring Armenians white because the “average man in the street” would recognize Armenians as white and that they “readily amalgamate with the European and white races.” Essentially, the courts decided that Armenians could be white because they looked and acted enough like white Americans. With this privilege came the pressure for Armenians to assimilate and give up their culture and history in order to become fully white. This is why I did not grow up speaking Armenian in an Armenian community, and for a long time refused to honor my Armenian name and history. 

But ethnic discrimination against Armenians continued in places like Fresno where they were regularly subjected to racial insults and faced discrimination in landowning and employment. Discrimination is still a reality for many Armenians today based on factors like immigration status, physical features, language, and mixed Black, Indigenous, or other backgrounds. When I opened this discussion on social media recently, one Armenian mentioned that her dark-skinned Armenian cousins are often considered to be a different race than her, and thus treated differently. Another Armenian mentioned that her family members from Armenia are not treated as white and are often stopped in airport security, while she often experiences white privilege. 

“Becoming” white did not just offer opportunities, it also meant becoming part of a system of racism.

However, the ability of many Armenians to pass as white, both legally and in society, has granted us opportunities that Black, Indigenous and many other Americans have never had. For Armenians, like many other groups, America was a land of opportunity, only made possible by the wealth that this country built on the enslavement of Black people and the genocide of Native Americans. Our privilege of whiteness, no matter how marginal, has in large part protected us from systems like mass incarceration, police violence and redlining, allowing us to use our hard work and perseverance to build new lives and communities in America. 

“Becoming” white did not just offer opportunities, it also meant becoming part of a system of racism. My Armenian family settled in a community on the South Side of Chicago in the early 1900s; two generations later, they were part of the wave of “white flight” to the suburbs after real estate agents started to come to their house and tell them that Black people were going to bring danger and crime into the neighborhood. They did not create this system, but, having become white in America, they were necessarily implicated in it. 

Photo provided by the author

As I reflect on my own relationship with race during the current Black Lives Matter uprising, I come to see that since there is no natural characteristic that makes someone white, no child is born white, but rather we all are socialized into our race. In my case, I grew up reading books like the Little House on the Prairie series that glorifies settler colonialism and the genocide of Native Americans. I grew up living in white neighborhoods with mostly white friends, and in many cases learned to subconsciously dismiss Black people, culture and spaces. Nobody asked me if I wanted to be part of this system. That’s the nature of systematic racism. 

However, in better understanding my own history of racialization I have a chance to change the way that I think and behave. I have the opportunity to realize that the system that taught me to fear Black people and isolate myself in white spaces is the same system that taught me to hate my Armenian name and to avoid writing about Armenia so much, lest I be perceived as too “exotic”  or “foreign” for white institutions. 

So, are Armenians white? It’s a question I do not want to answer, because I have no desire to change myself or any Armenian to fit in the system. I do not want to identify with, and continue to support, a system that taught me to create such mental barriers between myself and other human beings that it took this long for videos of police murdering Black people to shock me into action. While it is essential for us to acknowledge the reality on the ground, we can recognize that we benefit from different levels of white privilege. We can recognize that people will perceive us and treat us differently based on the way we look, without defining ourselves by a system of whiteness that forces us to give up elements of ourselves to conform.

Seeing our place in the American racial system shows us that the fight against white supremacy is our fight too. If we fight to preserve our culture and community, we must also fight for the rights of Black, Indigenous, and other ethnic groups do the same. We must listen to Black voices, donate our resources and efforts to organizations working for racial justice, and use our voices and our skills to contribute to a better future. As we know from our own 105 years of protest and struggle for genocide recognition, the fight against systems of oppression is a long one and requires constant commitment and the help of allies around the world. 

Araxie Cass

Araxie Cass

Araxie Cass is a member of the AYF Chicago Ararat Chapter, as well as a student of Creative Writing and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Her work includes creative non-fiction and short stories, focusing on Armenian topics, as well as social justice, culture and community.

47 Comments

    • As an Armenian, 1st generation born here. Let me say this. What a load of BS. I don`t have the time or energy to take each sentence written and dispute it.

  1. ““Becoming” white did not just offer opportunities, it also meant becoming part of a system of racism.”

    Good Lord.
    In what country? What century? What decade?
    I have been in Chicago, have several friends, remote relatives live there. You are saying there is “a system of racism” in Chicago, which is false.
    But let’s assume for a second that you are right, and my personal experience, and the experience of dozen or so of friends I have living and working there are all invalid, or not what the majority of people are experiencing there, what does that say about who controls and runs the city and the state?

