THE WRIGHT STUFF #1: “isms”
First of all, I’d like to thank Rik Offenberger for this venue to voice my comic book musings.
Originally, I was going to discuss Transgendered and Gender-Fluid characters in comics for my first article. However, a recent news event made me decide I’d like to talk about various “isms” in society in general and comics in specific over the course of a few columns.
The news article I referred to was the case of Ahmed Mohamed, a schoolboy who was arrested for having brought a home-made clock to school and idiots/racists thinking it was a bomb. So obviously, this installment is about…
According to the 2013 United States Census, fourteen point one percent of Americans identify as black. Meaning at least fourteen out of every one hundred comic book characters should be black if comics are presenting a fair and accurate portrayal of what America is. I’ve been reading comics for over forty years now, and I think it’s fair to say that there are nowhere near that many black characters in comics. So, yes, racism exists in comics.
Now, I’d like to talk about racism itself. The dictionary defines “racism” as:
“the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” and: “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”
I don’t think this definition is necessarily accurate because I believe racism is more often than not, culture ignorance rather that a concious decision one’s race is superior to another. We are fed stereotypes like candies from birth, and grow up believing things because we are taught them, and most societies and cultures discourage and even punish those who challenge the status quo.
For me, my “Ah-HA!” moment came while watching an episode of Phil Donahue. Phil’s guest was an actor from a Broadway production of the musical “Showboat”. The actor performed the song “Old Man River”. I’d be doing the song an injustice I tried to quote the lyrics, but basically, it says “Oh Lord, I’m so tired I feel like dying, but if I stop I WILL die (because they’ll kill me). Obviously, it’s a song sung by a slave. This performer moved me to tears because I could feel the pain. It was then that I realized that I, as a white person walking into a room, am instantly accepted. Whereas, whenever a person of colour walks into a room, they bring with them the prejudices of everyone in that room. By the way, I chose the term: “person of colour” rather than black because prejudice and stereotypes are applied to all (non-white) colours.
At this point, I am sure a lot (and I mean a LOT) of white people have thrown their shields up and feel like: “Why is it always the white person who’s a racist? Black people can be racist too!”. The reason most white feel that way is because racism is a universally accepted “bad thing”/evil. NO ONE wants to think of themselves as “evil” so our brains start defending ourselves and pointing away from ourselves. It’s natural, and you shouldn’t feel bad for wanting to not feel guilty, but you SHOULD stop and try to understand that racism exists in ALL of us. It’s up to each of us to assess ourselves and try to retrain our brains to think in more fair/unbiased point of view.
A prime example of “white kneejerk” is “ALL Lives Matter”. I’ve read this even on a Latin friend’s Facebook page. Showing that all races are capable of not getting it. When I say: “Save the Rainforest” I’m not saying: “No other forests matter”. I’m talking about one singular subject. Would you go to a breast cancer rally and parade around with a sign that says: “ALL Cancers Matter”? No, because that rally is addressing one specific thing. It is an indisputable FACT that unwarranted police violence against black people is on the rise. Black lives are being treated with less value than vermin. So the black community has every right to say: “Black Lives Matter” because black lives are being treated as though they DON’T. White people are NOT being targeted for violence, nor are they racially profiled, and if you believe they are, you are seriously deluded and need to reassess your world views.
To bring this back to the subject of comics, I’d like to point out that after over a dozen Marvel movies, we are FINALLY seeing a Black Panther movie in the works. I, like a lot of people, was surprised to find out that the last Green Lantern movie was going to be about Hal Jordan instead of John Stewart, who was prominently featured in the Justice League cartoons. For a lot of non-comics reading people John Stewart was their first exposure to Green Lantern, so there was a lot of: “Who’s the white dude?” going on. DC/Time Warner had the perfect chance to be the first to have a big budget black superhero, but instead, went with a “safe” Hal Jordan. How’d THAT work out for ya DC? Yes, there was Steel, but THAT was hardly big budget, and I don’t consider Blade to be a superhero. DC is putting out a Cyborg movie in 2020, after several dozen white hero movies. Not an accurate portrayal of numbers, not even by half. I’m not suggesting DC or Marvel are in any way racist (consciously), but the numbers in and of themselves speak to the real problem — a subconscious racism that lies with in ALL of us.http://www.firstcomicsnews.com/the-wright-stuff-isms/http://www.firstcomicsnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Wright-Stuff-Logo-600x257.pnghttp://www.firstcomicsnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Wright-Stuff-Logo-150x64.pngColumnThe Wright Stuff