The importance of Sam Wilson as the new Captain America

There’s a new Captain America in town, and he’s not your dads Sentinel of Liberty. In case you missed Stephen Colbert’s interview with Joe Quesada, here’s the skinny:  Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, has had the Super-Soldier Serum drained from his body. As a result, he has aged rapidly, and is no longer able to be Captain America.  He chose his longtime friend and partner, Sam Wilson (aka Falcon, aka the same guy from Captain America: Winter Soldier, played by Anthony Mackie), to take over the mantle of Captain America. For those that don’t know, the Falcon is black. Though not the first black Cap, (that honor goes to Isiah Bradley), Sam Wilson will be the most prominent one.

Sam Wilson as Captain America has a deeply symbolic meaning.  Throughout US history, African-Americans have been treated as lesser…as not fully human. They’ve been subjected to slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow laws, and unethical experiments.  Despite the advances of the Civil Rights Movement, black people in the United States still face racism.  Whether it’s the wage gap, the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, or policies such as Stop N Frisk, blacks in America have still not achieved full equality. The system was built by white America, for white America, and continues to benefit white America to the exclusion of people of other ethnicities (actually, white American benefits white men above all else).  Yes, an African-American has reached the White House and has even been re-elected to the highest office in the land. Though that achievement did not end racism (only a fool would think it would), it is symbolically important.  So too is Sam Wilson as Captain America. Barack Obama as the President of the United States and Sam Wilson as Captain America show that black people can step into roles traditionally held by white men and do just as good a job.  They can represent this country every bit as much as a white person can.  And that is a powerful message.

Here are a few pages from the October 29 release of the newest volume of Captain America, featuring Sam Wilson’s first adventure in the role:

(art by Stuart Immonen; via Comics Alliance)

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The importance of Sam Wilson as the new Captain America
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