    All of them are non-white minorities, democrats.
    The same party that is feeding this false narrative to the masses, and fanning the flames of racial divide and hatred.
    Are there incidents of racism? Of course there are.
    Are there people who are racist? Certainly.
    This is not a utopia, and no country, society, or community is perfect.

    But alleging there is a system of racism, in America of all countries, and by being white you immediately become part of it, is not only false, but also racist itself.

    Isolating a group of people based on the color of their skin is racist.
    Does not matter what color is that, white, black, brown, yellow, red, ..etc.

    Where was this “system of racism” in the past 8 years before the 2016 elections?
    We elected and re-elected a black president to the most powerful office in the world, and he nominated 2 black Attorny Generals, overwhelmingly confirmed by the congress, to the most powerful legal office in the world.
    The most powerful, influential, famous, rich people in America are of minority descent, and the biggest chunk of them are black.
    Celebrities, actors, professional athletes, TV personalities, pundits, radio show hosts, ….etc.
    What are you talking about?
    How come this racial divide based on identity politics comes up every election year?
    Don’t take my word for it, look up google search trends of black lives matter, blm, racism, and related words and see for yourself.

    Are you saying there is a system of racism, and yet somehow a black person got elected and reelected as president with both popular and electoral college votes, in a country where according to the 2016 census data, has 71% white people, total 77% white (if you add other non black, non brown, non Asian white groups), elected a black president, still enjoys huge popularity, and yet say we are living in a system of racism?

    Your math does not add up, and your reasoning is flawed.
    The current wave of racial tensions is politically driven. Has nothing to do about blacks and their struggles.
    The black lives matter “leaders” and “co-founders” openly said, on TV, during interviews they are “trained marxist organizers”, said their goal is to “bring the system down, and remove Donald Trump”, and if they don’t get what they want, they will “burn the system down”, and it is all on video. Once again, don’t take my word for it, go to youtube and watch the interviews.

    Did you read that? The did not state what exactly black people need, and what they can do to make their lives better, they stated they want to remove a duly elected president, and burn down the system.
    I don’t know how that is about blacks?
    Due to the policies of the same president they want to remove, blacks enjoyed historic low unemployment.
    That did not happen under Obama, a black president, and did not happen due to his anti-business policies designed to turn the US into a welfare state.
    It happened under Trump. Facts are facts. Emotions are not facts.
    So instead of BLM demanding more jobs, better opportunities for black people, the want to remove the president who did exactly that.
    That clearly shows (along with their self claimed status and political agenda), they are not about black lives.

    You care about black lives? I do. As someone who saw racism first hand, saw discrimination first hand before I arrived in the US, in a country I was born in a lived for 3 decades, treated as a 2nd class citizen, I certainly stand against racism and discrimination, but refuse to condemn one group to appease a radical organization.

    If you care about black lives, demand a solution to black families lacking father, thanks to the welfare system that encourages single parents.
    Demand end of race based abortions. Look up the percentage of abortion clinics that are in, or near areas of majority of blacks and other minorities.
    Address gang violence, the overwhelming majority of the victims are black.
    Address black on black crime. Address the black majority areas run by democrats which are not even fit for humans to live in.
    Take a walk in districts represented by Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi for example. See for yourself.
    Address homelessness. A huge chunk of those who are homeless are blacks.
    Encourage school voucher programs. The majority of black leaders support it. It gives black kids a chance for a better education, allows them to attend better schools, not the under preforming, gang infested schools in bad neighborhoods.

    Those are the facts.
    But insisting blacks are hurting because of mythical “system of racism” in the 21st century and after 7000,000 American dying to free the slaves, and after the passage of several civil rights acts, and election and reelection of black president, appointment of black Supreme Court Justice, and others for crying out loud is ridiculous, does not help.
    You are attempting to set a false narrative. Does not help. This becoming part of the problem.

    Apparently I have to post my comments more than once to make them appear int comment section. If you don’t allow peaceful discourse and peaceful disagreement, you should make it clear, or disable comments completely and enjoy the echo chamber.

    • Chris Tavitian should have been invited to pen this article!!
      Bravo, Chris. We Armenians are deeply interested in justice for all —not manufactured racial inequity tropes.

    • Very correctly expressed rebuttal to Ms. Cass’s article. Narratives about century old racial issues are promoting more dissent and provocation than harmony. We cannot rewrite history and we should not compare the Armenian Genocide to Slavery.

