Last night, actor Riz Ahmed became the first Asian male to win an Emmy award for his role as Nasir “Naz” Khan in the critically-acclaimed crime-drama series “The Night Of”. But instead of merely thanking important people in his life, the Outstanding Lead Actor winner used his historical win to raise awareness for a much more important issue.
According to Buzzfeed, the Emmy award winner’s acceptance speech acknowledges the reality of racial prejudice and injustice particularly among ethnic minorities. The British-Pakistani actor portrayed a character who had struggled in situations that involved xenophobia and racial prejudice, so in his case, art seems to have imitated life.
In his acceptance speech, Ahmed thanked colleagues, producers and mentors, including the late James Gandolfini. He ended his speech with:
“I want to say it is always strange reaping the rewards of a story based on real-world suffering, but if this show has shown a light on some of the prejudice in our society, Islamophobia, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that is something.”
“I want to shout out to South Asian Youth Action for helping me prepare for this and The Innocence Project.”
After accepting his award, Ahmed answered questions in his press room interview. His notable answers elaborated on minority actors and their growing presence and recognition in media:
“I don’t know if any one person’s win of an award, or one person snagging one role, or one person doing very well changes something that’s a systemic issue of inclusion… I think that’s something that happens slowly over time.”
“People are streaming shows or watching them all around the world. Hopefully we’ll see a globalization of our storytelling.”
Ahmed himself was a victim of racial prejudice and was even offered roles in the past to play as a terrorist. The star struggled with constantly being associated with frequently-changing labels as well as various stereotypes.
This only fueled the “Rogue One” star to use his acting as a medium to promote diversity and to expose the consequences of failing to recognize ethnic minorities as an important part of society. In fact, Ahmed recently discussed how vital it is for ethnic minorities to be properly represented in the media.
Ahmed delivered an eye-opening speech earlier this year in London’s House of Parliament, stating “Have you seen some of those ISIS propaganda videos, they are cult like action movies, Where is the counter-narrative? Where are we telling these kids they can be heroes in our stories, that they are valued?”
“If we fail to represent, we are in danger of losing people to extremism,” Ahmed added.
Watch his speech here: