The inaccurate representations of minorities in today’s media has encouraged so many people to stand up for a change. Till this day people with diverse identities and origins like Yara Shahidi, an Iranian-American actress, have to fight for an equally diverse media that represents them. Listening to Shahidi speak in interviews, you would not believe that she’s only 16 years old and you will definitely notice that her diverse identity has turned her into an expert on issues of race, culture and class from a very young age.
Yara was born in February, 2000 to an Iranian father who worked as a photographer and a mixed African American mother with a native Choctaw heritage who worked as an actress. By the age of seven, Shahidi made her first TV appearance in an American comedy- drama called Entourage. From there she continued her way to become well known for her outstanding roles in Salt (2010), Imagine That (2009) and many more other films.
In 2014, Shahidi played the character of the Johnsons’ eldest daughter, Zoey, in the abc’s comedy series called Black-ish. The series follows the life of the Johnsons, an African American Upper-middle class family, struggling between living the American dream and preserving their heritage. The struggles that the Johnsons go throw to keep the balance between honoring the past and living the present opens up the door for the exploration of racial issues. And through her character, Shahidi confronts the prejudices of the American society.
The struggles of this African American family are a reflection of the struggles of many individuals of multi-identities within the American society. There are more than a million Americans with Iranian origins within the United States. Those individuals have almost no presence in the media- a media that’s supposed to represent everyone in the United States including them. And the limited times in which Iranians are represented, they’re usually conveyed negatively as terrorists.
Not only does Shahidi push stereotypes through the characters she chooses to play, but she also speaks up in her interviews and through social media. Unlike many actors and actresses, Shahidi is not afraid to voice her political opinions. She refuses to celebrate Columbus Day realizing the pain that Native Americans had to go through as a result of the European Imperialism. She also announced her support for “Black lives matter” movement which fired up in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted for his crime against the 17 years old, African American Trayvon Martin.
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For the Arabic version of this article, click here: يار شهيدي الطفلة الإيرانية الأمريكي