Warning: This post may offend some readers bc I’m going to talk about that most dreaded of words: P R I V I L E G E. While there are many types of privilege and multiple social groups that benefit from the concept, all too often, I hear the whines of white folks who deny the existence of White Privilege. Denial to the point of Losing. Their. Shit. The way some of them (please note the wording for you #notallwhitz people) react to that word, you’d think speaking it conjured a demonic entity that spews vomit, does 360º head spins, masturbates with a cross, and wants to spend eternity joined in unholy matrimony by their side. Common refrains of “I’m not privileged. I’ve had a hard life” or “I grew up poor, how can you say I have privilege” can be heard by these poor beleaguered souls doomed to an eternity of matrimonial bliss by the side of a demon from the nether regions of hell. But really, I need you folks to calm down. Stop being so damned testerical. Breathe. Engage those logical thought processes that you are so fond of proclaiming you possess and listen. Yes, it’s that time again. That time when you sit down, shut up, and listen. I’m going to attempt for the umpteen thousandth time to explain the concept of privilege. I have no idea why bc to be honest, bc some of you nincomfucks are *still* not going to get it. But here goes:
Mainstream comic books in the U.S. have long featured a sea of white, male faces. From the beginning of the industry back in the Golden Age, through the Silver Age, and into the Bronze and Modern Ages, there has been a lack of diversity in superhero comics. Characters like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Flash, Spider-Man, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil, and so many more mainstays of Marvel and DC have been white guys. Now, that wouldn’t be such a problem if they didn’t dominate the comic racks. But they have. For the better part of the 20th Century and even into the 21st. It hasn’t been until recent years-the last 5 or 6 by my estimate-that Marvel and DC have made a concerted effort to diversify their output. With pressure mounting from readers, both companies have taken steps to produce content that doesn’t appeal to the same old, same old crowd. Which makes sense, bc GBLT people, women, and PoC read comics too. And in significant numbers. This can be seen by dropping in on any of the numerous comic book conventions around the country. The people showing up aren’t just white men, and they want to see themselves reflected in the comics they read. The pressure exerted on the companies by female readers has led to an explosion of titles featuring women in starring roles. Where 30 years ago, Wonder Woman, She-Hulk, and Supergirl were pretty much the only women starring in their own titles, the last few years have seen Starfire, Harley Quinn, Black Canary, Batgirl, the new female Thor, Storm, Squirrel Girl, Elektra, Black Widow, She-Hulk, and Captain Marvel (among others) receive their own books. But the request for greater diversity from the Big Two is not limited to fans asking for more books with female leads. Many readers (myself included) want more books headlined by People of Color.
If I’m not mistaken, Marvel leads DC on that front, as the last several years has seen the New York-based publisher produce titles like Ms. Marvel, Black Panther, Captain America (Sam Wilson), Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Nova, Red Wolf, Spider-Man 2099, and Devil Dinosaur & Moon Girl. Meanwhile, over at DC, the company’s only books in recent years with a Person of Color in the starring role are Dr. Fate and Cyborg. The powers that be at DC cannot be ignorant of the demand for more racially diverse titles. In fact, this awareness is probably a significant reason why the company will soon be adding a new title to it’s publishing schedule, New Super-Man. The title will see a Chinese teenager acquiring some of Superman’s powers:
It is fairly common knowledge that Marvel Studios has a diversity problem. 11 movies in and not a single one has featured a woman or a Person of Color as the title character. While fans have been demanding a Black Widow movie for years now, Marvel Studios has yet to even announce one will be made (they keep saying they are open to the idea). Similarly, there has yet to be a MCU movie starring a Person of Color. On the smaller screen, things are slightly better, as two of the four Marvel Cinematic tv series are headlined by women (Jessica Jones and Agent Carter). All told though, between the big and small screen, Marvel isn’t deviating much from its white male leads. The sea of white faces are not the only problems facing the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Issues of whitewashing, racial stereotyping, and the erasure of Asian identity (I’m looking at you Dr. Strange, and you, Iron Fist) also plague the MCU. The company has a long way to go before it can claim to be truly diverse.
