I recently came across two articles, which at first, you probably wouldn’t see why they connect at all. One of which, is a map of all the languages spoken the most, after English and Spanish, in america.
The 2nd article, is a Bleeding Cool article which is uncomfortable with Wally West, the Flash superhero character in the DC universe, now being depicted as an african american.
I agree with the Bleeding Cool essay. I must admit, i really do hate when existing characters get a race-lift. Not for the obvious racist reasons, but because i don’t want brown people to forever have to fit in the shoes of a white person’s legacy. Kingpin, Wally West, Nick Fury, the Human Torch, and fans cry out for James Bond and Doctor Who to be played by a minority or a woman now. And through all the progressive teeth-gnashing, I simply feel it is like we’re drowning in the bath tub. All that flailing, but there’s no real progress made. I don’t want your old tired characters. I don’t want Doctor Who, after 900 years of white maleness, to suddenly discover he’s missing his dick or his skin got some melanin in it.
So what? Do you really think these white writers are gonna actually gonna confront what its like to be a minority in a white world? They either ignore it all together, like DC’s ham-fisted attempts to make Cyborg a relevant character or the characters are still trapped by the limited world view of the white male writers, who are often trapped by skin-color stereotypes, decades old urban culture (Yo wassup dawg, i was just hanging out listening to this sweet rap music!) and orientalism (My father was killed and i must honor our ancient ways, Master). No, as long as the writers remain a homogenous pale lot, and the rest of their universe reflects that, you’re not doing me any favors by mixing up your race flavors. Also, it makes it really annoying to argue with someone why turning a character WHITE is much different than turning a character BLACK. White is everywhere as to be invisible, and becoming invisible is the best thing next to being normal in a racist world.
This is why the first article stayed in my head. Mostly because it states the obvious, that the United States is quickly becoming a latino country. But more so, that nobody is noticing. Latinos emigrate to this country, and their children or their children’s children, unless they mention it, “pass” for white. Passing is one of those topics that only exists for minorities. Will a white writer ever be able to write a character who passes for white, and lives as a white guy, but knows that they aren’t? Or in many instances, many people who pass for white, simply consider themselves just that – white. But regardless of a person’s personal racial status, passing for white is an exercise in becoming invisible. So when i see progressives getting mad that James Bond isn’t played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and bigots getting rabid when Wally West changes colors, not only do i see it as a pointless culture war that we’re all losing, but i selfishly think “What about us Latinos?” It often feels when i’m discussing the inclusion of minorities (pft) in media, one of the largest untapped markets is the latin AMERICAN, which no one even thinks to include. Xavier will never become Javier. Peter Parker will never be Pedro.
What is shitty about all this, is that it just becomes oppression olympics. Because the game is rigged, you end up feeling like asking for more of YOUR peoples means less for the rest. Because we think we can only have so many characters get the classic race lift, you’re not allowed to say “Hey, this time, lets not make it a black man” cause even typing that, makes me feel gross. I love to see brown people of all shades in parts, i know i’ll always get a Nick Fury and now a Wally West and Human Torch into african americans (who are almost always written by white guys anyway), but i rarely, if ever, see any character who’s latino/latina. Race-lifts are wrong, not because of the characters themselves, because characters can be whatever the fuck you want. Race-lifts are wrong because who is doing the lifting.
Which i think the problem is rooted in the writers themselves, who don’t create new characters, if they do, they are still often white. Instead, they simply transform existing characters into what they think is the most ‘other’, which often is black or asian to them. You don’t need to write new characterization if you just make a palette swap of an existing character. That’s why there are so many Ryu/Ken clones in Street Fighter.
