All posts by Ondrizzle

thesis: one hundred percent

Hi.

I can’t in good conscience leave you who is reading this high and dry and not tell you where to go for what you want.

That is, if you haven’t already found it.

This here, I guess, is a very short introduction-meets-tutorial for navigating around my very barebones behind website showcase of my graduate thesis work blog post.

The Thesis itself is represented in three archived blogs chunks that actually appear on this very page if you who is reading this just scrolls down.

Understand that I could not for copyright purposes post the actual thesis on the website. Call it paranoid or call it smart. Being that this is my “baby” or whatever, I wanted to keep it from falling into the clutches of not so very nice people.

Picture me now taking you by the hand all sensually and stuff and away we go to where in the distance lies a door the threshold of which we are going to cross and into what is or was my thought process behind the work of getting on, snapping on, criticizing, Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis and his golem Miles Morales, the new biracial Spider-Man.

Just so we clear I am fan of the new Spider-Man. I love Miles, have been reading since Jump Street, and want nothing for the best for Bendis, et al when it comes to their collective comics pursuits; ditto for Miles. It’s just that I felt homeboy (Bendis) missed an opportunity to flip the script when it came to how Miles, as a black and brown person, represented hisself. An opportunity to imbue him with speech patterns not just commonly treated as undesirable or denoting ineptitude but also commonly found in people who look like Miles; otherwise known as “bad” English or “talking Black”.

That is to say that there is nothing about “bad” English or “talking Black” that makes it so that speakers thereof are vulnerable to prejudice or hostility. There’s no reason why Miles, who is or was supposed to represent a shift in sensibilities and tastes when it comes to historically marginalized people standing in the place of classically handsome straight white dudes in roles that for a long time were reserved for them, didn’t or couldn’t embody more of ‘that talk’ if it’s really about “changing the game”.

The thesis then is an speculative venture into the factors that made Miles into a “Parker Brother,” whereby he was stripped of very obvious and distinguishable, albeit historically controversial, cultural and characterological markers that would of made him more unlike his predecessor Peter Parker. For certainly if “with great power comes great responsibility,” Miles was mishandled.

For Moving Around the Site

First off, there’re three pages to this here site: “About Me,” “Blogs,” which you who is reading is currently reading, and a “Resume” page.

Upper right hand corner of the site is where you wanna go; click the three lines–

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It’ll expand into this–

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That is kind of it

I’d just like to give a shout out right quick to my Dr Zamora, because she is my Dr Zamora. Who held it down for yrs. truly with her ability to in her role as Advisor/Reader of the very thesis work spurred on by the MA program I am now finding myself graduating from and you who is reading this has to thank to for the said thesis work you are here for. This author is out.


Thesis in 3 (Part 3)

“Nigga, That’s Gay,” the Black Superhero Paradox

Leotards are about the gayest things about superheroes. That and one liners, sometimes, like “Good Job,” Hancock. Or at least in the context of black superheroics it is; and don’t get me wrong. I know how that sound, but I got you.

To bring it back Our Man Hancock, then, y’all know good and well he wasn’t trying to be The People’s Champ, especially not in no tights. Han(“I ain’t wearing that, Ray”)cock was puttin a hurting something serious on all manner of funky business just fine before the wardrobe upgrade; didn’t stunt him in no way. But by the film’s standards Hancock wasn’t suitable for superheroism at all, with all “the reactionary angst, the brooding, unfocused disdain for civilized Western society, the homeless, rudderless brother failing at making it” (Lamb “Stretching”), that made Hancock Hancock in the first place. So he had to be made into another type of superhero (or just another type of figure with superpowers because didn’t no one want Hancock to be a superhero prior to his transformation), one peeps could respect and, again, take home to they mama and daddy, like Miles. See, because Hancock for a lot of peeps, the same way Obama don’t, didn’t stand for the same things they stood for; he wasn’t exemplary the way he needed to be for a superhero. Perfectly fine for humans to be how they are, be it cold, hard criminals or sundry asshole, but not superheroes, not Hancock. It wasn’t like he was knocking ‘round some ghetto black hood, whereby his attributes would not only be constituted but expected for an albeit super, black brother, making sense by Black Macho standards.

What I mean is that by (Robert) Lendrum’s logic, by the logic undergirding black superheroics come out in the 70s, majority of black superheroes, in comics, got no business performing they derring-do outside of the hood; e.g., “Superman is ineffective at dealing with such problems” (Lendrum 369). A reinforcement of not only popular and damaging and limiting stereotypes surrounding black people, but also reinforcement of a racial responsibility binary that says blacks help blacks, whites help whites. Black superheroics then amounts to a brutal Buck mentality and an endorsement of a Black Moral Code, that only fosters a disparate treatment of Blackness in the realm of a superheroism as something, if it’s to be made mainstream, in need of a makeover. Hancock earnt hisself some social capital by playing by Whitey’s rules, substituting expressive freedom and his own brand of “thug”/”ruff and tuff” for a li’l respect and some gym clothes; but didn’t Peter Parker or Clark Kent ever have any problems with how they looked or for whom they were looking out, but also because they weren’t created to be any way than how they were expected to be, as white dudes, safely assuming, concerned exclusively and explicitly with White People Problems. Ask Christian Davenport and he would tell you a character like Hancock or Cage “lacks crossover appeal to a wider audience” (“The Brother Might”), saying that, in the context of the Steel comic book, another about another super-brother, “America is segregated” (ibid) and “comics are inherently about making money” (ibid). Mind you, Davenport is being dispatched live and die-rect out of 1998, so when he say America not amenable to Blacks, I sort of get how they might sound. But Davenport isn’t a barometer for the social climate of America circa 1998, nor do he have to be on board with whatever the Dominant Consensus circa 1998 is concerning race relations, either. But safely assuming Davenport (is) a brother whose sensibilities aren’t necessarily a reflection of the nation, if we compare it to how peeps circa 2008 responded to Obama’s election as POTUS as some “postracial” something or another, then Davenport as a hypothetical brother calling America circa 1998 out on its bull is feasible then.

The point is that entry into the mainstream comes with a price, and for black superheroes is meant staving off their blackness – whatever that means or meant – for a chance to participate in Big League superheroics. The same be applying to most other high stakes White Spaces, though, further reinforcing White is Right dogma steeped in historical backlog gone unchecked, un-criticized, for how long now? Speaking of Obama, no way he seizes the nomination acting how you think someone like Obama might act, if you’re racist like that. Like, Obama as a brother might denote certain attitudinal, cultural, behavioral, physical, ideological, political markers that are commonly associated with Black people; and for you who are reading this he might encompass all of that. Member to some group of POC whose failed to truly, fully, acculturate. By most, certainly not all, peeps’ standards, Obama is exemplary in how he demonstrates not only his aptitude for politics, his qualifications for POTUS, but also what it means to be a POC, male, in the 21st Century, maybe. He wouldn’t be president if not, some might say. Some and definitely not all that would also say that what Obama’s espoused, is doing, has done and will most likely continue doing long after his tenure to boot, is a respectability politics model that encourages blacks and certain other POC to reach standards that Whites, and usually male Whites, are exempt from.

Enter a one Harvard law professor (and just disappointing Negro in general) Randall Kennedy, who in his “Lifting As We Climb” (Harper’s 2016) is calling for a reinstatement of/investment in respectability politics for Blacks. Who even say hisself that “Obama is the exemplary recent practitioner of politics of respectability politics.” But Kennedy act as though respectability politics Old News or something, as though Old School Blacks ain’t been on that thing for the longest now. Case in point, best believe Mama and Popa Jones, my folks, gave me the business, I mean tore my bee-hind up, if Principal Reid come calling talking about me being a class clown; same went for my sister (who much, much, much lighter than yours truly just so you know), who would get it worse; but because she lied allot, the idiot.

Anyway: it wasn’t just me who was doing it. Fuckin around. Nor were the other kids, from what I recall, coming back to school the next day with stories about how they mommies and daddies unleashed a 100-Count combo on them for their chicanery. Also: Majority-white institutions have always be my swerve, growing up in suburbs a far out from The Hoods of Irvington and Newark, where I was born, in Jersey. Didn’t bother me all that much either, being ‘round all them white faces who’re the same white faces I do my hoodrat thangs with today, like discussing The Sun, Moon, and The Stars, and how we’re going to make it, or if whether or not there’s anything at all to this “go to school” stuff we’ve been duped into doing fed into. And mind you, my parents knew the other kids and their parents; still do; the alive ones at least. And of those who’re still among the living and breathing of us who are living and breathing, they talk! During the Come Up, though, it was less about how little-Me was getting along with the other kids and more about being Distinguished through Good Behavior, on jail stuff. Conversely-speaking, about how folks were going to perceive my black ass for acting like a jackass. And you can call that disparate treatment, or racism, or call it discrimination; or call it what Kennedy calling it, Respectability Politics at play. Whether or not they themselves, my parents, called it that, best believe I felt it – from wooden spoon to leather belt, they brought the proverbial hammer down, like Whoopish!

For Kennedy (and his ilk) circa 2015, “This approach has recently become a target of much derision,” saying “Is it wrong for black parents to deliver to their children the sort of talk my parents gave me” (“Lifting”)? E.g., The Joneses weren’t having any rap music blasting in the house, no way; the first rap album I ever bought with my very much so my own money, was Confessions of Fire, by Cam’ron (Cam hereafter). Before that I’d highjack songs off the radio, blank-tape style, ones approximating seeker-friendliness with insertions of “unintelligibles” for curse words. I’d “Let my tape rock till my tape popped” (Biggie), practicing memorization of The Words, rewriting whole joints in my head the way people scoot down to make room for people, inserting myself in the melodies, the stories, whole Universes that I felt didn’t immediately have anything to do with me, and they didn’t. Nonetheless: Confessions was my first actual investment into The Culture, having only caught on at 11 (1997), thanks to the Tracy Lee’s “The Theme,” the remix, featuring Busta Bus (Busta Rhymes); and on a count My Folk insulating the fuck outta me. See Respectability Politics. They (Mom and Pop) definitely weren’t feelin nothin Cam had to say, though, as, like an idiot, I erred in playin the LP on the “good” speakers in the living room so the “nigga,” “fuck,” “shit,” “ass,” and “bitch” would permeate throughout The Crib, landing me A Swift One. Wasn’t any age too old for a whoopin just so you know, and I knew better to boot. Here’s the thing, though. About nothing come out during the time of my adolescence, or anytime thereafter for that matter, hit me the way hip hop hit me; and too bad for me that it was the way it was. A target of much derision, and since its inception.