Now, I tend to harp on the problems in Hollywood and/or the comic book industry bc I care. I care about movies. I care about comic book characters. And I care about racial and gender diversity in both. I want things to be better. I want greater representation (not just of women and PoC, but also queer and disabled people, and more still; but that’s a subject for a different post). Not just for my benefit. Not just for the benefit of others whose opinions align with mine on this subject. I also want greater representation bc it is important for future generations, as cultural anthropologist Michael D. Baran explains:
It is critical that children see all sorts of people playing both the good and the bad roles in media. Otherwise, they may take those absences as meaningful and it may affect how they understand social categories. And it is certainly important for kids to be able to identify with heroes that they feel represent who they are as people.
For very young kids, this might or might not fall out along racial lines and we must be careful not to impose our reification of race onto their knowledge. But we might as well err on the good side, by having a diversity of heroes for people to relate to – not just racially, but also in terms of gender, religion, body type, etc.
While Marvel Studios has much work to do in diversifying its interconnected universe, there are some bright spots on the horizon, and I think there is cause to have some degree of optimism that things are getting better (even if getting to better is like swimming uphill in a tar pit).
I’m optimistic because the Netflix series Jessica Jones was an intense, well acted, rollercoaster of a series that I loved from start to finish. Jessica Jones was presented as a strong, flawed, and three-dimensional character. The widespread acclaim of the show led to the quick announcement of a second season (speaking of which, I need them to announce *when*). On the big screen, I’m optimistic because 2019 sees the release of Captain Marvel, which will mark the first feature length MCU film with a woman in the starring role. Based on the Marvel Comics superhero (formerly known as Ms. Marvel/Binary/Warbird), this movie has the potential to position Captain Marvel as the premier female superhero of Marvel (in a way comparable to Wonder Woman’s position at DC). Though no actress has been cast in the title role, I am hopeful that this movie and this character will receive the respect they both deserve. Back on television, all 13 episodes of the Mike Colter starring Netflix series Luke Cage (which has been likened to the critically acclaimed HBO series The Wire) drop on September 30. In the last decade, I’ve gone from ambivalence toward Cage to a fan of the character (writer Brian Michael Bendis may do a lot of things I don’t like, but his treatment of Cage has been exemplary). And then there’s the Black Panther, Marvel’s first black superhero. Seeing what Marvel has planned for the King of Wakanda between the comics and the big screen ought to please a great many Panther fans. I know I’m excited.
The word that Mrs. Bronson is unable to put into the hot, still, sodden air is ‘doomed,’ because the people you’ve just seen have been handed a death sentence. One month ago, the Earth suddenly changed its elliptical orbit and in doing so began to follow a path which gradually, moment by moment, day by day, took it closer to the sun. And all of man’s little devices to stir up the air are now no longer luxuries – they happen to be pitiful and panicky keys to survival. The time is five minutes to twelve, midnight. There is no more darkness. The place is New York City and this is the eve of the end, because even at midnight it’s high noon, the hottest day in history, and you’re about to spend it in the Twilight Zone.
Hollywood, aka Tinsel Town, is home to the entertainment industry of the United States. Viewed as the land of the rich and famous, Hollywood has long been the destination for many people seeking to make a name for themselves, whether on the small-screen, the big-screen, or in the music industry. Unfortunately, with so many people looking for fame and fortune, Hollywood is a difficult industry to break into, let alone succeed in. Some groups of people have an advantage in the industry, due to a bias in their favor. This bias-which favors white, heterosexual, cisgender men-has resulted in a Hollywood that is not reflective of our culture at large. Because of this bias, members of marginalized communities-LGBT people, women, and People of Color-have greater difficulty making it in the entertainment industry. Whether in front of the cameras or behind them, on the big screens or the small ones, these groups have long been plagued by unequal treatment in Hollywood. The second annual Hollywood Diversity Report (available for download here) examined more than 1,000 broadcast, cable, and digital tv programs from the 2012-2013 season and its results were not encouraging.