      Rather than parading with “Black Lives Matter” posters, we should look at the facts in Chicago. If the black people cared for “Black Lives” they would not kill their own people in the inner city. Despite the Covid-19 lock down and the curfews, look at the grim statistics of shootings and deaths in Chicago. If the black cared for their neighborhoods and respected property, they would not have ransacked, vandalized, looted and turned the City into a war zone recently. Law abiding & responsible Black leaders would agree with me.

      As Armenians, let’s focus on Armenian issues in the Diaspora, the Middle East and Armenia, instead of getting embroiled in matters that are controversial and divisive.

    • This response makes me laugh out loud. It reeks of privileged and is ignorant of history. You do not understand the genesis of how this country was built, and how those seminal practices infuse every institution that exists today. Please, for God’s sakes, read a book.

    • Kelley,

      I do appreciate the rhetorical stance you take, as if you are learned and those who disagree with you are not. And I will cede to you the low ground of being intimately familiar with critical race theory and the deepest thoughts of public intellectuals like AOC.

      Saying that every institution is infused with [racism today, patriarchy yesterday, capitalism tomorrow – you fill in the blanks here as you wish] is saying nothing provable or disprovable.

      Common sense as well as hard facts tell us that the nation has made great progress. Comparing us to a perfect set of outcomes, instead of to our past and the present of many other nations does not make me laugh as you do. It makes me stand in awe of the country which saved my grand parents and their relatives from death.

      For us, the Statue of Liberty promise was true. For you, Lady Liberty is actually the front gate to Auschwitz. Maybe you should move to a better country. That would be?

    • You wrote a lot of nonsense. Electing ONE BIRACIAL president does not mean racism doesn’t exist in America. So POC are just making these stories up? Videos of racial discrimination against POC are edited? Lol hilarious

  2. I’m 100% Armenian, and I’m White.

    I am not going to let anyone take that away from me just because a very few Black people and liberal Whites want me to drop it.

    The often cited court case in California where Armenians may not have been initially classified as White was a rarity.

    If race is meaningless, why do Blacks classify themselves as Black? Why “Black Power” ?

    If there is no such thing as race, is there such a thing as ethnicity and “Armenian”?

    Is there even such a thing as “human” if we share so much DNA with apes?

    There are plenty of scientific studies out there proving that there is such a thing as race. You are probably not going to find them with a Google search.

    I urge younger Armenians not to go along with what many of us consider “pc” propaganda
    by people who have no idea what Armenians are and couldn’t care less.

    In part, it’s a result of brainwashing in Americans schools, by mainstream media, and certain groups of people whose leaders want to denationalize countries such as Armenia and deracialize/deethnicize others so as to fulfill their own dream of eventually being the only ones left standing. Or maybe they just have no pride.

    My being Armenian and White does not mean I am hostile to any other group. It makes me understand them better, in fact.

    • There was not an “often cited court case in California where Armenians may not have been initially classified as White.” Please provide us with the information about “plenty of scientific studies out there proving that there is such a thing as race,” given that we “are probably not going to find them with a Google search.”

    • Even a DNA test can tell Armenians and Turks apart. At least in 99% of cases. Race does not exist to only those who wish to use this ‘new’ ideology to further their utopian egalitarian agenda to usurp power.

  3. Why don’t you go out in the streets of any armenian populated area in America and ask any Armenian if they support this BLM
    nonsense? I did, and a vast majority is disgusted by it, because they are just trying to get more power, money etc… and the more you give in to them the more they will demand: It is human nature. By allowing this to happen the democratic controlled cities are asking for more widespread looting, defacing of property, vandalism, assault on innocent folks, and much more,(just like the turks did to us) or have you not been paying attention? Are you really that indoctrinated by whatever college you go or went to that you choose to ignore the disgusting atrocities they commit? Their acts are similar to the turks and you need to open you eyes. STOP SHOWING US AS LIBERALS, we don’t want to be on the wrong side of history because some of us are sheep and blindly follow what they hear on the news, the vast majority Of Armenians are business owners and respectable and financially secure, which makes them inadvertently Republican ( because they have a brain of their own ). What happens once they come to glendale and start burning our businesses? You’ll scream Genocide!!! And you daddy wont be able to afford the lease on your Mercedes anymore.
    Armenians are white genetically and if you want to be a minority, renounce your race and religion and go become a muslim black or whatever. YUCK!

  4. It’s summer time, and a time to read, to watch a movie, and to enjoy a snack.

    A few good books to read are “1984,” “Animal Farm,” and Raffi’s “Jalaleddin.” A good movie to watch is “Uncle Tom,” and a splendid snack to enjoy is “bread and cheese.“

    Baree akhorzhak!