So while I am critical of Kennedy if you who is reading this didn’t realize, I do hear what he saying, as I’m sure you do too. I just cannot with it. And check it, because he also say how he and the [Kennedy] Fam would “look down on such people as ‘bad Negroes’ whose antics further burdened ‘good Negroes’ like [the Kennedys], and we suspected that whites in the news and entertainment industries preferred to publicize the former and ignore the latter” (ibid). Which to me and my black thought just more of that racism, just “intra,” in that it being enacted by Blacks on Blacks for the sake of Blacks? Makes zero sense, right? “My parents sternly ordered their children to be dignified in the presence of white people so that there would be no opportunity to put us in racist, stereotypical categories,” as did mine, only deepening and widening the fissures not only between (“good”) Blacks and (“bad”) Blacks, but also between “bad” Blacks and Whites for whom Blackness denotes Wackness, in turn prompting a “white is right” model (applied to blackness) in order to assuage the Wackness. Not to say that I bought into it myself, but it certainly shaped the way I viewed blacks, including my black behind, as well my proximity to blackness, for as Kennedy say: “any marginalized group should be attentive to how it’s perceived” (ibid).

But this where Kennedy mess up. His assessment of Obama as “exemplary practitioner of respectability politics,” having “cultivated a persona that is racially nonthreatening to many whites […] by, among other things, distancing himself African Americans who are perceived as unduly bitter or menacingly radical” (ibid), is all wrong; or at least it’s a uninformed because who knows what’s actually up with Obama? Indeed we can postulate and say that Obama as a brother may quite possibly identify with respectability politics, the idea that any marginalized person must be rightly to their image, due in part to how unfairly dude (Obama) been attacked for how he “president,” and we’ll get into that. But that don’t make Obama a turncoat or a double agent, or some duplicitous racial rabble rouser talkin out both sides of his biracial face. If nothing else, Obama’s demonstrated his affiliation to the persuasion of less popular cultural variants, such as Hip Hop, being heard contributing to considerably less important matters, like “Who’s Better: Drake or Kendrick?”; being seen knocking around the White House with the likes of rappers, like Jay-Z; giving rapper Common the mic on “An Evening of Poetry”. And aren’t these exactly the points of provocation for Whites that Kennedy talking about when he say “though still many others find him too black” (ibid)?

So what is Kennedy talking about, exactly? Senate Democrat Harry Reid might of said it the plainest – I mean, Reid, he came out his face gushing that one time about Obama’s viability as president because of his light(er) skin tone, as well as not speaking in a “Negro dialect,” which of course he apologized for, but without derision. But certainly if Obama was all that much unlike his “less refined” black counterparts, conversations like this (see infra) wouldn’t be happening.

“Barack Obama’s Significance For Rhetoric and Composition” “aims to provoke and renew disciplinary conversations about the meaning of an age now nearly past, as well as pose questions that resonate for presidential generally,” in omnibus form in the College Composition and Communication (3C) journal, put out by the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE hereafter). It features (February 2016 issue) this one entry by York College of Pennsylvania professor Erec Smith (“Obama’s Feminine Rhetoric”), who write that, “If African American leadership is to continue beyond Barack Obama’s tenure, Black male leaders should recognize the Feminine Discourse Movement as an efficacious one” (482). So even Smith, he on that Respectability Politics Train, too. He saying that blacks should adopt the more palatable “feminine” discourse exhibited by Obama, if the point is getting things accomplished, which healthily tilts the scales again in favor of  “White is Right”-ness in the context of Blackness, what might as well be called “approachable Blackness”.

What Smith say also pretty much substantiate what Globe magazine, “a dime-store rag whose mission is to sensationalize,” as my homie Dr Vershawn Young (Vay hereafter) call it, pointed out bout the way Obama “president,” e.g., how he speak, i.e., how he not an Angry Black Man, calling him a closet homoesexual who on the down low with his former personal aide Reggie Love (Young “Straight”). Unbeknownst to Globe, et al is that callin Obama gay for how black he’s not (whatever that means) is “connected to a gender anxiety that African American men more broadly experience in regard to educational and professional success,” according to Vay (ibid). Which itself is connected to this whole idea that “Black men do not sound intelligent; they are not good listeners; they do not value civility, empathy, and cooperation; they do not work hard; they generally are not successful” (Smith 481) – i.e., allergic to success, and thus “Nigga, that’s gay,” as the performance is read as a departure from what Smith calls “hegemonic masculinity,” which may or may not sound crazy to you who is reading this, but wait up.

Vay cite ethnographic research conducted by a one Signithia Fordham (Blacked Out) who reported that, from her one study, “male students at Capital High are fearful of the pursuit of academic excellence [because] they fear being labeled gay” (as qtd in Vay); hence why Vay say he “argues against the gendered and racialized instruction of African American males, particularly the pedagogical method of code switching employed in schools” (ibid). Which is also connected to an exclusionary language rule, a standard language ideology, that says there’s one way that’s the right way to speak, in English, positing other Englishes as inferior and suitable for the home. Which now then rubs up against “Obama’s significance for rhetoric” in that, as argued in another entry, this one by Fayetteville State University professor Nicole Ashanti McFarlane, “Obama’s performative endorsements of Blackness by way of African American expression work not only to make AAE more comprehensible to white ears, but promote it in such a way that Black speech is normalized as a standardized dialect to rival [English]” as the standard (“Obama’s” 472). All of which is yours truly’s way of illustrating the importance of not scrutinizing any of the aforementioned in isolation to the other, but rather in relation to the others because shit’s more complex than it seems, obviously.

I got you. On one hand Obama is lionized for being the kind of president who a) practice Respectability Politics and b) makes it so that folks for whom his “performative endorsements of Blackness” are relatable and customary can be like, “But yo, if Obama can so can I”; on another hand, he (Obama) complicates his performance by being unlike a considerable # of black male kinfolk for whom Blackness is underpinned by “hegemonic masculinity,” e.g. brutal Buck niggers, making them less desirable, less approachable, less embraceable, since “Exuding power in any other way is threatening…In order to be a Black man deemed safe, [Obama] could not act too much like hegemonic ideal of a man” (Smith 481), “amplifying his non-normative masculine traits and then, on that basis, assigning him a deceitful, non-heteronormative sexuality” (Vay “Straight”); wherefore Vay argues that since young brothers out here experience anxiety when it come to how they speak, instructors should forgo code switchin as it “contributes to the subordinated gender status of African American men and leads to the negative anti-masculine queering of them, whether they are straight or gay” (ibid), which in part “accounts […] both for the success of black men, such as Obama […], and for the widespread underachievement of African American males who resist such queering…” (ibid).

For a considerable # of peeps, including black peeps, maybe even you too who is reading this, Talking While Black does mean staving off Blackness (AAE), having no “Negro dialect,” like Obama, hiding certain linguistic markers that denote Blackness, if it means gaining social capital redeemable for employment or just being taken seriously as a person with something to say that is worth consideration as a contribution to a larger conversation, if not something or another that requires your voice to be heard with respect to whatever, whatever the matter at hand is, be it input on some hotly debated topic or something, or even just whether or not Kendrick hotter than Drake, yo. But these presumptions of allegiances that Kennedy frame as capital-D Doctrine – i.e., The Way, The Light, and The Truth for How To Make It In America, Black People – with illustrations of historically “good” blacks, e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, and how “[Their] effort to present civil rights in a fashion that would generate sympathy and admiration paid off,” is very much so furtherance of the problematics surrounding Black identity, or just identity in general. That problem with labels in general. That “whatever”.

What do(es) it mean to be black and black af and proud and not have to pay for it; or at least a superhero and Black and deemed a menace to society while drinking your juice in the hood? Popularly-speaking it means giving your Black A S S a makeover since “comics are inherently about making money” (Davenport) and to appeal to widest possible audience – whoever that is, with ever sensibilities they espouse – whereby the Black superhero adopts the trappings of traditional superheroics, like Hancock, and staving off “brutal Buck” (Lendrum) tendencies that might “burden ‘good Negroes’” (Kennedy), i.e., being “dignified in the presence of white people so that there would be no opportunity to put us in racist, stereotypical categories” (ibid, italics mine), and putting distance between “African Americans who are perceived as unduly bitter or menacingly radical” (ibid), and not “acting too much like the hegemonic ideal of a man” (Smith) because “Exuding power in any [that] way is threatening” (ibid), hence Obama’s “‘mommy jeans’ in an attempt to come off less macho and more domestic” (ibid, as qtd by Touré, as qtd by Malcolm Gladwell).

The Catch as outlined by Vay is that young black males – and certainly not all of Black youth but most – will read the aforementioned as a departure from not just blackness but also masculinity, making it “gay” in the context of black maleness. And while that might could come off as reason to not give a fuck about these people, as reason to let them figure it out on their own, the fucking idiots, because their espousal of funky views that we at least publicly, and arguably not privately, decry may or may not be directly related to their resistance to excellence, their hostile worldview toward the very things counteracting their existence insofar as much as they remain resistant to it rather than assimilating and accepting, this’s where they’re at. If like Vay say, “we accept them them, unconditionally, without assimilationist restrictions that stem from racial and gendered prejudices, then we may be on our way toward that better world” (“Straight” 469). And a world where superheroes can be more than what they haven’t already been – which is themselves – because there’s nothing gay about that.