There are always two counter-arguments. 1. That people only relate to characters of their own race/gender. Bullshit, just shutup. Everyone who’s not white and male, must be so much better at relating to characters then, or white viewers are just fucking morons. 2. That existing characters are the only characters people want to see. Also bullshit: Harry Potter, Fast & Furious, Twilight. All three are films which did millions, using wholly new characters, in the last ten years. But either way, ignoring a market in a capitalist system is the exact opposite way of making money, so even you economists can shut up. In comics though, arm-chair economists are a dime a dozen, so you always have someone saying why whichever character didn’t sell. I don’t buy it. If you can make me care about Hal Jordan Green Lantern, who is by far, the most boring, uninteresting, least appealing white guy in the DC-universe, you’re just not trying to sell minority characters. And since they aren’t trying, they just hire from their stable of white dudes and put an editorial note: Please make this character black. It’s so easy, anyone can do it. Hiring someone who actually knows what its like to be brown? That’s difficult.
And it’s difficult to be brown in a white world. Your presence is always treated as if you’re making things dirty. So you assimilate, you disappear. You code-switch, you pass.
So i grew up in a household, that although not explicitly, but implicitly, assimilation was desired. Be american, with the understanding, that being american means being white. To the extent, where i’ve had arguments where i have to say that there’s no distinction between being american and also being latino, but that thought just doesn’t make sense to some people. We all drink the racist kool-aid, it means to be a part of American culture is to be as white as possible. It’s not a melting pot, its not a mixed salad. It’s a race to the bottom of the bowl of an ice cream sundae – stay vanilla. If you don’t speak spanish, you’re a gringo. If you don’t use African American Vernacular English (what people still call ebonics, when they are usually being insulting), you talk white. If you pass the pencil-test, you are white. Latinos have thousands of different cultures, dialects, distinctions. Afro-cubans like me, German Jews like Don Francisco, Racist Republicans like George Zimmerman. Latinos look as white as Cameren Diaz, or as black as Zoe Saldana. As a result, most writers have no clue what makes a latino a significantly different character. 99% of the time, the character is mexican. Ignoring the hundreds of countries that are not Mexico. Mexican Ghost Rider, Mexican Blue Beetle, Half Mexican Spiderman 2009, and ambiguously half “latino” Miles Morales. Why mexico? Cause to a lot of people, that’s the only kind of latino there is.
Lets not believe that there are no minorities in the highest positions in comics. In fact, DC and Marvel have an extremely diverse creative staff. Jim Lee, Joe Quesada, Axel Alonso, and throughout the industry you’ll find artists and writers of all shades. Yes, mostly dudes, but dudes sing the pledge of allegiance to James Brown. But by living and prospering in a racist society, you must perpetuate racist conditions. Latinos often have the racist privilege of entering a white-dominated culture, and simply dropping their accents at the door, just like the Irish did! I’m sorry, but the Irish shouldn’t’ve had to, and neither should anyone else.
We are not solving any problems by filling out a racial draft card when we write new characters. One black, one asian, the rest white, double up if you can by making them minority women. We are not solving any problems by race-lifting old characters. We wouldn’t have to play oppression olympics, if they didn’t make it so only a few could win the lottery of becoming a legacy character. To race lift or not to race lift? Race lift the fucking writing staff.
For now, i’m still running the race, and i gotta play the race card, cause they stacked the deck against us. Until we get a Justice League that protects the world, by being from the world, and not just europe, we’ll still have these pointlessly juvenile arguments about black Wally West, black Heimdahl, black Kingpin, oh, and asian Atom. The argument is over. Everyone knows Kingpin was the best part of the Daredevil movie. But i’ll never see Professor Javier trying to calm the hot latina fire of Juana Gris, el Paloma Del Fuego. She would be played by J.Lo, playing ambigiously latina and/or mexican and her sexuality will be central to her powers.
Follow up edit –
Referencing the Slate article, which showed the top languages spoken AFTER English and Spanish, its come to my attention that even that article, was bullshit. Plainly distorting the facts.
In NJ for instance, Italian is NOT the third most spoken language, it’s actually Chinese.
So the whole eastern seaboard is English, Spanish, and Chinese. Most of the action in Marvel and DC take place in cities on the eastern seaboard. Name 1 character in the Avengers and/or Justice League who is Spanish or Chinese. This is the problem.
Read more here – http://aapivoices.com/slate-youre-doing-it-wrong/