Happy October, world. D.C. here to start off this month with something that garnered intense discussion.
Recently, it’s been revealed that a new miniseries by publisher Black Mask Comics will be out this coming week, called Black.
The controversy with this kickstarted series by Kwanza Osajyefo is succinct:
“What if only black people had super powers?” You can find the article here.
With a logline like that, one might imagine the firestorm in the comic fandom–if indeed the rage is from the fandom.
On a thread tonight, I saw a large swath of comments which consisted of variations this sort: “Hypocrites,” or “If a white writer wrote this, everyone would call it racist!” or “What if the shoe was on the other foot?!” or “Garbage.”
This book, like anything controversial or other, invoked such emotion. Supporters and opponents of Black threw verbal stones at Osajyefo and at one another: racist. Racist, racist, racist.
After reading the article and the comments, my view is something like this:
Racism is a strong word to use anytime, anywhere. You have to really, really know when to use it. There are sensitive people on both sides of the argument who are too quick to call something or someone racist whenever it is something they don’t like. If you want to call something racist, you need to understand what–and most importantly why–something is racist. It’s not truth just because it comes out of your mouth or your fingers.
Using the “if a white person did this…” argument is short-sighted and, in my eyes, seeks to mitigate one’s hang ups without actual proof. To argue in such a black and white way means you disregard content and context from a historical and current events perspective.
Ignore context and history, and books like these get supplanted by less informed and less intelligent dialogue. It’s one thing to write a book like Black off as racist or bad, provided you’ve read it. But in lieu of reading and understanding the content of the story, how much information can one go off on before calling something racist, PC, pandering, or garbage? How well can you judge its merit?
Racism in media exist. Racist media does exist. Movies such as the 1915 film “Birth of a Nation” can be seen as racist. Books like 1978 The Turner Diaries can be seen as racist. Still, someone like me can see why some of those have importance. I mean, hell, “Birth of a Nation” is on the American Film Institute’s 100 top films list.
I am a tried and true comic fan, and I find controversial topics very intriguing. If it were any other ethnicity, including white, with powers, I would still be curious to see how said group of people will use or squander their powers. I think books like this, if written well, can serve as strong, potential cautionary tales of bias, identity, conforming, social and racial tensions, prejudice, and humanity, on all sides of the coin.
Rather than cry foul or racism, I choose to read a book. Rather than be a fool and run on emotions (and Kay knows my emotions), I choose to judge a book by its content, context, and merit.
If Black, a miniseries that puts a controversial spin on superheroes and intends to address social issues that do involve black people, black sentiment, and tensions, makes you outraged, I ask: Why?
Why are you outraged? Why SHOULD you be outraged? Are you outraged at the message of the book? The content of the book? Its execution/portrayal? The very idea of the book?
Careful, though. The answers we get will tell us exactly how a dissenter thinks.