Why I Joined MiC: Kareem Shunnar

Thursday, January 4, 2018 - 5:27pm

Growing up, Nick at Nite was somewhat of childhood pastime as shows like “George Lopez,” “The Nanny” and “Family Matters” were the focus of my attention. I found particular fondness in “Family Matters” because of Steve Urkel’s famous tagline, “Did I do that?” Though Steve Urkel was great, it was the sentimental moments that also caught my attention. In one of the episodes, Laura wanted to buy a VCR, so she sold her grandmother’s quilt. Later, she finds out the quilt was in the family for over 200 years.

Slowly I came to idolize minorities in the mainstream media. Shows like “Family Matters” proved there was a market for loving a non-white history. However, it never seemed like Arab history was profitable enough to make the cut. Though my family went to the Middle East for months every summer, I identified as American. Thus, I quickly heard terms like “whitewashed” as I joined the Boy Scouts and other typical “American” pastimes. Meanwhile, I was never white, so I still faced problems with being a person of color. Growing up, I felt that being Arab or American were two mutually exclusive concepts because we act like they are.

That is what lead me to Michigan in Color. The Arab culture that I have been surrounded by my entire life is important to me, and I wanted to express its significance while helping others do the same. This is my first step to creating my own quilt which I lost many years ago, or maybe it’s finding the blanket I never knew existed. For me, I may not be actively involved in the Arab community, but I am still Arab and American. Every day, I used to watch Nick at Nite and see people of varied skin tones, but none of those skin tones were mine. Even today, I don't think I have any Arab-American idols that are represented in media. It's easy to sell your culture in exchange for a job, to buy that fancy VCR or social acceptance. However, it starts with me to pick up the thread and create something that can last 200 years. Someday, I just hope to look back at my amazing work with Michigan in Color and think, “Did I do that?” It’s questions like those that keep me trying to prove my lineage does not cancel the program of my future. My activities shouldn’t disconnect me from my original storyline.