Continue reading “The progressive march of pop culture”
My fellow social justice warriors are familiar with white privilege-the sociological concept that describes the unearned benefits and advantages society confers upon white people (as a result of their race) that enables them to move through life with greater ease than those who do not possess white skin. But it’s one thing to understand the concept. It’s another thing entirely to explain it to others in such a way that they understand it-especially people with little to no background in social justice or sociology. Many an SJW has tried explaining this concept to people unfamiliar with the term-often the people most in need of understanding it-only to quickly find themselves deeply frustrated. Responses like “stop trying to make me feel guilty for being white” or “I earned everything I have in life” or “I’ve suffered too” or “I haven’t gotten any special privileges in life” are all too common. Such responses have caused untold facepalms and headdesks. Like many other SJW’s, I’ve had many firsthand experiences with both. And like many others, I have often failed. There have been countless times I have wished there were an easy way to explain white privilege such that people could grasp the concept. Is there a perfect illustration of white privilege that highlights the stark differences between the treatment of white people in society versus the treatment of People of Color? Yes, I think there is:
This is something so many white people (and some people of other races, including a few African-Americans) don’t understand. They don’t see the day-to-day realities for black Americans. Sure they might see an isolated incident, but they don’t see the ongoing microaggressions…the daily indignities that blacks experience. They see things on an individual and isolated level, rather than the aggregate. When you try to point it out to many of them and connect these events to a larger pattern of systemic racism, they try to justify the mistreatment or the racial profiling or the extrajudicial killing. As if there is something that justifies how we’re treated. Some reason that Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Darrien Hunt, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Rumain Brisbon had their lives snuffed out. Some justification for why blacks (and hispanics) are stopped and frisked more often than white people. Why is it so hard for white Americans to believe the lived experiences of black Americans? Why do we have to try so much harder to get people to listen to and believe our stories?
Oh wait. I know the answer to that. It starts with “Black lives” and ends with “don’t matter”.
Kawania Wooten’s voice tightens when she describes the struggle she’s having at the school her son attends. When his class created a timeline of civilization, Wooten saw the Greeks, the Romans and the Incas. But nothing was said about Africa, even though the class has several African American students.
Wooten, who is black, spoke to the school’s director, a white woman — who insisted that the omission wasn’t racially biased.
“Her first comment was, ‘you know, we’ve just been following the curriculum. We’re not talking about whether people are white or black,’” recalls Wooten, who lives in Bowie, Md. “I said that the children have eyes and they can see. And I’d like them to see that our culture was a strong, viable culture.”
That kind of story brings a groan from Mark Benn, a psychologist and adjunct professor at Colorado State University. He hears similar tales whenever he delivers lectures about race relations.
Such incidents are examples of racial “colorblindness” — the idea that ignoring or overlooking racial and ethnic differences promotes racial harmony.
Trainers and facilitators say colorblindness does just the opposite: folks who enjoy racial privilege are closing their eyes to the experiences of others.
“It benefits me not to pay attention,” says Benn, who is white. “I never have to question whether or not my race is being held in question when I apply for a job. It benefits me not to question that (because) it makes it look like I got here on my own.”
Paying attention to the cultural experience of students is becoming increasingly important, given the differences between the demographics of American students and their teachers.
According to reports from the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 80 percent of American teachers are white, while children of color make up more than 40 percent of the student body.
As the nation’s demographics shift, the sight of a white teacher leaning over the desk of a brown or black student is likely become more and more common. In order to be effective, teachers will have to learn about the cultural experiences of their students, while using these experiences as a foundation for teaching. The approach is called culturally relevant pedagogy.