 

Peep Game Because I Got Your Superhero, Son, aka “Give Miles his Blackness Back,” How Miles a “Parker Brother”

Call it lazy, but nothing about Blacks or any group makes it so that they are inherently hostile toward homosexuality or whatever next “bad” thing is gone apeshit from a discursive standpoint because people just don’t know how to talk to people; or at least they don’t know how to talk about those things; or at least not intellectually, with their anti-intellectual selves. And: as easy as it is to dismiss garbage people with garbage ideologies and privately held biases and assumptions about people that at least traditionally and/or even anachronistically deem them unfit for pretty much everything trending right now, it’s unfair af to spin that as a firewall or some cockamammie reasoning for why they should left behind to fend for themselves. Like, that’s not superheroic at all. And while you who is reading this might be saying right now that, “Nigga, that’s gay,” just so you know yours truly isn’t going to count that against you as a reason to invalidate you and yours, your experiences, and then say that, well, that is too bad for you if you don’t want to get with the program.

What I’m saying is that if we’re talking about representation and representation that “sticks it to the man,” that rubs up against longheld ways of thinking that since forever have made it hard for the very people that these comic book people are making all of this money off of to just fucking live their fucking lives, then it means more than a skin graft and sex change to truly be “all new, all different”.  If what Bendis hisself say about Miles being the “Spider-Man for kids of color, adults of color,” then let him be that, Bendis.

But peep game because I got your superhero, son. This treatise initially opened with how Miles can be a more legit superhero mofo, with all the derring do he do, in tights without substituting his multiethnic/cultural substance for something for what pretty much amounts to Miles being “Parker Brother”. What that is is what is referred to as a portmanteau, a play on words essentially, where two disparate ideas, like “iPod” and “broadcast” coming together to make what is now known as “podcast,” come together to create something new for the sake, basically, of making a point, sometimes, maybe. In this instance, Miles Morales as biracial brown faced brother, being one part black and one part lain place of the historically white Peter Parker Spider Man archetype is turnt into a “Parker Brother” in a failed, albeit ostensibly well intentioned attempt at making a historically less palatable, less marketable, nonwhite superhero archetype appear more or less qualified for superhero-dom. Now, I shouldn’t say that Marvel and Bendis failed because Miles is pretty well liked by his fans who either are just coming to discover Spider Man or since forever have known Spider-Man to be White Peter Parker. Which is just crazy from the from the standpoint of risk averse White peeps decidedly putting the futures and continued successes of their hardly broken, tried and true franchises in the hands of historically less successful minority peeps. And if we’re talking about more distinctly Black characters largely concerned with distinctly Black people problems indicative of by distinctly black experiences, then we’re talking about just creating another Luke Cage type. In which case, jurisdiction is limited to the hood where White people problems are irrelevant and is the business of the more popular, proper-English endowed, classically handsome, straight white guy archetype. If there’s anything to any of the aforementioned arguments and theories of yours truly presented in this very treatise that you who is reading this is reading, with regard to the limitations of historically nonwhite good guys in the context of Big League, Mainstream Superheroics, then Miles not being hidebound by the same criteria of his distinctly black ancestors would have to be a Parker Brother. Think Obama rocking a domino in tights.

If the kind of requisite core character for a black leadership is that of (Erec) Smith’s Feminine rhetoric, then someone like Miles who exists outside of the confines of a majority black ghetto setting of blocks and aves and streets of tenement homes, for example, the original sandbox of Black superheroism, so says (Robert) Lendrum, then Miles would have to embody Barack Obama type Blackness, literally be a “straight black queer,” because while it might be “gay,” to some and certainly not all blacks, it is the most widely accepted version of Black – or at least nonwhite – maleness. Add in Miles’ Latino-ness and the whole thing pours out into a whole ‘nother dimension of representation that in order to get right, I want to say, might require a “Writers for Hire” ad or something. Which isn’t to say that someone else is or would necessarily be better at capturing the sort of nuanced representation that bucks the trends, or even that Bendis isn’t That Dude when it comes to comics right now. From The X-Men to The Avengers to Daredevil to Peter Parker as Spider-Man and even Luke Cage – clearly Bendis has a penchant for storytelling and storytelling that spans across not only multiple storylines but multiple race and gender types. That is to say Luke Cage is not Wolverine is not Daredevil is not Spider-Man. But when it comes to Miles, who Bendis has hailed as the Spidey for POC – “Our message has to be it’s not Spider-Man with an asterisk, it’s the real Spider-Man for kids of color, adults of color and everybody else” (italics mine)  – then there’s a disproportion between being “different” and selling that difference.

Granted, Bendis been writing Peter Parker as Spider-Man for a bunch of years now, something like ten, before he and EiC (Editor in Chief) Axel Alonso thought it time they put a brother in the tights, with Alonso being like, “When the opportunity arose to create a new Spider-Man, we knew it had to be a character that represents the in-diversity and the experience of the twenty-first century,” and Bendis coming out his face saying, Many kids of color who when they were playing superheroes with their friends, their friends wouldn’t let them be Batman or Superman because they don’t look like those heroes but they could be Spider-Man because anyone could be under that mask. But now it’s true. It’s meant a great deal to a great many people” (italicized emphasis mines). Which may or may not sound crazy to you who is reading this, but juslisen. So it would make sense that, for Bendis, embodying the spirit of a white boy is going to have its side effects; that it dont take a hawk’s eye to see that neither of them chumps, Parker or Morales, any different from one another. (Alonso: “Miles is a character who not only follows in the tradition of relatable characters like Peter Parker, but also shows why he’s a new, unique kind of Spider-Man and worthy of that name” (aceshowbiz.com) But then that leaves Miles’ color as the only distinguishably nonwhite feature about him; not to say that Miles gotta be, like, ODB or something out here. Knowing most black people, black parents, a real life Miles wouldn’t be talking anything but Standard English, anyhow. But consider that a text-image binary underpins performance of any kind in a comic book, and that the only way anybody telling the difference between any successor and her or his predecessor, especially when they’re in a costume for probably 85% of the time, is going to be based on how they a) look and b) how they speak.

Doubling back to what Alonso said then about Miles being the kind of character who takes after the tradition of other relatable characters, like Peter, a “new, unique kind of Spider-Man worthy of that name,” I’m asking: Who or what determines “a character like Miles’” worth, then? Assuming Obama stands for the kind of blackness that’ll afford Blacks the power to affect change, that his use of Feminine Rhetoric is an efficacious one (Smith), and that Miles’ creation is due in part to Obama’s “nonnormative masculine traits […] assigning him a nonheteronormative sexuality” (Vay “Straight”), then from the standpoint of a nonwhiteness, Miles was “queered” in sense that he didnt or doesnt exhibit the type of blackness that Obama is not, that Hancock was encouraged to stave off of. Not that there’s anything necessarily distinctly blacks about a departure from, say, Obama-ness, or that there’s anything distinctly black about Hancock before he possessed the trappings of “proper” superheroism. I mean, call it overshight on the part of the creators, or well intentions not to reinforce negative stereotypes of the kinds of people stands-in for historically white superheroes have had thrust upon them for years; but what if, just what if, those very characteristics were depicted not so much as limitations but just as difference in and of itself.

What I mean is that what if Hancock was left alone to be as he was, a baaadd brutal Bucks type of nigga, right? And what if Obama, like what Vay say, “played the game to end the game” (“Nah”)?

For everything Obama stands for as the first black president, or at least the first president of mixed raced background, he’s also been an indicator of the kind of efficaciousness and effectiveness usually gone unseen in a Black English-speaking human being. That is to say that Black English, as well as all-Black sensibilities, are traditionally the very characteristics that denote a deviation from not just the standard, but also what is considered widely embraceable. Think Obama’s “mommie jeans,” and how as popular theory has it, Obama had to put on airs, embody a less threatening Black persona if he was to become president. Think Harry Reid lauding Obama for his brighter hue and not speaking in a “Negro dialect”. Think Obama as a practitioner of respectability politics, so says Kennedy, as “assiduously [cultivating] a persona that is racially nonthreatening to many whites,” (“Lifting”) as well as “[distanced] from African Americans who are perceived as unduly bitter or menacingly radical” (ibid), evinced in his “openly [identifying] the failings of Blacks” (ibid) and “[demanding] that African Americans […] do more for themselves” (ibid). For writer Peter Lamborn Wilson, then, it goes like this:

 

“Blacks have Black Culture…are no longer required to assimilate. So long as Black Culture [recognize] the centrality [that is, core] of the consensus [i.e., Dominant Culture] – and its own peripherality [i.e., making sure blacks know their motherfuckin place!]- it will be allowed and even encouraged to thrive. Genuine autonomy [that is, just being allowed to be themselves],  however, is out of the question, and so is any ‘class consciousness’ which might cut across ethnic or ‘lifestyle’ lines to suggest revolutionary coalitions [in other words everybody got to stay in their respective lanes lest the stasis be compromised as a result of a people talkin, i.e., colluding]” (“Against Multiculturalism”)

 

Some Close Reading Mess

Miles didn’t happen in a vacuum. And while the whole shebang can be read as Marvel having meant well, it mostly, at this point, comes off as a very pointed attempt at constructing a kind of super black and brown guy who’s going to sell as well as the super white guy. I mean, for all of Bendis, et al’s social justice awareness, etc., when it comes to archetypes and nurturing a bruh like Miles to the point where he could swing happily and freely into the hearts of readers, he (Bendis) severely undermines all that being the kind of asshole others have been.

Since his debut Miles now the Spider-Man of the main, and now only, Marvel line of comics. His “Ultimate universe” was “destroyed” in an annual “secret wars” event, when the varied lines and universes of Marvel’s superheroes clash whereby “all new, all different” shit is forged for the respective heroes to get into. Think of it as a hard reset, almost. Everything’s all good till Thanos or Galactus or big behind somebody wants to come through and fuck up the milieu, and then there is this seismic bloop in the cosmos that disrupts the “genteel” causing “universes” to collide and forcing everyone into these sort of “what if” scenarios that are meant to be to considered unlikely had it not been for “secret wars”. What comes out of the “Secret” is really contingent on the events therein and for this last one it was that Miles would wear the crown of Spider-Man in the main line, where Big Pete is alive and well, but in “lite” form as a sort of mentor to Miles.

