I have to apologize for neglecting this blog, folks. It seems like it’s a lot easier to dish about the latest events in little 140 character segments than it is to flesh out a full blog post. At least, that’s what happened today on Twitter when I came across the latest edition of the Chromatic Comics meme that’s been making the rounds.
“This whole Chromatic Comics ish irritates me. Y’know, Marvel does have a whole boatload of POC characters. Stuff like that makes it seem like only the white ones are important and deserve focus. Y’know what would be nice? For POC characters to get the same promotion and devotion that white characters get so people don’t have to think of POC actors they’d like in the ‘important’ (white) characters’ roles.
“In other words, screw Batgirl and Jessica Jones. How about making Aquagirl and Misty Knight not suck? How about Jubilee getting some time to shine instead of shoving Emma Frost down my throat? It’s not just about seeing POC faces. There are histories and myths that come along with POC characters that deserve to be heard. And it treats whiteness as some kind of blank slate that you can just pour color on. It’s not. Daredevil was a working class Irish kid for a reason. And even though Marvel doesn’t say it, we all know Castle is a poor Italian kid from Brooklyn. I’m not just a color. I have a history. Tell it. I don’t want cinematic Photoshop.”
—Cheryl Lynn Eaton
And just like I’m not just a color, that white kid isn’t just a blank slate. He isn’t the default. And acting like he is the default hurts both him and me. My stories get shunted to the side because they aren’t considered the norm and his stories are considered meaningless—something that can be easily divorced from his culture and handed to someone of another background for a cheap grab at diversity. An empty canvas to hang someone else’s image on. I get to be seen and not heard. He gets to be heard and not seen. And neither of us is honored that way.
No matter who you are, it hurts to have your stories stolen. And if you think whiteness doesn’t provide a character with color, you’re wrong. Because growing up Italian American in Bensonhurst during the ’80s and ’90s is a hell of a lot different than growing up African American in Harlem during the ’80s and ’90s. A white actor could not tell Luke Cage’s story. A story that involved anti-black racism and being railroaded into the system for a crime you didn’t commit. A story that involved being viewed as nothing more than an animal by prison guards. A story that involved growing up and becoming a man and realizing that your community has been damn near decimated by the same drugs you pushed for the mob in exchange for a pair of new Nikes and a knot of twenties—and deciding to finally make things right.
And just like a white actor could not tell Cage’s story, a black actor could not tell Castle’s. A story that involved watching your neighbors hail common criminals as protectors and patrons. A story that involved watching the man who had Mr. Ancelotti’s leg broken treated like a king because he popped for fireworks for the neighborhood every year and made sure that he and his boys kept the blacks and Hispanics down in Sunset Park and Bed Stuy where they belonged. A story that involved finally realizing that those guys weren’t keeping the monsters at bay—they were the monsters. A story that involved realizing that tribalism is meaningless when your own family is lying in a pool of blood—spilled by people that you were raised to consider your own. And then you finally figure it out. It’s not us versus them. It’s you versus everyone.
And when you change the background, you change the story. Static and Blue Beetle are amazing and I want to see more of them. But neither character is Spider-Man. Each has his own story—wonderful stories that should not be separated from who they are and where they come from. And they can’t be.
So what do I want? I want to see POC characters getting more devotion from creators and more promotion from comic companies. I want to see fans supporting characters of color instead of just dreaming about what actors of color could be hired to portray the “important” white icons. Demand to be more than just window dressing. Our stories are phenomenal. Let’s get them told.