British-born Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed on challenging the world of film

Our world is diverse. Even though we all come from various cultures, races, ethnicities and religions, we have so much in common as humans. However, many people remain immobile and continue to live within their own culture and not venture out beyond comfort zones.

Those people who have lived in other countries and experienced different areas of the world — cross-cultural people — generally have slightly more expansive comfort zones.

Cross-cultural people are everywhere; hidden within cultures we never would’ve thought to think of. It is even more difficult to bring these people out from the shadows if they don’t feel welcome in our country. What makes a person feel welcomed by society? Normalities.

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If one fits the societal norm for a certain culture they will feel as if they belong. However, media typically creates societal norms and cross-cultural people are not portrayed fairly, if at all. In an interview with global traveler Lindsey Bradley, she agrees with this and says,


“Multi-racial, multi-cultured people are not shown as who they really are in the media. TV shows and movies are either making fun of people with multiple racial and cultural backgrounds or aren’t shown at all and it’s unfair.”


Recently, the 69th Annual Emmy Awards took place on September 17th, 2017 and have opened a new door towards the possibility of change in America’s media and society as a whole. There was a lot of buzz going around about a few Emmy winners that had multi-racial backgrounds or sexually identified as gay/lesbian. Riz Ahmed won an Emmy for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series of Movie” and became the first ever South-Asian Muslim to receive an Emmy.

Ahmed was born and raised in Wembley, London, England by his Pakistani parents. His parents moved from Pakistan in the 1970s before he was born. Even though he has dual citizenship with Britain and Pakistan, he still suffered enormous amounts of abuse due to his race. He went to Merchant Taylors public school and Oxford university shortly after.

Though, he never felt as if he belonged in England because he stood out so much. He struggled at both schools with his appearance and earning others’ acceptance. Even after school, in the real world, Ahmed was still racially abused. After a sporting event held in Brazil where he was cheering on his team—England—he tweeted,

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“I was at Sao Paulo stadium, edge of seat, singing Eng-er-land. Halftime: I get racist abuse from England fan. Second half: I just can’t sing it.”

Ahmed was shunned by his own people and couldn’t bring himself to support his country that day.

Being a child of immigrants is a challenge that he has had to face since birth. He has a shared culture with his parents but was raised in a culture completely different from that of his parents. His home life growing up was much different from other kids growing up around him. Ahmed learned how to live in two different cultures every day. From the moment he stepped outside of his house to the moment he returned, he was a Brit. Inside his home, he was a Pakistani child with traditions that reign from his parents’ home.

He says, “I grew up dancing between worlds a lot.”

Not only did Ahmed grow up a cross-cultured kid, but also had the ability to take his work to America and make a name for himself. Moving to a new culture is tricky enough as it is but managed to bring not one, but two cultures with him. This Emmy Award might change the way cross-cultural people are represented in the media. Ahmed truly challenged society’s stereotypes and will continue to do so until people of all races, religions, sexual identities, etc. are viewed as equals.

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