Riz Ahmed has said he has lost two family members to coronavirus, adding the pandemic crisis is “reflecting and revealing the faultlines in our society”.
The Venom actor and rapper said he hopes the surge of appreciation for the NHS draws attention to prejudice against the ethnic minorities that keep it running.
He told GQ Hype: “I’m seeing reports of India, where the government are calling it ‘corona-jihad’ and they’re trying to blame it on the spread of Muslims and they are segregating hospitals between Muslims and non-Muslims.
“Trump is using it as an excuse to try to ban immigration and the Hungarian government is centralising power off the back of this.
“I’m looking at the fact it’s hitting African-Americans twice as hard; I’m looking at the fact that 50% of NHS frontline workers – is it 50%? – are ethnic minorities.”
Referring to the viral video of poem Clap For Me Now, he compared it to his latest album, in which he symbolically broke up with Britain.
He said: “It’s almost like there is an alternate ending to The Long Goodbye! I’ve walked off, but Britney’s (a stand-in for Britain) called me back again. Britannia’s saying: ‘I need you! Come back!’ She’s saying: ‘We need you frontline staff. We need you Uber drivers. We need you shelf stackers.’
“Who are the people who, for every moment of crisis in this country, have kept this country together?
“It’s the people at the bottom of the barrel; the people being hit hardest by this pandemic.
“We say we love the NHS more than the royal family, more than the Army, but do we love the people who keep the NHS alive?
“Because every time we tell people to f*** off back to where they came from, that’s not what we’re saying.
“So I really hope that this revelation, this awakening, opens our minds to that reality, to the stupidity of our prejudice.”
He added: “I have lost two family members to Covid. I just want to believe their deaths and all the others aren’t for nothing.
“We gotta step up to re-imagine a better future.”
He continued: “Coronavirus is on some level an alien invasion, isn’t it? It’s bringing humanity together against the common enemy.
“So there is this potential for this momentous, unique-in-the-history-of-our-species moment, of us all going through this crazy challenge together and only being able to get through this together.
“And yet, in the midst of that, insofar as any crisis is a mirror, reflecting your priorities and patterns, this crisis is reflecting and revealing the faultlines in our society, the broken records that are stuck in our head, the f***eries and the power plays that are still dominating how we are running our planet, the rising intolerance.”
The full interview is online at GQ Hype.