Issue #2 (March 2016) got newbie Spidey Miles up to his ears in elephants with the villain Blackheart, who Miles sort of handles all by his lonesome, with the Avengers having been beaten to a pulp, or pulps, all splayed and shit all about the broken up concrete. Coming home to his buddy-homie Ganke, Miles vent bout how he just fought a demon (Blackheart), saying “GANKE, I TOUCHED A DEMON FROM HELL!” and in another panel where our hero is shown all bugged eyed and despondent-looking af, looking like some broken-up tweenager all agog at having seen their crush hand-locked with their archenemy, “I’M SUPPOSED TO BE ALL COOL ABOUT THIS BECAUSE I’M SUPPOSED TO BE. BUT IM NOT. I. AM. FREAKED OUT. SO FREAKED OUT. EVERYONE ELSE WAS JUST LIKE ‘LAH LAH LAH THERE’S A DEMON.’ BUT IT WAS!” To which I kind of want to be like, “Nigga, that’s gay.” But that besides the point, because so then Ganke pull up YouTube on an iPod where there’s this one fangirl who’s all stoked about there actually being a nonwhite Spider-Man. She snuck footage of Miles’ fight with Blackheart, with his suit in tathers obviously from getting busted up hisself. “THE NEW SPIDER-MAN IS BROWN. HE’S A KID OF COLOR. THIS IS HUGE,” she says imaginably squeaks, to which Miles is just mean-mugging, looking like he’s about to reach through the glowing square portal of the handheld and be like, “Bitch why do you care?” What he actually says is, “UH… AND SHE CARES WHY?” What follows is a pretty uncomfortable confrontation between Miles and his identity, one that in the context of the Miles arch has yet to happen, making this Bendis’ chance to finally tap into the psyche of our high flying Webslingner “for kids of color,” so says him, and guess what he does? Can you who is reading this guess what he does, because I will tell you if you guessed it, what it is that he does.

Bendis being Bendis who putatively positioned hisself as the someone readers and fans can trust with the story of a brown kid in tights, as being “the Spider-Man for kids of color, adults of color and everybody else,” totally bungles Operation Push For Diversity by doing like this.

This. MILES: “I DONT WANT THAT. THE QUALIFICATION.” To which GANKE replies, “YOU’RE LOSING ME [and me too, the one who is writing this]” MILES: “THIS IS–I DON’T WANT TO BE THE BLACK SPIDER-MAN. I WANT TO BE SPIDER-MAN.” AND: “FIRST OF ALL, I AM HALF HISPANIC,” says Miles. GANKE: “SO GO TELL HER [meaning the girl in the video].” MILES: “I JUST–” GANKE: “THIS IS REALLY BOTHERING YOU.” MILES: “I’M GOING TO SHOWER.”

D’oh, right? This obvi took readers by surprise, had them all aghast-like, like:

 

[insert anti-Bendis twitter posts/rants]

 

And especially since this is putatively the POC Spidey, which may or may not mean some things, but then “It’s meant a great deal to a great many people,” so said Bendis just before this whole thang got underway. Shit was so bad it had a one Tumblr native by the name of “platanerx,” “all anxious so excuse the typos,” in a response to #2. See infra for chunks of more of the same by platanerx, and for the actual panels:

 

But Bendis, he dont appreicate all the disrespeck and heat he catching in the wake of the White Gaze. And this coming from the guy who in another interview opened up about how seeing one of his two adopted black daughters find a Spider-Man mask in a toy aisle, put it on and say, “Look, Daddy, I’m Spider-Man” had him “crying in the middle of the aisle. I realized my kids are going to grow up in a world that has a multi racial Spider-Man, and [a Black Cap], and a female Thor” (Bendis). But Bendis dont want no distinctly black Spider-Man – or rather distinctly biracial – or at least not one who’s going to forefront his difference. Now I’m not going to say that

But I am going to say that Marvel do needa stop positioning Blackness, including what’s perceived as Problematic blackness – that is, relegating perhaps distinctly black sensibilities that perhaps alienate people, make them uncomfortable – that is, Hancock level Blackness – what is Obama “playing the game to end the game” type of Blackness – to the wayside. Especially if it’s so easy for a writer like Big Brian Bendis to qualify his background, being a Jew, as being more problematic in the context of race relations; see infra for Bendis:
This’s no longer about what is good and right and a Spider-Man for Kids of color, as much as it is about, as I see it, demonstrating for people the kind of blackness that is the worthy for the title of Spider-Man, or any title of status for that matter. Goes back to (Erec) Smith’s “progressive rhetoric,” aka Feminine Rhetoric, being more effective in the context of black leadership; get you a pair of “mommie jeans” bros. and you will be set! Stave off brutal Buck tendencies appropriate for majority black ghetto settings and you too can be Spider-Man; or any superhero unfettered in their execution of super-important, superhero duties. You too can be Barack Obama, albeit Black English-using, meaning nothing in the grand scheme of things. You too can assume the mantle of any historically white position in this country so long as you adopt the sensibilities herein, promise to adopt the characteristics that make for less controversial, more embraceable, arguably “straight black queer” identities. Linguistically, as is Vay’s wont, it means encouraging Blacks students to sounds less like how they do amongst friends and more like what would assign them a deviant masculine identity – i.e., speaking Standard (White) English – all because White people are less favorable to it. From the standpoint of a comics where difference works across the modes of images and text, it would mean that although Miles look different he don’t sound different, turning him into a “Parker Brother”.


Thesis in 3 (Part 2)

Being A Superhero and Black Af

Didn’t nobody want Hancock to be a superhero. Hancock, from Columbia Pictures’ Hancock, features Will Smith playing, basically, a nigga, with superpowers. And by nigga I’m going by Chris Rock’s definition thereof, the type of brother you hide your kids and wife from, from whom you hide the fact that you got any money on you because you best believe that nigga is gonna rob the shit out of you. Of course that’s hyperbole, but only sort of. A better defintion of what it might mean for someone, particularly black, to be the kind of nigga I’m referring to that reflects Hancock’s disposition is […] .

Because if you who is reading had ever seen Hancock you’d know that homeboy got no breaks as the kind of abject despairing Negro he was. I mean, dude was introduced slumped on a bench from obviously drinking too much either the night before or, perhaps, hours before the opening scene; and dude can’t seem to do nothing right. Like, catching bad guys for Hancock is like letting a toddler take the wheel of some go-fast car. Fucking smashing the getaway car into buildings and shit; he’s even drinking on the “job”! It makes sense no one likes Hancock, though. He’s a nigga. He drinks, curses, unlike Miles, who you who is reading might want to consider as paragon in terms of finding you a Miles Morales to bring home to yo mama and daddy as boyfriend or bae or boo-thang or another. It’s apparent Hancock – pun intended – is his worse enemy. But at the same time, society got this weird sense of what it mean to be a superhero going on that casts Hancock, a visibly black motherfucking superhero, as more of an antihero, like Hellboy kind of, despite all the good he do.

Having not seen Hancock in, like, however many years now would mean I’d be kind of remiss for not mentioning that yours truly ain’t seen the film in, like, however many years. Now, but the aforementioned premise of the film sets up what’s considered, in history, particularly Blaxploitative film history, as the Big Black Buck, “big (sic) baaadddd niggers, over sexed and savage, violent and frenzied as they lust for white flesh,” as cited by Rob Lendrum (“The Super Black Macho”) as having come from Donald Bogle by way of D.W. Griffith (Birth of a Nation). A buck (Lendrum, et al) orientation is basically run of the mill of what it mean to be a black superhero; or at least what it did mean. Lendrum’s “Super” actually about the criteria for most, if not all, black superpeeps circa 1970, so civil right and the black power movement. So ingrained in the ideology of these fictional do-gooders were the sensibilities of black folks tryin to get out from under Whitey’s [bullshit] that they would just reinforce the problematics of black (em)power(ment) in the first place, failing to critically analyze the subject material at hand, in turn undermining the end goal of, perhaps, portraying blacks as something other than black af or “baaaaddd niggers” (ibid). Talking about a one Huey P Newton’s reading of probably the spear for the canon of blaxploitation films, Sweet, Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song, Lendrum: “Newton reads the film as a revolutionary text while reaffirming the Black power movement’s macho attitude and assertion of patriarchal family head,” and how that “manhood is achieved two ways: sex and violence against the white oppressor” ( ). Which is not the case for Hancock as he’s not featured as vagina-crazy, cock-swinging, howling black lunatic trying to fuck any and every white and on two legs. Hancock, if anything, if nothing else, more aligns with Lendrum’s second tenet or axis of “Black Macho” circa civil rights, that of “possess[ing] ‘super savage’ abilities, or hyperbolized physical powers of the uncontrollable body of the Buck” ( ). From this standpoint super-blacks are assholes – and Hancock, if you who is reading has seen, none to happy about being called an asshole.

Oh, I wish a human would.

Hancock: god-like, cock diesel, fast af,  can fly, impervious to bullets, black. What this does to Hancock, et al is they “reinforce stereotypes and strategies of dehumanization that have positioned the black subject” as no brain and all brawn. Which’s Hancock all day till he’s reunited with former bae, Mary Embrey, who been on the low under the guise of wife to Ray Embrey, played by Jason Bateman, who the guy that turns Hancock’s life around – wherein “white is right”-ness comes into play. The Embreys and Hancock cross paths when Ray car get stuck on a train track as an oncoming train that have plenty of time to stop but gives no fucks about the fact that there a car in its path wont stop therefore  Hancock, he just flip Ray’s car over onto another car, I want to say, which leave he hisself with no time to get out the train path, so he just stand there lowering his shoulders, letting the train crash into him, which does jack shit to him, because he’s Hancock, who derails the train as a result, obviously. It get better, too, as motorists of all walks and talks disembark their vehicles to scold Hancock for having not just flown up into the sky with the car thereby preventing the collision to which Hancock just play flip and crack jokes on his hecklers just before Ray clapbacks with how everyone should basically STFU because Hancock the reason he’s getting to home to his wife and kid, you dolts.

