Let’s Talk About Diversity
This post will be a bit all over the place but bear with me.
I have lived in Sweden for 27 years. I wasn’t born in this country and me and my family came here as immigrants – staying in a refugee accommodation for the first couple of years.
That was a long time ago now, and by all measures I am considered Swedish, but I have never *really* felt like it. The reason for that is quite simple: I don’t look Swedish. If I would stand next to a blonde and blue-eyed friend of mine and ask a stranger to point out the immigrant, it wouldn’t exactly be a challenge for them. There is nothing in my appearance that differentiates me from the thousands of new immigrants arriving in Sweden. I look like them and they look like me.
I have argued about this with friends over the years, with them saying I’m just as Swedish as them, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. It never has and it most likely never will. That’s fine. I love Sweden and that’s it. This is my home.
I want to talk about how important diversity is to myself as an immigrant living in the West. We can all agree that being Arab after 9/11 pretty much sucks. Even if you’ve never been taken to interrogation rooms at airports (I have) or been “randomly searched” (I have) you can understand where I’m coming from. Being Arab right now means you’re the villain in this narrative. Back in the day is was the communists and Russia, now it’s people from the Middle East.
Growing up, like most kids, I looked for role models. Nothing weird about that. But it kinda matters for someone like me, a minority, to find someone I can relate too, right? White people don’t have to think about this much because the majority of of western media has white actors/actresses. It’s a whole different story for someone like me.
Do you guys remember the movie “The Mummy” from 1999? The movie itself doesn’t matter that much, but what matters is this guy:
This character is called Ardeth Bay and he was awesome. I was eleven when the movie came out and I remember telling my friends that Ardeth Bay was my people. We both had dark hair and brown eyes, and the symbols on his face reminded me of Arabic.
I felt proud seeing him being a badass along with the main protagonist, fighting to stop evil.
I loved wrestling growing up. Like, really loved it. It was something me and my brother shared as a hobby and we never missed it on TV.
The Ultimate Warrior was our favorite wrestler. Someone we hated was the Iron Sheik. We hated him because that’s what the WWF (world wrestling foundation) wanted us to do. The crowd always booed when he entered and he bashed America, making him the villain. His rivalry with Hulk Hogan is one of the most famous rivalries in wrestling history.
Good vs Bad.
East vs West.
I didn’t want to be associated with the Iron Sheik. I absolutely hated him. Watching an old VHS tape, a friend asked me if we came from the same country, and I remember getting really upset, saying I had nothing in common with him.
The reason I’m writing about all of this is that I shared a picture on Twitter a couple of days ago and here’s the deal: there’s a new Spiderman movie coming out soon. Peter Parker (Spiderman) has a girlfriend called Mary Jane. In the comics she’s white, but now it’s rumored that actress Zendaya Coleman will play the part.
The problem? Zendaya is of mixed heritage (African-American father & white mother).
People are outraged over this – white people, to be exact. Look at this picture:
What is the fucking problem? It drives me crazy. Mary Jane was introduced in 1965 (full appearance 1966). OF COURSE she was a white character. That was the standard. If Mary Jane would have been a colored character, that would have meant Marvel Comics taking a political stance. A character is not their skin color. It literally makes no difference whatsoever for the story. Mary Jane’s role was to be Peter Parker’s girlfriend, giving him a more substantial personal life and challenging him as an alpha female. By casting Zendaya as Mary Jane, people of color and mixed heritage might get a character they can look up to as well in this white-dominated Hollywood.
This article appeared on thereisnomuse.com on September 7, 2016.