  5. Good discussion. Race is socially determined. As we know we all share 99.9% DNA regardless of color or characteristics. We are all human beings. Having said that, racism is real. Think of this? I look like many of my Arab and Persian moslem compatriots. Are they white or brown? Many Israeli Jews look like their Arab moslem neighbors. We are all one people differentiated by various ethnic, religious, cultural and other characteristics. I suspect that if Armenians were not the subject of an Uslamic genocide, and were not Predominantly Christian we would not be considered white in America. What is the difference between a Syrian Muslim in Dearborn and an Armenian Christian in Dearborn both from Lebanon? Good same. Look similar. Religion and tribe. And guarantee each one has some if the other in their ancestry. If we were not recruited from Turkey by Christian missionaries during the genocide we would be middle eastern brown people. Indeed, we are often treated that way depending o. Community we r from. More than most whites people I suspect we were treated to a greater share of racial slurs Growing up, despite the fact that we com from the Caucasus! Are Turks more or less white than Armenians? Chechnens? DAghastanis? Azeris? Gerorgians? Race is a fiction based on power!

    • Andranik, it is easy to get rid of a group like us because there are only a handful of us left. Especially if you brainwash our youth. You can see this trend in the creation of the Young Turks tv show. Tomorrow they will tell us that we should all mix with Turks because we are all the same. Just like one offered a constructive comment above, if humans and apes are 99% similar let us forget the crucial differences between an ape and human. Hell, we share a whopping 50% of DNA with a banana. At the same time, zoology books keep telling us that ravens and crows are different species. I once thought they were male/female.

      Acknowledging differences does not mean hate, folks. In fact, it celebrates diversity of life. Different birds do not live in segregated places. We see them share airspace every day. And yet conflicts between different species of birds exist.

      It is a fact that willful and promoted miscegenation promoted under the auspices of anti-racism is a silent form of genocide. Even Muhammed Ali, the great black boxer everyone respects, once said in an interview how important it is to love your own and acknowledge physical and cultural differences. He noted how even an African female would fall behind an african american one for him due to cultural reasons.

      Races do exist, and cultures exist on top of all races even more. These two parameters formed human individuals throughout the history of our time. Cultures serve to preserve identity, even more so than race. At the same time, cultures preserve race because the two went along together. I am not saying there are no exceptions. There are stories of azeri kids growing up in Armenian families, not knowing who they were until the secret became known. But if enough people do these ‘kind gestures’ or promote intermarriage we are headed toward history books. There will be no examples of us anywhere anymore. We will all be obsolete. Sure, species did evolve and change, but that did not happen in the course of a few hundred years.

      Let’s respect one another and help each other out, but respect the need to preserve the identity of your ancestors. They were no racists. Neither were Europeans. Neither were blacks. Nor any other group. It is human nature to mingle with someone familiar to you. No one should be judged.

      Also, it is normal to argue with someone different from you. No one should be attacked and expelled or fired for free speech. It is tribal nature to distrust someone looking different from you. It does not mean we should exploit these differences. No one should be discriminated against and/or enslaved because of who they are.

      Nevertheless, multiculturalism sounds welcoming and beautiful only on paper. It does not work in practice, unfortunately. There will be conflicts between different people. We should understand that. There were always wars between countries. Those wars were mostly due to cultural or ideological clashes. These clashes are ongoing today. If Armenians were no different from other groups in the region than azeri leaders would embrace us for taking what is ours. They would think of us as a bridge between themselves and Turkey. They do not, because our genetics and cultures and religions are different. We do not want to renounce our history and religion to simply maintain ‘peace’ in the region. We are a distinct species with a unique culture, and we have a right to live and preserve it.

      In the same way, blacks will feel social tension in mostly white places. So will a white vice versa. It is human nature. The process of our evolution and cultural development is a complicated one, especially for someone coming from a Marxist institution that instills radicalized feelings of fighting racism. You cannot simply erase all these years of human identity and development and form one melting pot. It is like trying to vaporize the oceans to avoid natural disasters associated with bodies of water.

  6. Thanks for your erudite op-ed, Ms. Cass. The comments below your article further prove your analysis. Some of these commentators are so privileged that they are oblivious to the systemic racism that envelops our broken nation, not to mention that racism (along with misogyny and homophobia) that sadly & embarrassingly lurks in our Diaspora (and homeland). How sad for our people that even as the victims of attempted erasure so many of us are only too eager to dismiss the persecutions of others, and more tragically, sometimes engage in that persecution.

