I saw this headline on time.com:
Exclusive: Marvel’s New Iron Man Is a Black Woman.
The headline shocked me. How far do we have to go to make white, fictional figures, heroes or heroines or otherwise, black? In this case we’re also making a gender change. Seriously!!
Now, in this Ironman case, my outrage was unfounded. The black young lady is a new character in the Ironman series. It’s not Tony Stark having undergone a sex change or ingested copious amounts of melanin.
That being said, the call for black fictional heroes has been very loud. We have them in real life, from the political: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, to sports: Jackie Robinson, Wilma Rudolph, to the arts: Maya Angelou, Miriam Makeba.
The list of real life black people that we can seek to emulate or that can inspire us, is endless.
But it is not enough. We keep calling out for our black Superman, or black Batman, or black Cinderella, or black Annie, or even black Jesus?
I find this call quite sickening and it really gets under my thin skin.
Look, I understand the call. As a young boy growing up in Africa, all my comic book heroes were white. Spiderman, Thor, Daredevil, you name it. All white. For my sisters it was impossible to find a black doll to play with. In Africa, I tell you. In the kids bible stories, all the characters were white. Noah and the ark, Daniel in the lions den, David and Goliath, Jonah in the fish, all depicted as white even though they weren’t. You start to wonder if there was some kind of conspiracy to keep black people down. My Dad once told me that in the game of Pool, the fact that you play with the white ball and that the black ball is the last one dropped, is significant in race relations. I don’t blame him for thinking that.
So yes, I understand why we need more black super heroes or positive black characters especially for black children. But why can’t we create new characters that are black? Why are we recycling white characters and making them black. The creation of Riri Williams as the new Ironman character is a start, but she is still piggybacking on Ironman’s coat tails. Where is the stand alone black hero that would be uttered in the same breath as Superman, Captain America, or the Hulk?
If you go online you will see some black super heroes. I’m sorry to say that I barely know any of them. They are not house hold names. Go ahead and check them out here.
How many are you familiar with?
Now lest you think that these are the ramblings of a naïve man, let me assure you that I am well aware that money talks. I am well aware, for example, that if Harry Potter had been black, it probably would not have done as well as it did. Neither would have the Hunger Games series, or the Twilight movies. Just my opinion, but with all the progress black actors have made, Hollywood still isn’t colour blind. And neither is the audience.
That being said, we can’t wait. The time is now to create that black character that will transcend race, that Halloween costumes would be made for and snatched up every year, that all peoples everywhere would stand proudly and declare themselves to be when they battle the bad guy in the backyard.
Is there anybody out there who will take me up on this challenge?