But that is hard to do if a teacher doesn’t see differences as valuable. That means the blinders have to come off, says Randy Ross, a senior equity specialist at the New England Equity Assistance Center, a program of Brown University’s Education Alliance. Ross facilitates workshops on racism and culturally responsive teaching. And in her experience, white people have the hardest time opening their eyes.
“I have never heard a teacher of color say ‘I don’t see color,” Ross says. “There may be issues of cultural competence [among teachers of color], but colorblindness is not one of them. The core of ‘I don’t see color,’ is ‘I don’t see my own color, I don’t see difference because my race and culture is the center of the universe.’”
Such tunnel vision is the reason a teacher can omit Africa from a timeline of world civilizations, Ross says. Still, she cautions, the flaws of the colorblind approach run deeper than curriculum.
Failure to see and acknowledge racial differences makes it difficult to recognize the unconscious biases everyone has. Those biases can taint a teacher’s expectations of a student’s ability and negatively influence a student’s performance. Study after study has shown that low teacher expectations are harmful to students from socially stigmatized groups.
“I don’t see skin color”
I’ve grown to hate that statement. Why?
It means that someone-usually a white person-is not paying attention to something that affects people who are not white-their race. For white people, they don’t have to see color, because in their world, white is the norm. It’s what society is wrapped around. Our culture privileges white people, such that they don’t need to consider the struggles of others. To say “I don’t see color” is to say “I don’t see, nor do I care about the story you have to tell about how your race has impacted your life”. The problem is not one of “not seeing race”. The problem is in seeing race and using that as the way you judge the quality of a person’s character. I want you to see that that I’m a black man. That’s one aspect of me. I won’t, nor can I, hide from that. But I don’t want you to judge my character based on my skin color (judge me for my political or social views-that’s fair game). When you judge the quality of a person’s character based on their skin color-that’s racism. So white people? Stop saying “I don’t see skin color”.
In case anyone didn’t know my opinion of these people, I think they are scum. They are some of the most vile human beings on the planet, and I would be quite happy if they’d simply go live on an island away from civilized people and spend the rest of their days there.
When your father last visited, he took you past the front yard at your grandparents’ house and sat beside you on a square of sidewalk. I had supplied the chalk — $0.75 on sale in the checkout line at a supermarket — but stayed at home both to relax and to give you two space and time to bond.Your father is big like Mike Brown was. At 6’5″, his walk has heft, his forearms are a bit like boulders, and whenever I think of him making sidewalk drawings with you in the cool of an afternoon, I am newly amused. He sent me pictures of your handiwork, your name emblazoned in a multicolored blast. For you, the sidewalk became a concrete quilt. For you, it told the story of a family. For now, this is all it needs to tell you. For now, this is just as it should be.You won’t know this for at least a year or two — we have not started to read books like Henry’s Freedom Box or Freedom on the Menu; you have not heard of Emmett Till, have not seen what it seems that every black child must: his bloated, disfigured face in an open casket — but someday you will understand just how many of our horror stories begin and end with sidewalks.
Police brutality, both physical and mental, are so prevalent that being pulled over by police fills me and most young black men I know with a sort dread I don’t think white people ever experience. It’s not an “this is an inconvenience” thing, but a “will the police officer act like he has any sense?” feeling. You feel like a second class citizen that somehow doesn’t have the same rights as everyone else.
Modern US police departments share a colonial history that gives context to police violence of today – recognizing this framework is essential when examining how police brutality has developed historically. From constables in the 1600s who made up a sort of “neighborhood watch,” wherein they would capture slaves and prevent them from organizing for payment, the slave patrols of the early 1700s, the brazen appointment of police officers by way of their political affiliations in the 1880’s and stop-and-frisk, adopted from English common law, we learn that not only is violence an inherent part of the institution itself but it is a necessary component which allows for the state to control its citizens, and it has emerged and developed in the most destructive of ways. Police officers are trained to use force and are given the most lethal of weapons in order for them to do so and, according to data presented in the June 2014 report by the ACLU, this violence is overwhelmingly directed towards people of color. “Sixty-one percent of all the people impacted by SWAT raids in drug cases were minorities” and a majority are Black
- WE WANT FREEDOM. WE WANT POWER TO DETERMINE THE DESTINY OF OUR BLACK AND OPPRESSED COMMUNITIES.
