Even though as a nation we’re almost two decades removed from the tragic events of 9/11, the after effects of that fateful day are still affecting many across the world, particularly those of Muslim and Middle Eastern descent. For actor Riz Ahmed, who also goes by the name Riz MC to distinguish from his career as a rapper, the discrimination has been an ongoing instance for years that occurred as recently as last April while traveling at an airport to attend a Star Wars fan event.
#StarWarsCelebration Update: We're so sorry to announce that due to circumstances beyond his control, Riz Ahmed will be canceling his full appearance. Attendees can use their current Riz Ahmed tickets to exchange at the Topps Help Desk throughout the weekend.
— StarWars Celebration (@SW_Celebration) April 12, 2019
The celebrated thespian, who stars as Bodhi Rook in the hit 2016 film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, spoke on the situation last week in Ojai, California for the CAA Amplify Summit. Based off his account, border patrol guards literally prevented him from making his flight due to his Pakistani heritage — a problem he says was directly a result of his failure to “code switch.”
Here’s an excerpt from his speech, as recollected by The Hollywood Reporter:
“On a more serious note, Ahmed discussed how for 15 years he’s been consistently stopped, searched and interviews at airports because of his race, and just last month, was headed to a Star Wars convention in Chicago when Homeland Security stopped him from boarding the plane.
Pointing to Minhaj, he said “He can win a Peabody, I can win an Emmy, Ibtihaj Muhammad can go to the Olympics, but some of these obstacles are systemic and we can’t really face them alone, we need your help. I’m basically here to ask for your help, because it’s really scary to be a Muslim right now, super scary. I’ve often wondered, is this going to be the year when they round us up, if this is going to be the year they put Trump’s registry into action. If this is going to be the year they ship us all off.”
He ended his part of the talk by digging deeper into the idea of code-switching, explaining, “We all know how to change the way we talk, the way we dress, the way we walk as we enter one room or another. We all know how to navigate terrain that isn’t of our own making. That’s how I can do it, but that’s not why I do what I do. The why is because I don’t want to have to code-switch anymore.”
It’s unfortunate that an actor who appeared in a film that grossed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office, or any person for that matter, could still have to go through such a dehumanizing ordeal. We’ll continue to pray for the unity that our country so rightfully needs at times like this.
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