Hancock being Hancock isn’t super gracious or anything, expresses zero gratitude for nothing, but herein lies (or laid?) an opportunity for our troubled black, Buck af, protag to get in good with the “puny human gnats,” to quote Galactus right quick,” and he, Hancock, he bites. He takes Ray’s invitation to join he and the fam for dinner thereby finally establishing a rapport with someone for a change, as well as reconnecting him with Mary (who unbeknownst to Ray is “super,” too), whereby Ray, who is a Hancock fan, asserts that in order for Hancock to turn the tide of public opinion about him, give the people someone to be proud of, that is in order to be taken seriously as someone unlike them, the people, he (Hancock) will have to get his life together. Following the logic of the film this amounts to Hancock going to prison where he’s rehabilitated(?) through a number of sundry discussions with other inmates who encourage him to share out about his life, and then Hancock has an epiphany. Scenes thereafter show him shaving his face, seemingly, literally, cleaning hisself up – turning into the kind of superhero Ray’s trying to encourage him to be – up to the point of actually being called on to disarm bank robbers, of which the leader is strangely akin to a Southern drawl-having, country bumpkin played by Eddie Marsan, who in this context actually works as the big, big baddie, if we read into it like that; but anyway, Hancock is also in full superhero regalia at this point, a stark transition for the hobo chic he was rocking prior to, rocking an all black leotard all clean with an eagle on his chest, all clean shaven and shit – a superhero. It’s not until, maybe, 30 mins left in the film is Hancock shown drinking again, having no reason to at all really, since he’s the HNIC, as in everybody loves him for having done a “Good Job,” something he borderline retardedly repeats to the police on sight during the bank heist, for saving hostages, prevailing over evil – all of which were pretty run of the mill for Hancock before his outward transformation, except that what constituted black superheroism in the fictional universe of Hancock was contingent on how “right” it was.

Now. As Lendrum writing in “Black Macho” (2005), black superheroism from Jump St., since civil rights and shit, was underpinned by long-privately-held prejudices and stereotypes of blacks that, unless critically analyzed for how nuanced they are and peculiar af to blacks, though there is nothing innate or inherent or inborn about them, come off as just random superhero characteristics. But like Lendrum say:

 

  1. “The alter ego [though in Hancock’s case there is none] although not sexually and socially rejected like his white counterpart, is often badgered and lacks the power of authority to change his emasculated position” (3…)
  2. “The black body of the superheroes is borrowed from the brutal Buck stereotype and the superpowers that they possess are often exaggerated attributes of the brutal buck or savage” (3…)
  3. The comics, like the films, fail to shed light on the social conditions that create this need, and instead depict the ghettos as places filled with pimps, hustlers and other snarling black buck criminals in need of a trouncing. ….What is worse is that this distinction oversimplifies a dynamic and complicated urban landscape that has developed due to hundreds of years of colonial history including slavery and economic barriers” (3…)

 

Now timeout. Understanding that third bullet requires insight into Hancock’s “business,” i.e., where he lives and what he does for a living, which is a) jackshit and b) in a trailer. No doubt the nigga (excuse me) in Hancock makes it hard for his ass to get anywhere in life, just the LQ (read: liquor store), presuming racial and social politics are just as palpable in the universe in the film as they in real life. Making Hancock unsuitable for any job, understandably so being that our homeboy is a superhero, unlike Superman or Spider-Man or Bruce Wayne, who do work, are white, and are very much so invested in the immediacy of the (white)world they inhabit. Even still not the point: the film fills the audience in on little to nothing about Hancock save for the fact that he’s, like, a million years old, once had relations with now-Ray’s wife, and that he was beat to shit, like, a million years ago, to the point of not remembering anything. (FYI Pounding whiskey the way Hancock do can do that to you too just so you know, but Hancock is only depicted as having an affinity for drinking the stuff, not actually getting drunk off it. Mostly he’s absent minded, careless, doesn’t give af about what or how he does what he does, having nothing really to do with blood alcohol content or anything, just arguably being a nigga. Which is fine; or at least should be fine, right?) Whatever Hancock’s life was prior to us in the audience, you, et al who are reading this and have seen the film, whether it was a week or a month or three years prior to his (Hancock’s) introduction, is a mystery. Hancock then as a “snarling black buck criminal [type of brother] in need of a trouncing,” following the logic of what the criteria Lendrum sets up,” is inherently unlikable as a black character unlikable as superhero of color whose blacks superheroics are not limited to a black community.

Check this out, though, because while a number of black characters come out during civil rights, e.g., Black Panther (who film out soon!), Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Sam Wilson (the incumbent Captain America) (wholly inspired by blaxploitation films come out during that time just so you know, just to remind you) have survived into today, they didn’t necessarily have the same mass appeal as other their more popularly and widely known white male counterparts; hence A one Doc Nama’s reading of the hard body, cock diesel motherfucking Luke Cage as being especially “Groid,” like, “this brother was really rough,” he says, which ties into the laughable linguistic endowment of circa civil right Luke Cage as having a sort of ridiculous patois, partly inspired by Chester Himes crime fiction, whereby Chester Himes invented this faux-Black language, meant to be jocular, which none of the earlier (White) writers of Luke Cage were let in on, “something I would’ve probably done,” says McDuffie, if he were, say, writing about Asian Americans, and then decided to read a bunch of Amy Tan not knowing that Tan was pulling the wool over readers’ eyes, so to say. Hence comics writer Grant Morrison writing concerning Cage “whose language bowdlerized urban argot in Marvel Universe-friendly oaths” (Supergods 253), like the infamous-ridiculous, “Sweet Christmas!” another time-tested quality, with Marvel’s on-screen version of Cage in the Netflix TV series Jessica Jones, bringing it back. McDuffie a little more sympathetic with it, though, calling the effort “a well intentioned attempt at making a language real” (YouTube).

And certainly the hubbub about what are appropriate and accurate accounts of representation has made the majority-white comics comic community leery about the characteristic they imbue their characters with because being called racist is not something that they or anyone wants, I want to say.  See a question posed to Bendis via Tumblr:

Bendis responds with “Write the individual” sort of “pshaw”-like, as if to say that there’s nothing else informing a given fictional individual but the fictional cosmos in which the characters inhabits, as if Bendis’ personal politics and ideological persuasions got nothing to do with the orientation of the individual. It’s almost as if he’s saying – and certainly Bendis is an authority when it comes to writing comics, etc. having been doing it now for mad years, garnering hisself uber-success – he can’t get the representation thing wrong, even just a little wrong.

But here’s the thing, you Nerds. “Well intentioned attempts as making a language real” that McDuffie makes salient in early stages of Cages, or even a reality real to the point that it makes salient black specific issues, in the context of Black superheroics, is typically limited to performing said superheroics in a black ghettos, where black superheroes concern themselves with Black people problems; whereas the white ones have more civic implications than political (or racial) that extend into other fucking universes, introducing readers to other fucking worlds and a bevy of alien language-speaking aliens, and on. What business do niggers got in outerspace when there’s, like, housing and employment issues to ameliorate, including sundry thug types dealing drugs to the kids them, right? See Lendrum: “When the black superhero burst onto the scene, the writers attempt to bestow them with values and a code of morality that is distinctly black” (ibid 367), making the message “black crime must be fought by black superheroes. Superman is ineffective at dealing with such problems” (ibid). So what then I ask you who is reading this is a writer, whether white or just unfamiliar with The Ways of Blackness, to do about incorporating black faces in white spaces, in place of white faces, where blackness historically marginalized, demonized, ostracized, criticized, and stigmatized?

Let me break y’all of with a theory. Given Hancock’s ultimate transformation from big brutal buck (Lendrum) type whose blackness and general worldview were problematic in the context of the Dominant(ly White) culture he inhabited; given that writers of black superpeeps highjacked popular perceptions of blacks only reinforced equally problematic perceptions of blacks; given the fact that there’s this crazy, crazy Push for Diversity Movement, whereby thereof proponents clamor all the do-dah-damn day about “Diversity!” “Representation!” “Multiculturalism!” blackening and gaying up everything; considering all of that now in the context of comics and what it means to depict a person of color or just some other random motherfucker who is not a classically handsome straight white dude, with some goddam dignity and who other real life equivalents of these very people can be proud of and look up to, what if – just what if, right? – the way to do that was to make them white af? To take these largely “straight out of Central Casting” type of motherfuckers, blacks and other POC, and make them into something else.

To take, for example, a brother like Hancock and have him endure the kind of transformation that the presidential candidate in Ben Carson tried running by potential voters (the one about how he grew up a dirty, ghetto, black kid with anger issues and holes in his socks and roaches and rats all up in he and his mama’s face, and but then turnt his life around by graduating head of the class, becoming the No.1 neurosurgeon in the whole fucking country); the kind of “From Rags to Riches” narrative that would only make sense to a considerable # of peeps about a considerable # of other peeps when it comes to succeeding at making it – cue the American Dream, right?

Under the right scruples it not as crazy farfetched as you might think it. Historically-speaking, distinctly black masks were limited to distinctly Black people problems specific to distinctly black communities when it would come to their distinctly black superheroism. All except for maybe a small numbers of them (e.g., Black Panther and Sam Wilson, who would inevitably rub shoulders with white male counterparts, reinforcing “good” black stereotypes and tropes, including PC Black tendencies and sensibilities, i.e., those respectability politics-having Blacks, with which real life equivalents would distinguish themselves from deemed “bad” blacks, and Whites would enforce as a kind of firewall against black activism gone seemingly awry, like Black peeps can’t ever be mad, e.g. think #blacklivesmatter; the kinds of Black people worthy of celebrity; the kind of brothers you take home to mama, like Miles), had jurisdiction just in the “hood,” where Black plight was palpable and out of the scope of Official Superhero Business for the majority of other, more popular, white, superheroes. I got no real way of actually knowing what be going through the heads of writers of comics when it come to how they reppin – representing – members for whom a large swath of their readerships are presumably supposed to identify with; but I can say that in an effort to understand, I made an inquiry. Disclosing this somebody’s identity, I run the risk of a biting off more than I can chew in terms of the beef I got with a good chunk of the Comics community for how they doing their diversity, and particularly with how Marvel doing Miles; or at least how they’re not doing him when it come to making not just a different kind of Spidey, but also redefining what it means to play superhero while Black Af. And be apprised, because while my beef largely located in linguistic endowment of the newly drafted Spider-Man Miles Morales, a proper verdict can’t be rendered in isolation to other aspects of the character.