  7. I think whiteness is an individual thing. I am an American first…then the product of a marriage between a Mexican-born American serviceman of European and mixed Indian descent…a mestizo and a British warbride of Scots-Irish and Anglo Irish descent. Do I consider myself white, nope but I am Caucasian.

  8. The concept of race (not to be confused with racism) is a taboo subject. We cannot speak about racial predispositions in the 21 century. We can refer to the characteristics of dog breeds (purebred German Shepherds have traits unique to their breed, etc) but this is considered bunk and deeply offensive when analyzing humans who belong to a single race and nationality who have certain characteristics over others—such as being predominantly olive skinned, highly industrious, enterprising, artistic, competitive with their own compatriots, etc. To point out characteristics of various purebred races — those considered desirable and perhaps not so desirable — is now one of the greatest offenses one can commit. Noticing national characteristics is now something to be concealed and denied. This fits right in with the objectives of the New World Order that hopes to break down nations of their unique qualities and assimilate humanity into a homogeneous whole.

  9. I am an American of Armenian descent. My mother always told me that we are Caucasian, having to do with the area around the Caucasus Mountains.

    Whenever I have to sign any form where it asks for race, I never check the ‘White’ box. I always check the ‘Other’ box and write in, ‘Caucasian’. To me, ‘White’ means those from Eastern Europe.

    Also, as most Armenians are aware, Armenia is not part of the Middle East; but it is part of Asia Minor, as are two or three other countries in that same general area.

    So, “Are Armenians White?” I don’t know, but this Armenian is Caucasian.

  10. Araxie, very intelligent, absorbing piece of writing.
    We Armenians ought to remember that most likely two of our great heroes, Vartan Mamigonian and Gregory the Illuminator most likely had Asian antecedents. According to Moses of Chorene in his 5th C. History of Armenia, and another 5th C. Armenian historian Pavstos Buzand, Vartan Mamigonian’s ancestors were noblemen from China.
    Gregory the Illuminator was descended from Parthian noblemen. His name Krikor Bartev
    indicates this.

    American folk attitudes to race based on colour always fascinate me. For example Barack Obama is referred to as African American or Black American. His white American mother is left out of the picture. Even spurious claims have been made that he is not American born and really a Muslim.

  11. “Due to the policies of the same president they want to remove, blacks enjoyed historic low unemployment” (Davitian). And now they are dealing with a brutal and intolerable pattern of lynchings across the country, which is the real reason behind BLM and which the Trumpian posters blithely ignore to talk about everything and anything else.

  12. Araxie, I am truly sorry that your experience growing up in the US, as an Armenian American, has been such a negative one, so bad, that you have come to believe, “Armenians in America were forced to assimilate and give up their culture and history in order to become fully white. This is why I did not grow up speaking Armenian in an Armenian community, and for a long time refused to honor my Armenian name and history.” Perhaps, it’s my age, life experiences, education, and belief in the founding principles of America that make my judgment of the history of Armenians in America so different from yours.

    My parents were survivors of the Genocide. They, along with other oppressed people of all colors, ethnicities, religions, and creeds, came to the US, and despite hardships, challenges, and yes, prejudice and discrimination, were given the freedom and opportunity to work hard, adapt, thrive, educate their children, and at the same time, with perseverance, and personal sacrifice, my generation and those that followed, including yours, built and continue to sustain vibrant and thriving Armenian communities, the benefits of which, you and I enjoy today.

    As an educator, I am profoundly disheartened and saddened that you have been educated, or with all due respect, propagandized and indoctrinated to question your own identity, “hate your Armenian name”, “isolate yourself in white spaces”, and condemn your Americanism and whiteness, based on a false narrative and understanding of America, its founding, and its history. You are drowning in a sea of anger and negativity. Open your eyes, your mind, and your heart to understand that what defines us is not our sins or failures, but our achievements and ideals. Because we are not perfect, does not mean we are not good. Our problems are man-made, and can be solved by men. Now is the time to use your voice to inspire positive change, and meaningful dialogue and reform; to use your voice to combat racial injustice and prejudice with tolerance and fairness; to use your voice to unify, not divide.

    You ask, “Are Armenians white?” I answer, “Yes, you and I are both Armenian and white. The difference is that I celebrate my identity, and I am a proud American, as well.”

  13. Thank you for your piece, Araxie. I am always amazed how little empathy some of those whose families have struggled in their lives have for others with even worse scenarios. For those of you don’t think racism exists in the US on May 1, a Black child living in a facility in Michigan that houses children in foster care or the juvenile justice system died because he threw a sandwich. This boy was only at the facility because his mother had died, and his father was unable to care for him. At least three staff members piled on top of this boy for nearly ten minutes as he screamed “I can’t breathe” and then lost consciousness. We have heard this story many times. Why do you think these senseless deaths happen more to children of color? Do you think it’s a coincidence?

