Diversity, Comic Books, and Me

It’s 2014. I’m a 30 year old man living in the year 2014 with steady income and a love of comics, gaming, and music. I’m black, angry, and I like to read. More importantly, I like reading good stuff. I realize that “good stuff” is a terrible metric, but I’m betting that you know good stuff when you read it. Good stuff makes you tingle, makes you curse or shake your head in wonder or do a little jig. Oh, that’s just me? Okay.

Recently, I’ve conceptualized a box that I use to consider myself and my ideas of consumpton. My box is rooted in the idea that I should only consume things that don’t grate my dignity–or, to only read those things if there are lessons to be learned from them.

I was on David Brothers’ tumblr earlier and someone said, in a reply to a question post, “that’s why we write and make our own stuff. [REDACTED] white people.

There are two problems here:

1.) Why is the response to issues of lack of representation always “SEE DATS WHY WE GOTTA MAKE OUR OWN STUFF?” Duh. Every marginalized creative person knows that they are not being fairly represented in mainstream media. One of the primary reactions following this realization is to create the world or story that you want to see. These days I see more people supporting properties by independent creators/publishers than ever. However, support of independent entities and support of big publishing houses aren’t mutually exclusive, and neither is holding either entity accountable. As a consumer, I have a right to complain when businesses that I support with my hard earned Won decide to not include people like me in their work. Or even worse, when they include me in a rote, by-the numbers way. Lookin’ at you, DC.

2.) This here struggle is bigger than “[REDACTED] white people”. This was Brothers’ response (emphasis mine):

White people can and do create dope stuff[…]It’s not fuck white people. It’s fuck our long history of white supremacy, fuck a world where only one group gets to tell their stories, fuck a future or fake past that’s rooted in lies.

And here is the issue. Many white/male/straight/cisgender/able-bodied consumers of comic books could care less about diversity because, if they fit into one of the aforementioned categories, their story is the default. This is why “diversity” (read: safe recasting) decisions by comics and film studios are pretty much guaranteed to blow up a comments section or forum–never mind that these safe decisions basically amount to a pittance. Then when the folks who complain called out for being “racist,” they retreat into throwing around terms they learned in first year logic classes.

It’s easy to feel like [REDACTED] WHITE PEOPLE when you’re young and Other and all the little parts of your identity are slivered up and served to people to use for fuel in their blind hate/disdain for you and your life. For many of us, this is daily/hourly trauma. The thing is, I don’t wanna be traumatized when I sit down to read my comics (which I love) or watch a movie based on comics that I love.

Kamala-Khan-Ms-Marvel-Comics

Looks like the only solution (for me) is to give some stuff up.

This isn’t a blanket proclamation. If you’re looking for a manifesto, go to the library and let the homie Dewey kick game to you.

This is a realization, a self-imposed come to Jesus discussion over my spending choices. I can’t afford to dump so much of my time and money in the laps of people that hate or are indifferent to me. Marvel and DC haven’t sought me out. They weren’t looking for me in particular when I bought my first comic back in 1992.

Even this new wave of “diversity” rings false. Introducing an established character as black or muslim (AND A CRIMINAL) or introducing a [LAME] new character of color/with a different sexual orientation/with different gender identification isn’t done for diversity’s sake. There’s no love in that. It’s sensitivity training, usually done with all of the sincerity and safety of the same. It’s essentially bringing a nonthreatening white guy wearing an off the rack suit into your company to talk about why your employees shouldn’t ululate at the new Latina art director.

Besides that, creators who aren’t beholden to these old rules are stepping up. There are black comics conventions now. There are lots of projects that truthfully and thoughtfully depict the world around us instead of the normal group of whites with some boobs and brown thrown in for flavor. These people are more worthy of my support. The big two are doing okay without my coins.

I’m human. I might change my mind next month. But I know that forcing myself to ignore ridiculously short-sighted treatment of marginalized folks in comics and comic-book related properties grates my dignity. There’s no lesson to be learned from doing that other than the same lesson that I and may folks like me have been learning since the first.

 

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4 thoughts on “Diversity, Comic Books, and Me

  1. This is a super cool blog. I’m glad I stumbled upon it while searching for new sci-fi and fantasy works by people of color.

  2. Pingback: New Comics: DayBlack | The semi-mad ramblings of a young black writer

  3. Pingback: It’s Time To Retire the “Make Your Own” Argument | Troy L. Wiggins

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