Thesis in 3 (Part 1)

 

Oh, I Wish A Human Would

Dont get it twisted. Brian Michael Bendis not all that wrong in his take on the new half black half Spanish Spidey, Miles Morales. Mind you, that assessment also depends on how “in love” you who is reading this is or was, at one point or another, with the Spider-Man mythos in the first place. Which pretty much amounts to an underprivileged dweeb making it out here in these NY streets as the high-flying, deering do-having, Spider-Man after getting bitten by a radioactive spider that endows him with all types of arachnid-like powers from sticking to walls, climbing them, an enhanced sense of proprioception, to pulling off all manner of acrobatic shit. Per the usual too, then, this results in all kinds of coincidental calamities, of which we can pretty much thank our web slinging protag for bringing upon hisself as a sort of cosmic punishment for being awesome the way he is, including the classic unraveling of the immediacy of said protag’s world, which, in this case, stands for Peter Parker constantly wrestling with his sense of priorities as his sense of priorities do end up changing because, duh, he’s Spider-Man.

This paper, however, is hardly an indictment of Bendis as having done something wrong in his creation of Miles Morales, for it’s certainly fine and good that Miles is that way he is – all clean cut and eloquent and shit.

It’s more of a speculative (ad)venture as to what the hell is up with Miles’, with his language, and here’s what I mean. That Miles as a clearly black-faced youth in his assumption of the mantle of Spider-Man should of sounded less like his predecessor Peter Parker, who is white, and more unlike that. What does that mean, though? For this author it meant or means imbuing Miles with a linguistic variant historically associated with black and latino peeps, perhaps, a language classically associated with just some random dumb nigga who dont know better/wanna be better, one believed not to do nobody any favors when it comes to just about anything in life, except for maybe the purposes of spitting some dope behind rhymes on a rap track or, like, affording you yourself a good comeback for when you who is reading this is finding yourself needing something hurtfully clever to retort with when you’re pride is on the brink of shattering because some motherfucker(s) call(s) you a motherfucker and how yo mama so fat with her fat-self that her belt size equator or something. I’m talking about a language that as recent as Trayvon Martin has been a point of provocation for peeps in a debate as to what is an appropriate way of speaking that can or will or should afford one honor and R E S P E C T in the midst of a Push For Diversity Movement that amounts to, basically, the blackening and gaying up of pretty much every historically straight, white fictional character under the sun.

But don’t get me wrong. This author is not saying that Miles as a brotha has to or had to be or sound a certain way in order to be taken seriously as another kind of Spidey, a “Spider-Man for kids of color, adults of color,” as Bendis say. I mean please, far be it from me to tell peeps how they should speaking, let alone what kind of rap music is the type of rap music they want to listen to because it’s not Iggy Azalea or something. What I am saying is that if the point is to diversify, right? If today the consensus is that, say, #blacklivesmatter, or even that #alllivesmatter, that diversity matters, or that we should be celebrating difference in all of it’s forms and persuasions, then Miles, et al were opportunities for their creators to make centerstage historically ostracized, demonized, stigmatized, marginalized, disenfranchised, criticized aspects of real life equivalents that, for them, make it hard to just live their lives. It means putting at the forefront of these “all new, all different” super-peeps sensibilities and qualities traditionally seen as unacceptable, undesirable, though certainly not a basis for discrimination or their absence.

From the standpoint of comics, then, it means not just altering the way a given character looks but also the way the character talks, because how else are we who are reading to tell the difference between the the black and white one, especially if and while they’re in costume. Think Marshall McLuhan “the medium controls the message,” then. Performance – call it diversity – in comics is underpinned by a text-image binary, i.e., pictures plus thought and speech bubbles. Insight into who and what these characters are, want to and don’t want to be – or at least who the writers and illustrators want and don’t want them to be – is gleaned from from that intersection. In turn putting the spotlight on speech patterns and physical appearances. Usually diversity is limited to superficiality, whereby readers and creators substitute appreciating substance for appreciating skin grafts and sex changes, as if that’s all that make a person different, as if those’re the only grounds on which a person get discriminated against. They don’t go beyond epidermal or genital concerns, which fail to acknowledge the other factor to be taken into consideration, which’s how these characters are represented linguistically. Certainly an author’s voice is an author’s voice and ideologies and sensibilities clash all of the time. But what does it mean when a supposed “all new, all different” “Spider-Man for kids of color, adults of color” is blessed with a language ideology that reinforces a white is right dogmatic approach not just to language but also to ethnic performance? – that is, what is considered palatable.

Certainly ideologies and sensibilities vary; one homie’s experience isn’t necessarily equal to another no matter how alike they might be on whatever points of identification they might have. But if the point is to give certain peeps something to be proud of then fear shouldn’t dictate what a superhero is going to do, or how a superhero is going to behave, because I’d bet any money that if a superhero were to come crashing down to planet Earth right now only to be hit with all kinds of politics as to how to “superhero,” that superhero would come out her or his or its face saying, “Oh, I wish a human would.”


“This Hardly An Indictment” (pt 1)

While it might very well be that most if not all of today’s outspoken black sophists – all of whom I gots the utmost deference for – speak and write in almost borderline perfect English (with they prim and proper selves, soundin all dignified), and no doubt being subsumed under a classification of “respectable black people” to which me and mines and you and yours should ogle in awe-inspiration at, for they are the paragons worth our genuflection. It just be that it’s confusing, and here’s what I mean.

What I mean is that almost simultaneously they borderline belying they rhetoric through the use of a standard variant of English that speaks to a linguistic political system positing the Queen English as superior to/better than they “Mother Tongues”. Which, to be fair, not to be taken as wholesale criticism of deemed respectable parlances; being black dont necessarily make one conversant in the ways of black English, or African American English Vernacular, Ebonics the same way being white doesn’t automatically make one proper-English speaking. Far be it from me too to get on how folks roll, let alone how they roll their tongues: that be the jobs of prescriptivists, ideologues of standard English whose boldface proscriptions of any entholingual variant just another form of oppression against those for whom the standard (whiteness) is not the primary. And while commonalities vary, the constancy and primacy of “code switching”-infused readin and writin instruction is too blatant to ignore. It basically be how The Teach say to black students that they English “wrong” and in turn prompts rewriting into the “right” way.

In reality though, coppin you some language be sort of a la carte – that is, depending on exposure, to what extent, in what contexts, in light of what gains and losses, how often, entry points, among other things, turns language acquisition into Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: you never know what you gonna get. Add to that our personal preferences and idiosyncrasies and proclivities as to what kinds of chocolates, how much we indulge, susceptibilities to harrowing consequences from consuming such foodstuffs, allergies, and just our human nature to not give a what about all that, and then some. The same be ringing true for language is what I’m trying to say. Like what my man Dr Vershawn Young (Dr Vay or just Vay hereafter) say in his “Should Writers Use They Own English?”: “The narrow, prescriptive lens be messing writers and readers all the way up, cuz we all been taught to respect the dominant way to write, even if we dont, cant, or wont ever write that one way ourselves.”

I also observe that it might very well be that they (the aforementioned black sophists, I mean) mommas and daddies made it so that they’d grow up knowing how to move through a room full of vernacular vultures via an understanding of what Randall Kennedy (Mr K hereafter) dropped in Harper’s as the politics of respectability (POR hereafter). The proponents of which Mr K writes, “advocate taking care in presenting oneself publicly and desire strongly to avoid saying and doing anything that will reflect badly on blacks, reinforce negative stereotypes, or needlessly alienate potential allies,” which to me and my black consciousness be some old doublespeak: Championship for the assimilation to the dominant persuasion through the starvation of your origination for the sake of your preservation, sans reparations. But peep, because Mr K make POR sound almost like capital-D Doctrine; he say it legit because of the considerable number of other “good” sisters and brothers, albeit not always, it work for. Like, he talk about how Thurgood Marshall “usta” (read: used to) vet his black clients for personhood in making up his mind about whether or not he gone rep them in the court of law; he say the only reason Rosa Parks even a name today be that she was a better black person than the other black folks the same mess she went through happened to; he say even MLK complicit in that; he (Mr K) even try to undercut Michael Eric Dyson (Mike Dyson hereafter)–like, “How dare this negro,” almost–for supposedly being hypocryphal for lambasting POR while a participating in it.

My first response to this, albeit well-meaning, sort of, is how’re folks not supposed to consider our so-called heroes discriminatory assholes, hearing that, for example, MLK was accessory to “refraining from rallying around [Louise Smith and Claudette Colvin] who had been arrested before Parks,” because what? Because he and his enforcing dress codes where dress codes dont apply. So one has to look good, sound good, smell good, in order to be good? “Good” as in “looked out for”. So someone can have a legitimate case and Marshall just gone bypass they case because they not squeaky clean? Of Marshall–aka “Mr Civil Rights”–Mr K writes:

 

…Marshall did not proceed like conventional defense attorneys, who are generally indifferent to the culpability of their potential clients. To the contrary, he often declined to commit his scarce resources to the defense of those he believed to be guilty. He did not want the standing of the NAACP belittled by association with criminals. He viewed the reputation of his clients, the organization, and himself as important resources in the struggle to advance the fortunes of black America.

 

But hollup. Because if the then-running criteria (according to POR) mandated “[presenting] the civil rights movement in a fashion that would generate sympathy” and was “predicated on a belief that blacks needed to elevate themselves to reach parity with the Euro-American peers,” which meant being “rightly attentive to [one’s] image,” and that one “speak well, dress suitably, and mind our manners,” then it’s likely a considerable # of blacks who sought the Black Fist were dismissed solely off characteristics that failed to emblematize a (white)man-made standard of respectability. I mean, where else so-called good blacks gettin that idea from, anyway? Also: In his “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” flavor-of-the-month Ta Nehisi Coates (who Mr K jumps on, too) illustrated how the utmost-respected MLK was pretty much a criminal in the eyes of J Edgar Hoover, “who harassed three generations of leaders,” saying “he attacked Martin Luther King Jr as ‘the most notorious liar in the country,’ and hounded him, bugging his hotel rooms, his office, his home, until his death.” Now, we can either work from the assumption that the racist climate during Hoover, et al’s time was harder to snap than now, and so Hoover’s actions and behavior while deplorable are understandable from a lopsided cultural/historical/contextual standpoint; or we can acknowledge how not even MLK was impervious to ethno-impartiality.