    Regarding Armenians and racism, I wrote in a couple of articles published in the Weekly a few months ago that Armenians were themselves victims of racism in the past—not just in Turkey but in the United States. In 1909 four Armenian men had to go to a Boston court and plead against the federal government’s contention that they were “oriental” in order to be granted entry to the US. A US Circuit Court judge ruled that western Asiatics had become so mixed with Europeans that it was not possible to determine if they were white or part of the “yellow” race. This ruling allowed the men to be admitted but did not set a firm footing for future cases, and in 1923 when Tatos Cartozian wanted entry to the US the federal government challenged his claim of whiteness. Cartozian “proved” his claim by testimony from anthropologist Hans Boaz, and in 1924 Armenians were judged “white.” This did not help much with immigration from the middle east, however, because the Immigration Laws of 1921 and 1924 discriminated against “southern Europeans” who were now considered white, but apparently not white enough.

    So, yes, the author is utterly correct: discrimination exists. As one of the commenters pointed out, race is socially determined. I also agree with the comment that Armenians are Caucasian. It makes more sense to identify ourselves from where we came from that it does to posit some kind of color that has little to do with what we actually look like and even less who we are. Still, when asked to give my race, I prefer to check the “other” box in honor of all of our ancestors who managed to survive being seen as “other” both in the “old country” and elsewhere.

    • Marian,
      thanks for tour analysis of this very complicated topic. Growing up in Detroit in the 50’s, there were parts of Detroit and suburbs that were not an option for us to live because Armenians (and Jews)were not allowed to buy houses there.

      I’ve checked the ‘other’ box for years because calling myself ‘White’ did not feel true and I didn’t know of another option. And also, because ‘other’ describes the ‘othering’ that occurs when one is not considered ‘White’.

      I’m happy to have been introduced to the option of claiming ‘Caucasian’

      AND, yes Armenians can show inc=stances of being discriminated against, but to claim that make our experiences equal to or as important as Black and Brown experiences is getting pretty close to what is known as ‘White Fragility’

    • What Armenians in Detroit experienced in the 50s–this one case I had not heard so far–it is what Armenians in Fresno experienced massively from the 1910s and it was also inscribed in black over white in many other cities and states in this country, the “racial covenant” that prohibited to sell a house to (this had different expressions in different places) Blacks, Armenians, Indians, Jews, Chinese, and so on and so forth. This blatant discrimination went on until 1948, when the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in Shelley v. Kraemer. But it still took until the late 50s or early 60s to have the “racial covenant”s totally gone.

  14. Brilliant – really proud of your deep understanding of white supremacy culture. Although my 4 grand-parents fled the genocide we we benefited from white privilege for sure. I was described as “exotic” and felt a bit ‘othered’ as a kid in the NYC area, but mostly I was widely accepted. I’ve taken my uncles’ fighting spirit (they all died in Armenia) and applied it to fighting racism in public education for the last 40 years. We are warriors!

  15. I read the article and skimmed thru the comments. I am so glad we are having a conversation. Conversations can be helpful, hurtful, eye-opening… but it is through conversations that we will grow. It is very important to remember that each and every one of us, have had a slightly different upbringing/experience, therefore, our ideas of who we are, etc…. are going to be different. And different is beautiful!!!

    I am a naturalized Armenian. After high-school, I thought I was white-white-white (I mean I got translucent skin if u know what I mean). Then years into my life’s journey, I actually emptied out a restaurant (which included many races), but of-course God did not forget me. He sent a beautiful couple who came in and took a seat at the table right next to mine and said hello and smiled at me.

    So what God taught me through that journey is that I am white, but there’s a difference in me – and that difference is the Armenian in me, and that is beautiful! I am Armenian. I am beautiful. (I could have chosen to learn many other things thru that experience, but that is what spoke to my heart, my soul).

    For a split second of my life, I experienced what the Black people have lived through for centuries. It was humbling! The view people have towards Black people needs to change. That change will occur thru conversations and opening up, feeling humiliated by actions committed prior, and finding healing & moving forward. We live under one nation, we’re like a married couple!!

    Now we need to move forward together, examine our thoughts and points of view. God has given us this moment in our lives to reflect on our actions to move forward together. This is their moment in time! Armenians went through the Hamidian Massacre and the Genocide – we know what is to want more out of this life, what is hurt, what is loss, what is denial!! We cannot deny another race’s pain. Their pain is as real to them, as your pain is to you.