We believe that Black and oppressed people will not be free until we are able to determine our destinies in our own communities ourselves, by fully controlling all the institutions which exist in our communities.
- WE WANT FULL EMPLOYMENT FOR OUR PEOPLE.
We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every person employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the American businessmen will not give full employment, then the technology and means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
- WE WANT AN END TO THE ROBBERY BY THE CAPITALISTS OF OUR BLACK AND OPPRESSED COMMUNITIES.
We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of our fifty million Black people. Therefore, we feel this is a modest demand that we make.
- WE WANT DECENT HOUSING, FIT FOR THE SHELTER OF HUMAN BEINGS.
We believe that if the landlords will not give decent housing to our Black and oppressed communities, then housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people in our communities, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for the people.
- WE WANT DECENT EDUCATION FOR OUR PEOPLE THAT EXPOSES THE TRUE NATURE OF THIS DECADENT AMERICAN SOCIETY. WE WANT EDUCATION THAT TEACHES US OUR TRUE HISTORY AND OUR ROLE IN THE PRESENT-DAY SOCIETY.
We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of the self. If you do not have knowledge of yourself and your position in the society and in the world, then you will have little chance to know anything else.
- WE WANT COMPLETELY FREE HEALTH CARE FOR All BLACK AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE.
We believe that the government must provide, free of charge, for the people, health facilities which will not only treat our illnesses, most of which have come about as a result of our oppression, but which will also develop preventive medical programs to guarantee our future survival. We believe that mass health education and research programs must be developed to give all Black and oppressed people access to advanced scientific and medical information, so we may provide our selves with proper medical attention and care.
- WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO POLICE BRUTALITY AND MURDER OF BLACK PEOPLE, OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR, All OPPRESSED PEOPLE INSIDE THE UNITED STATES.
We believe that the racist and fascist government of the United States uses its domestic enforcement agencies to carry out its program of oppression against black people, other people of color and poor people inside the united States. We believe it is our right, therefore, to defend ourselves against such armed forces and that all Black and oppressed people should be armed for self defense of our homes and communities against these fascist police forces.
- WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO ALL WARS OF AGGRESSION.
We believe that the various conflicts which exist around the world stem directly from the aggressive desire of the United States ruling circle and government to force its domination upon the oppressed people of the world. We believe that if the United States government or its lackeys do not cease these aggressive wars it is the right of the people to defend themselves by any means necessary against their aggressors.
- WE WANT FREEDOM FOR ALL BLACK AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE NOW HELD IN U. S. FEDERAL, STATE, COUNTY, CITY AND MILITARY PRISONS AND JAILS. WE WANT TRIALS BY A JURY OF PEERS FOR All PERSONS CHARGED WITH SO-CALLED CRIMES UNDER THE LAWS OF THIS COUNTRY.
We believe that the many Black and poor oppressed people now held in United States prisons and jails have not received fair and impartial trials under a racist and fascist judicial system and should be free from incarceration. We believe in the ultimate elimination of all wretched, inhuman penal institutions, because the masses of men and women imprisoned inside the United States or by the United States military are the victims of oppressive conditions which are the real cause of their imprisonment. We believe that when persons are brought to trial they must be guaranteed, by the United States, juries of their peers, attorneys of their choice and freedom from imprisonment while awaiting trial.
- WE WANT LAND, BREAD, HOUSING, EDUCATION, CLOTHING, JUSTICE, PEACE AND PEOPLE’S COMMUNITY CONTROL OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY.
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
This may have b
een written in 1966, but it is still valid today.