Question: How this not discrimination, borderline intra-racism? Intra-racism mixed with public relations. Conflating superficial features with content. Mr K also dont make it seem like he and them acknowledging what the implications would be for future generations, saying in the penultimate sentence “At no point has there been more reason for young black men and women to be hopeful that investing in themselves will pay dividends,” making it sound mad cookie cutter-like: be made in the image of Rosa Parks, as an example, and be blessed. I get it though, because white folks pull the same when unruly blacks bust up shops in the wake of some mess, saying: WWMLKD? Enough.

My second response is that if “No one with any sense claims that ‘acting better’ ensures immunity against racist violence or any other lurking catastrophe,” and “The argument is that prudent conduct and sensitivity to how we appear to others improves our chances for success in environments peppered with dangerous prejudice,” then well, has Mr K considered that maybe some folks just dont wanna roll like that? What I mean is while it might be well and good to cop you some high saddity sensibilities to put you on par with constituents within some exclusive (read: white) circles – that is, get you some cred – that’s hardly a respectable pretext for respectability, or even acceptability. What Mr K promoting, I feel like, is self hatred and a bias toward a “reality” even Mr K know funked up. Instead of de-funking it for the folks, though, Mr K feel it best we blacks and other historically marginalized folks highbeam our way through life, like that dont waste battery.

What’s more: since when being one’s self a bad thing? R E S P E C T something earned not something coaxed outta someone by acting phony. That be how some jokers get got, you understand? Think Rachel Dolazel. Think Shaun King. If anything, Mr K sound like he about that DuBoisian doubleconsciousness as if it a good thing, which contrarian to DuBois’ point in the first place.

In “Nah, We Straight’: An Argument Against Code Switching,” my man Vay talk about this exact thing. In it, he locate the POR in code switching, referring to the literal switching from one speech act to another depending on the rhetorical situation. Like Kennedy & Co’s respect politics, codeswitching just linguistic ones propagatin self-hate, or that one stave off the nutrients of they immediate culture. Like Mr Kennedy say of his orders: “The fulfillment of our racial obligations required that we speak well, dress suitably, and mind our manners” (italics mines).Vay, however, say code switching just Jim Crow all over again in that it pumping that “separate but equal” logic into folks heads, in effect bifurcating folks identities a la doubleconscious.

What Vay make salient is how not even teachers, plus those for whom fluency/mastery expected – aka middle class white folks – get it right, saying: “[dominant language ideology] persuades us to imagine they do. It demands that we participate in a fantasy that white middle class folks are entitled speakers of public English.” This presumably the fallacy from whence Mr Kennedy et al coming from, an assumption itself, the basis for his argument as to respectability politics from whence historically marginalized folks should engage “reality with clear eyes in order to fashion responses with any hope of success,” success coming from a “Know Your Role” model whereby blacks demonstrate obedience, and an obedience rooted in an inferiority complex, and an inferiority complex born out a fucked up history.

Taking note of the slippery slope, though (Moms and Pops probably readin), let me not front like I always been me, rockin this voice, because I very much so subscribed to a “politics of respectability” before seeing the light. See, here’s we me and Mr K almost kindred: “My parents inculcated in me and my two siblings a particular sense of racial kinship: in our dealings with the white world we were to be racial ambassadors. Our achievements would advance race, our failures would hinder it.” This here tell me more so how hard upbringing to break – and tradition – forefronting for yours truly the pathos of “But momma said.” Which I for one can relate to, being literally beaten – had that ass whooped – to talk “like I got some sense,” having “too been brainwashed about the ‘inherent and Absolute rightness’ of white middle-class dialect and [did] not realize that language can be/has been for Black people in America a tool of oppression” (129), to quote Geneva Smitherman one time. And even now I’m aware of the operable privilege my high school diploma, BA, and to-be-completed MA (here’s hopin) done afforded me in just being able to say I give a. Nor can I testify to the voice I henceforth choose to express myself in havin done me any favors heretofore, or even at present. It dont. Truthbetold, I’m shook it wont never. But I point to James Baldwin in my “self destruction,” in my saying no to respectability politics inasmuch as it DIY censorship, pretty much. Lo Baldwin, who asked: “If Black English (BE hereafter) Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” And to Jay-Z (Hov hereafter), who in Decoded says: “But I can’t say I’ve ever given much of a fuck about people who hear a curse word and start foaming at the mouth.”

So Kennedy’s treaty basically talkin about how the revolutionary tradition of blacks is located in decency at the cost of dignity, and what that mean fo disgruntled black folk in the 21st Century. Kennedy say the point people for blacks are “good blacks” who are and were “attentive to how [they were] perceived.” That its “association with esteemed [blacks] and episodes in African American history suggest that the politics of respectability warrants a more respectful hearing than it has recently received,” he say. So in Kennedy head, it the J O B of historically subjugated people to be bigger people in order to “counteract racist dogma…in a fashion that would generate sympathy and admiration…in the struggle to advance the fortunes of blacks in America,” even if it not gonna work? And even if it it do, said subjugated folks are just expected to uphold these virtues at the expense of who they are, want to be, should be, could be, to make Whitey feel better about their proximity?

Problematics abound, obviously, which explain why so many folks from Flavorwire to Boston Review to The Atlantic, including commenters in comments sections, got on Mr K for his on High, mountaintop-influenced chide. Mind you it’s unsurprising he and his ilk would deploy such a clarion call, “a prudential plea for reasonable action”–damage control–in light of some mess of late. And I know exactly what folks gone do wit Kennedy’s suit: the exact same thing he do in it: project onto blacks images, names, symbols, demonstrations, including Kennedy hisself, of what works, and don’t, and not never gonna; or at least not if he and his have something to say about it.

Language-wise, there enough cultural relevancy not only to substantiate why blacks among other nonnative/standard English speakers should be able to express they-selves how they wanna, but also to give a name to it. It’s code meshing: “Code meshing the new code switching,” as Vay say, observing how code switching a misnomer and actually mean “[blendin] dialects, [int’l] languages, local idioms, chatroom lingo, and the rhetorical styles of various ethnic and cultural groups in both formal and informal speech acts.” Note too how I said code switching a misnomer: in sociolinguistic terms, right, code switching actually dont mean what widely and popularly understood as code switching. On the contrary, “Code switching may be defined as the use of more than one language or language variety concurrently. Spanglish, the simultaneous linguistic production of Spanish and English in the same discourse, is an example of this kind of code switching.” But see, this what happen when the Herrenvolk start touchin stuff that aint theirs, because now code switchin about that “contrastive analysis–a method comparing black English to standard English so that [black students] can learn to switch from one to the other in different settings.”

Code meshing, on the other hand, pretty much that organic thing we all do from off the top of the dome, when we not worryin bout–or rather not performing for–whoever listening or watching. Albeit kneejerk-y, or call it “raw,” it not exempt from revision, grammaticality, nor do it inhibit communication or any of those mad skills we value in (a white patriarchal) Western society: “A whole lot of folks could be speakin and writin real, real smart if [folks] stop using one prescriptive, foot long ruler to measure the language of peeps who use a yardstick when they communicate,” writes Vay. He say “What we need to do is enlarge our perspective about what good writin is and how good writin can look at work, at home, and at school” (“Should”).

So it kind of irksome of Mr K to say otherwise, especially Mr K who say “nigger,” or “nigga,” a protean word, can make you feel (read: understand) why a nigga might use it, or uses it, and then gone try and disabuse a nigga from using it because of some longheld Stockholm Syndrome-infused politics peculiar to old skool blacks? Like, what nigga?

Here go Mr K: “Opponents of respectability politics talk as though it has never been effective,” granted, and “Well known detractors of respectability politics dress to impress–as most adults do on a regular basis.” And: “Whenever people dress to impress they are engaging in politics of respectability,” which I do see, granted. And while: “[Mike Dyson] [dont] wear casual street clothes when he [appear] on Meet the Press to do ideological battle with Rudy Giuliani. He [dress] up [cuz] he […] rightly attentive to his image. He participates in the politics of respectability [tho] he [disparage] it,” why it cant be that Dyson enjoy gettin fly? Since when clothes make the man? Can I just say now, that the believability of POR really contingent on one’s ability to detect logical fallacies, because for Mr K, or anyone, to associate character and competence with manmade rules of engagement is straight cattle-dumb and as old as igneous rock.

But before y’all get to flexing and jumping down my throat, check out this li’l ditty. In “Pitfalls In Fighting ‘Nigger’: Perils of Deception, Censoriousness, and Excessive Anger,” (2002) Mr K sing different:

 

The black comedians and rappers who use and enjoy nigger care principally, perhaps exclusively, about what they themselves think, desire, and enjoy–which is part of their allure. Many people (including me) are drawn to these performers despite their many faults because, among other things, they exhibit a bracing independence. They eschew boring conventions, including the one that maintains, despite massive evidence to the contrary, that nigger can mean only one thing. (emphasis mines)

 

Mr K look real, real suspect right now, because how Mr K’s abovementioned not flyin in the face of the very respectability politics he and his propose? One may be wondering, as I am, if Mr K’s current assertion ain rooted in some skullduggery to thwart the efforts of well-meaning brothers and sisters who don’t necessarily identify wit him and his. Encroachment on they cynosure perhaps got them tight (read: mad) – shook – or it just that Mr K think he know what’s best for millennials who take umbrage at feeling as though it’s not safe out here for them. “But momma said,” and I get it. But hold up (before I swole up) because I need to be fair to Mr K, because from Jump I said how it kinda dubious of black sophists arguin on behalf of they constituents to talk unlike they constituents – a slippery slope, hence why I couldn’t front like this always me, either. That it wasn’t, by extension, denote the political awareness in my aboutface, which not even all that political as it is existential, or commonsensical, or sentential, or sacrificial, if not nonsensical and just me trippin – no psychological.

