This week I stumbled across two fantastic posts on one subject. Both are responding to the same blogger’s assertion that the black characters at DC are either editorially mandated diversity or token team members, and therefore bland and uninteresting.
The second one is being told by non-blacks that most “black” characters are bland and uninteresting. That the current crop of characters out there is only good when being written by black writers, even though sometimes even then it’s not good enough for others. My frustrations is that it places these characters inside a ghetto. Don’t touch these characters unless you are black enough. You have to be this black to use them or they might as well be palette-swapped versions of existing white characters. The current crop of existing black characters are just quota fillers and you have to pass the paper bag test to be able to interject some energy into them.
This one angers me so much. It insults the many good writers like Morrison, Bendis, and Ostrander who write fantastic black characters. Hell, one of the most realistic portrayals of a hispanic character is written by a white male. It also makes them sound more difficult to use than other characters, even though any character can be bland if the creators don’t understand them.
Sure it’s easier to use these types of characters as window dressing than their white counterpart, but the truth is every character is susceptible to squandering character potential. Calling them “uninspired” and bland is to say that these characters are inferior to their white counterparts, which makes it even more discouraging for creators to use them.
Why choose to use any of the characters David rattles off when asked about where is the black X, if they are no better than their Caucasian equivalent? This line of thinking just makes people apprehensive to pull the character out of the toy box and reach for another one. Sure, a black writer will come along and be more inclined to pull them out of the box, but if there are no black characters out there being used in rotation by other writers, what will attract the black writers to comics? It’s a little bit of a chicken and the egg, but I feel anytime you can mention or point the use of Falcon in Brubaker’s run, it acknowledges that Blacks do play a role in comics. It makes comics a more welcoming environment for non-white creators.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had this issue with somebody. Around a year ago, I got into an argument with a different blogger. I’d link it, but she’s since updated her layout and that hosed the 140 comments across two posts where the relevant part of the conversation was. Long story short, she came out with the line that “all black characters are mandingos and cannot be rescued from their horrible origins.”
I wish that comments thread was still there so, so bad. You don’t even know.
Her reasoning is terrible and horrible in a few ways. First, it supports the idea that you can’t reclaim or improve something. Going by her logic, I got some family members who’re gonna be hoodlums their whole life and are going to be worthless because of that fact. You go to jail and come out a different man? Who cares, dog, you’re still a criminal.
Get outta here with that. You’re gonna look at Bendis’s Luke Cage and tell me he isn’t an improvement, in terms of realistic representation and suchlike, than the one from the ’70s? Falcon is always gonna be a sambo? Bishop is just there to make white women scared? *smh*
When you get down to calling black characters bland, mandingos, tokens, or whatever, and you aren’t naming names? You’re doing wrong. You’re painting a whole bunch of characters with an ugly, ugly brush.
I recommend reading both the entire way through, then going back and checking out the rest of David’s Black History Month series.