    It is not right that they have to raise their sons with fear when walking out of the front door. We are all human beings. We are a melting pot of cultures.

    I am a naturalized citizen, and when that happened I realized that the history of this nation is now my history. (And the restaurant incident reminded me, that I’m still Armenian :) and I can’t forget who I am either, nor my culture.) What our ancestors have done in the past can be forgiven but we have to put the work in. The healing process can be a painful and humbling process.

    This is their time! Hear them out! Have conversations! Be honest, if you don’t get it, just say it. Be genuine.

  16. Araxie:

    You have shown great sensitivity only to what is fashionable and current. You have shown great fluency, but only in taking in the cliches surrounding you, swallowing them whole, and sending them out here to an audience that knows better. On the surface of things you deserve the effusive compliments received for your intelligence, but none at all for being an individual, independent thinker.

    I don’t believe for a moment that you were ever embarrassed at being Armenian. Your given name is a pleasure to pronounce and ponder. You belong to AYF. My grandmother’s generation suffered because they did not look like Grace Kelly, but you have spent the last 10 years or more in an era where the Armenian look is prized.

    The United States has done some horrible things. Ditto for the Colonies. It has also done some great things for itself, and the world. And for my family, that needed a haven from Turk bayonets.

    You are too young or unlettered to understand the progress this country has made. Once you understand it, maybe you will see that it is more useful to compare this nation to its past, and to other countries, than to a college student’s vision of perfection.

    You just assume that American police officers are racists. Maybe you believe Michael Brown had his hands up when he was shot in Ferguson in 2014. If you do, you are unfamiliar with why the DOJ refused to indict the officer. Or maybe you believe that police kill unarmed African Americans both frequently and more often than they do whites. If so, you are uninformed: In 2019 9 unarmed African Americans were killed by the police. A Harvard economist who is himself African American determined that the police use of deadly force is not more common with African Americans. https://scholar.harvard.edu/fryer/publications/empirical-analysis-racial-differences-police-use-force

    To be fashionable, keep kowtowing to BLM, as AW seems to be doing. But bear in mind that BLM has at least one terrorist on its payroll (Ms. Greenberg) and three founders who are marxists. Do you know what communists did to Armenians, Armenia, and our families?

  17. AW is not ‘kowtowing’ to anyone. That is an obscenity. It is going out on a limb to provide a forum in which the most crucial social problem facing this country can be compassionately addressed by Armenian Americans in the light of their personal experiences and the bitter lessons of Armenian history.

    • Diran,

      Kudos for drama, none for accuracy and analysis.

      In case you haven’t been reading it lately, AW over the past six weeks or so has published several pieces by superficially pro-BLM writers, most of whom have used their pieces either to accuse Armenians or whites in general of racism or – Sacre bleu – “whitenesss” AW’s takeover by one viewpoint time and time again is monotonous.

      “BLM” was founded by three Marxists. That is something to ponder, given what another mob of Communists did to Armenia and Armenians going back a full century.

      The speed with which the media, the corporations and many gullible youths have swallowed BLM is astonishing. It bespeaks that BLM is more fashion accessory for one’s Insta page than anything else.

      BLM trumpets police racism. It advocates some mysterious process called defunding the police. This might work well in gated communities where juvenile burglary is the dominant local crime. Speaking as a former police officer, I can tell you with certainty that defunding the police will deprive the poor, the old, the disabled, and the weak from the protection they call for constantly.

      BLM also decries police violence. They have no interest in violence or force meted out by the police to whites and other groups. Insofar as police violence goes, they, and their gullible followers speak about a tsunami of white officers killing unarmed Blacks. Well, a person can be threat without being armed. But more to the point, the tsunami in 2019 amounted to 9 – 9 unarmed African American men and one woman were killed by the police. A Harvard economist has studied the use of deadly force by the police,and has concluded that blacks and whites have the same outcomes in the same situations, armed or not. https://scholar.harvard.edu/fryer/publications/empirical-analysis-racial-differences-police-use-force

      You say that BLM’s agenda is “the most crucial social problem facing this country.” I suppose that if one considers riot (a co-production of BLM, Antifa, hoodlums of all races and armies of street drunks) to be our nation’s largest crisis, it’s news to most of us who pay the taxes around here. But more fundamentally, if that agenda is truly the King Kong of social issues, where and how does AW include the voices of dissent and difference as to something so important?

