Tuesday November 5, 2013
Last month, while testifying to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Wendy Sherman — Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and the senior U.S. representative in the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran — said, with reference to Iranians, “We know that deception is part of the DNA.” This statement goes beyond orientalist stereotyping; it is, in the most literal sense, racist. And it evidently was not a mere “slip of the tongue”: a former Obama administration senior official told us that Sherman has used such language before about Iranians.
If a senior U.S. government official made public statements about “deception” or some other negative character trait being “part of the DNA” of Jews, people of African origin, or most other ethnic groups, that official would — rightly — be fired or forced to resign, and would probably not be allowed back into “polite society” until after multiple groveling apologies and a long period of penance.
But a senior U.S. official can make such a statement about Iranians — or almost certainly about any other ethnic group a majority of whose members are Muslim — and that’s just fine.