Hollywood has done it again. It has whitewashed Egypt yet another time, casting mostly white actors for a movie supposedly set in ancient Egypt. I’m not sure how many movies we have to boycott or how many articles have to be written about this topic, but Hollywood has got to stop casting white actors for roles that need people of color. This now not only shows the directors’ incompetence in choosing to be so historically incorrect, but it also erases the rich cultures and races of people of color each time Hollywood portrays our civilizations as somehow European.
Egypt was, and will always remain, an African country. And as a proud Egyptian, I can assure you that Egyptians aren’t white and our civilization, which has contributed so much to the world, is as African as the Sahara Desert and the Congo Rainforest.
I can’t explain how infuriating it is to always see Egyptian civilization being claimed by Europeans through Hollywood. This goes for everything, including having the actors dress in what seems to be Roman or Greek-style togas, to their British accents (that apparently every ancient civilization has to be portrayed speaking).
When people think of Africa nowadays, they usually picture scattered villages, droughts, famine, extreme poverty, illiteracy and many other negative images. The civilizations of Mali and Egypt never come to mind as African, and Egypt especially is almost always attributed to Europeans. This is because, in a world so divided by skin color and prejudice, many can’t fathom that Africa has in fact contributed a plethora to the rest of the world, whether that be in terms of culture, natural resources or scientific innovations in the fields of math, astronomy and architecture.
Instead, our minds take us to naked villagers dancing around fires because Africa and Africans are hardly ever portrayed positively on the big screens. It’s as if some directors truly believe nothing good has ever come out of the African continent. Casting actors who actually look like ancient Egyptians could very possibly change people’s perspectives and reverse the reinforcement of the stereotypical and degrading images many people have of Africa.
So why else should a movie set in ancient Egypt need actors and actresses of color? Simply because Egyptians, ancient or not, aren’t white. How can we know what their skin color was you might ask? Well, a simple Google image search of ancient Egyptian art will be quick to cast away any doubts.
Also important is the lack of diversity in Hollywood. You can probably easily name all the accomplished actors of color because of the simple fact that there aren’t actually that many. In a world as diverse as the one we live in, it’s essential to mirror our diversity in our art forms. It’s also important to recognize diverse actors and actresses for their accomplishments.
It wasn’t too long ago when the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was circulating social media as a result of the academy ignoring the many actors of color that starred in great films this year.If more of the movies set in different civilizations actually cast actors that look like the people of said cultures, we could see more actors and actresses of color being recognized for their hard work.
Although I hope this is the last movie about Egypt, or any other culture for that matter, that gets whitewashed, I know that this trend will continue. The least I can do as an African is speak out against the erasure of my people and their very diverse and beautiful cultures.
There’s nothing wrong with being white, but there’s everything wrong with erasing someone else’s culture and claiming it as your own. You can’t walk like an Egyptian if you’re not actually Egyptian. It just doesn’t work.
Nahla Aboutabl is a senior international affairs major. Contact Nahla at firstname.lastname@example.org.