  18. Armenians are not white. We are not black. We’re Armenian. Our racial features may differ and vary, me personally, My name was constantly made fun of, my darker skin and darker eyes told someone something different, and when I talked about my Armenian religion that too was looked down upon me.
    Armenians in my lifetime worked very hard to build their names, reputation, our communities, and our standing in the world.

    It is racist to consider us white, it is racist to try and make us feel guilty for being white, and it is racist to think that we as Armenians are obligated to support other people’s causes without question.

    Having said that I do believe that black lives matter. But it’s not because I’m white, it is because I’m Armenian and we as a people have a long history and understanding of perseverance and an existence built on a strong sense of community.

  19. Give it a rest Armenian Weekly. You gave these naive kids a platform for months to voice their ignorance about BLM movement. Focus on the threat of war to Armenia directed by Azeris and Turks. Instead of all these nonsense articles coming out, you should have reported on the massive Azeri military exercises that were happening for months. Or report on the massive cyber warfare by Azeris and Turks. Look at social media, they have bombarded it with propaganda. You know, things that MATTER to ARMENIAN LIVES.

  20. Thank you jda and Jack for your astute and justified criticism of the Armenian Weekly. Your words describe exactly how the silent majority of AW readers think. We have been inundated with the opinions of America condemning social justice warriors. The AW has effectively silenced the voice of dissenters, specifically the viewpoints of conservative, pro America advocates.

    • Thank you, Hazel. You are right on. The AW has also silenced dissenting Armenian progressives who are increasingly alarmed at the intolerance of the Left and analyze/interpret on a case by case basis without swallowing wholesale what comes out of the Left of Center circles.

  21. God Bless America as it has allowed people from different backgrounds to flourish — if you came from genocide, or any other backgrounds you had a chance here.

    These naive young kids writing these things I feel bad for.

    • Growing up I had no problem being an Armenian American in a densely populated eastern region (not NY) with lots of different kinds of minorities and ethnicities, though majority White.

      My parents were born here a very long ago but not my grandparents.

      I never felt uncomfortable nor was I made to, except for maybe a couple of meaningless wisecracks that I shrugged off or gave back to the jerks.

      Heck, you think lots of Italians, Greeks, and others don’t have dark skin too? Big deal.

      We all have different experiences. Some people feel bad about being Armenian because of their exeperiences or their upbringing or just the way they are.

      Others feel good no matter what.

      I feel good. I love being Armenian. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  22. Thank you for this article. As a 1st generation Armenian born in the US, I do not identity as white but do identify as someone who has been able to benefit from white privilege. From my perspective, as someone who’s ancestors have not been in the US for very long, Armenians are not part of the White-Black conflict. While we are external to that, many of us have been able to benefit from white privilege. This doesn’t negate the fact that we still are faced with microaggressions for how we look, how we speak or our citizenship status. But, we should acknowledge that we don’t face the same degree of barriers as black or indigenous people in this country.

  23. I don’t know why, but I have noticed that this topic seems to come up as a hot button issue every couple of months.

    The term “White” is a social construct created to separate the original Anglo settlers from the African slaves. To some extent it managed to encompass all of Europe and then West Asia. However, it is a term usually used to describe Americans, Canadians, and Australians from Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, France, and a few other Western and Central European nations.

    The Russians, Polish, Italians, Greeks, and some others may be European but they are not “White” because their culture is distinct from the dominant Anglo-Saxon culture.

    Armenians who are constantly bickering over this tired topic are wasting their time. It is important to remember that we wanted to be classified as “White” back in 1909 because being othered was not an option after the devastating Armenian Genocide. Just because some Armenians call themselves White does not mean that they are not cognizant of their “Armenianness” or the trouble with its classification.

    One more thing, Armenians who are obsessed with classifying themselves as “Middle Eastern” should remember that it is a colonial term created by the British to group Arabic speaking people together. It is not for the Armenian Highlands to be classified with that term because it erases our claim to the homeland that belongs to us. We should also remember that so-called Middle-Easterners have discriminated against Armenians since our arrival to the region.

  24. For those particular Armenian commentators out there who desperately wish to be White, let me inform you that those White supremacists out there do not and will never accept you as being White; as a matter of fact, they hate all Armenians and are completely on the side of the Turks and Turkbaijanis (who also view themselves as being White).

    Those ignorant, average Armenian men (as well as women) need to wake up and realize that there are at least three million Armenian Muslims (the vast majority of whom are descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors) living in Western Armenia today (present-day eastern Turkey). They represent a huge percentage of the worldwide Armenian population, and they happen to be our most valuable resource in getting back our stolen Western Armenian lands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*