My argument to the negative of respectability politics locates me in an argument for the use of code meshing readin and writing instruction as it, as Vay say, “allow black people to play both the black and white keys on the piano at the very same time, creating beautiful linguistic performances that will hopefully help relieve double conscious and facilitate the merging DuBois hoped for” (“Nah”). Which hardly me sayin do as I say, though; or say how I do. Recognizing how doubleminded people be, this hardly an indictment, too. Rather it’s a shoefitting. So if the shoe fit, then yo, that’s all you.

As a coda I wanna accentuate my mikedrop with a sort of verso-recto look at Obama and Jay-Z (Hov hereafter)–Obama and Hov being the kind of culturally relevant loci wherein the politics of language and respectability get all kind of jacked up.

Check it: A YouTube video titled “Obama’s Ghettoest Moments” classifies as “ghetto” for Obama as the time he danced on Ellen to Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love,” the time he swatted a fly midinterview wit sum white man, and the time, in a doctored up (and very funny) video, he frontkicked open a door, exiting stage left; “Obama’s My Nigga Handshake,” shows him shakin hands with a white man to soft music and immediately thereafter givin dap to Kevin Durant to rapper YG’s “My Nigga”; 2010, the press all agog at Obama’s black English: “Nah, we straight,” he said in response to a cashier offering him change up in Ben’s Chili Bowl.

That any of these could be, or are, considered “ghetto” for POTUS is proof positive of how some folks can identify “ghetto,” still respect one’s “gangster,” and accept such identifiably “ghetto” and “gangster” markers in someone like POTUS. It also highlight how the whole argument just plain dumb. It’s like my man Vay say of Obama’s changing of the game towards the end of his eponymous nod:

 

As we think about Obama’s language practice during his campaign and accept for the sake of argument that he played the code switching game (I say for sake of argument, because some folks believe that he is heard differently by whites and blacks) then what if, just what if, he played the game to end the game? Not so only he could have the luxury to use AAE (African American English) more freely after the election, both in informal settings like Ben’s Chili Bowl…and in formal settings, as he did in one interview with Diane Saywer where he says he “hipped” his personal aide Reggie Love to Aretha Franklin and John Coltrane, but so nobody else, no other AAE speakers would have to put on a show to prove their worth. What if he played the game not to endorse the game but to show that the stigma against AAE in formal settings and academic writing is stupid?

 

A section of Hov’s Decoded titled “Negative Space,” underscore Vay’s point, actually. Same way Obama paying the game to end the game, Hov, understanding the game and how being a rapper/black/insert your ethnic, gender, sexual minority automatically puts one at odds with the dominant consensus, says “brush your shoulders off”:

Growing up as a black kid from the projects, you can spend your whole life being misunderstood, followed around department stores, looked at funny, accused of crimes you didn’t commit, accused of motivation you don’t have, dehumanized–until you realize, one day, it’s not about you. It’s about perceptions people had long before you even walked onto the scene. The joke’s on them because they’re really just fighting phantoms of their own creation. Once you realize that, things get interesting. It’s like when we were kids. You’d start bopping hard and throw on the ice grill when you step into Macy’s and laugh to yourself when the security guards got nervous and started shadowing you. You might have a knot of cash in your pocket, but you boost something anyway, just for the sport of it. Fuck ‘em. Sometimes the mask is to hide and sometimes it’s to play at being something you’re not so you can watch the reactions of people who believe the mask is real. Because that’s when they reveal themselves. (55, italics mines)

 

Now see Obama brushin off his shoulders. Gettin that dirt of his shoulders. The haters gone hate, anyway, so: let them. As Hov said, “Pardon my back.”


I Prolly Shouldn’t Of Wrote This Like This, But Peep Game Because I Got Your Supahero, Son: From Super-Thug 2 Superhero

Don’t get it twisted now. Miles not all wrong, nor is (or was) he the only one. Many an abomination been committed trying to invoke cultural/ethnic specificity in the portrayals of nonwhites; and, no, Rachel Dolazel don’t count. But bump her, though, right? Who can blame those Brothers from Another (read: white people) for at least trying? Besides, they wasn’t us, and they still not us.

(Even still: the presumption of race or culture, et al doesn’t necessarily constitute it being there, or some aspect thereof being  there, as if all of given kind of people all the same, or are going to have the same experiences as their presumed brethren, or anything. Like, being black don’t denote any one thing. Life’s isn’t binary like that. We complex.)

Nor was Whitey, for the longest, trying to hear what we were trying to tell him about the hack job he was doing on his renditions of us (which is not to applaud those long-applauded black media portraying blacks all sophisticated and hi-saddity, like in The Cosby Show or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, for I’d argue that such shows only reinforced one-way respectability politics born out of a revolutionary spirit in the black community that made and still makes it so blacks act more white in order to get them some cred). Because everybody and they momma knew wasn’t no Luke Cage gonna ever come out his face with some “Sweet Christmas,” ever.

(Speaking of Christmas, a gift. “The secret, rarely told history behind ‘Sweet Christmas,'” as told by Dwayne McDuffie involves Archie Goodwin, early writer of Luke Cage, basing the language of Luke Cage of Chester Himes’ black detective fiction. See, Himes & Co. figured it (the language) must’ve been the real deal Holyfield, right? Except Chester Himes, sly devil, was “making up a sort of ridiculous patios,” so the language wasn’t even authentic, and a lot of people didn’t catch it. “It’s kind of like what I might do if I were gonna write a story about a Chinese family, like, I would read a bunch of Amy Tan, but if Amy Tan was screwing with me, I wouldn’t know [laughter]. The point, as writer Grant Morrison tells it, was to “bowdlerize urban argot into Marvel universe-friendly oaths like ‘SWEET CHRISTMAS!’ ‘MOTHER!’ and ‘JIVE TURKEY!’ making comics seeker-friendly (Supergods 157)

Interesting enough, an episode of Marvel and Netflix’s love-chile Jessica Jones has Luke saying this mess after fucking doing-it with the title white heroine. The result was a very awkward scene featuring an interracial couple whose starcrossed love affair by episode 5 was making for some questionable commentary on Jungle Fever, which is beside the point of this paper. But kind of echoes of when Will Smith played Hancock in Columbia Pictures’ Hancock, and the implication was that though at several points in their long, long lives Hancock and Charlize Theron’s “Mary” had been together, they were not meant to be. Being together meant losing their powers and being vulnerable to attacks by an unexplained baddies, which in the film results in near-death for Hancock and Mary. And it might be interesting to note that the onslaught is led by a southern twang-having white dude played by Eddie Marsan whose henchmen are an ebony/ivory duet of jailbirds Hancock turns into a centaur, while in prison, by sticking one’s head up the other’s ass, earlier in the film. VERDICT: wished it was better; could’ve been better; dont buy, just rent.)

But I digress. That character’s like Big Luke have re-entered the fold, and in flesh and bone form – no pun – bespeaks this. That black males are also being considered for roles once reserved for whites also bespeaks this.tumblr_m2fm9qt3aD1r6h499o1_500

Take Hancock. A black superhero film, right? [Buzzer] Actors considered for Hancock prior to Smith were Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and George Clooney. Now, consider Hancock and Mary’s predicament now with any of the three white males just mentioned as Hancock and the movie is just another rote white superhero film; maybe even does better in the box office. Make Hancock black and “Everyone loses their minds,” to quote Heath Ledger’s (RIP) Joker; or at least they should have. They should have lost their minds when a black superhero film is turned into a public relations family comedy for how a black superhero should “superhero”. And don’t get me wrong because Hancock wasn’t all right with his superheroism; I mean, sticking a man’s head up another man’s ass isn’t what a superhero does, maybe. Heroic politics aside, though, peep game because here comes the basic plot.

Hancock is a dejected black superhero (and mind you, out of his element, as we in audience discover towards the end of the film, when his origins are explained to us by White Mary), who we meet posted up on a city bench, hungover, when he’s woke by a white kid who goes “Bad guys!” to him for him to get up and stop a police chase we in the audience learn through a collage of televisions in a store window. Right: Hancock stops the baddies, but his superheroics amount to millions of dollars of damage that unappreciative constituents later lament and commiserate with each other about through the airwaves. Enter Jason Bateman’s “Ray,” a marketing specialist failing at life who figures he can change Hancock, make him “good,” after Hancock saves him from getting hit by a train, which the onlookers bemoan how he (Hancock) could’ve just flown up in the air with Ray’s hoopty instead of derailing the train by getting in its path, doing jack to Hancock. Hancock fields the hate, and proceeds to crack on several hecklers, at which point Ray stands up for Hancock because he can go home to his kid and wife, who is Mary. Even still, Ray got it into his head that Hancock needs smoothing out; the way to do this, to Ray, is through Hancock taking responsibility for his behavior, saying sorry, and turning hisself into the authorities, which is just as ridiculous as when Superman willfully went to prison hisself in Man of Steel and demonstrated that the puny humans didn’t have shit on him when he snapped handcuffs like they were price tags. It’s through prison talk with other inmates that Hancock realizes “what it means” and “takes” to be a superhero: not to take his powers for granted and to be gracious and empathetic towards humans who are already in the business of saving people, or something like that. E.g., “Good job” he says to the police when he arrives at a hostage/bank heist, and they give him the 411 on what’s happening, which is where we meet Eddie Marsan’s character. Mind you, “good job” was a phrase White Ray taught Hancock, as if to suggest White Ray, being White, knows what’s up. He’s the PR guy, right? Hancock succeeds in disarming the bad guys, repeats “Good Job” to the police chief who counters with, “No, you good job,” bringing us halfway through the film. And: not to cheat y’all out the remainder of the film, but – Y’all go watch it!

handcuffs

Now, within a traditional superhero schema this’s fuzzy in the same way “coming to age” narratives are – if we’re working with default whiteness. Hancock as a brother, however, messes things up in the context of racial politics regarding how nonwhites are portrayed in media, and particularly as superheroes. And it’s (super) important to consider context with these things, too. Like, it wouldn’t be fair if I just talked shit about The Cosby Show back there without demonstrating for y’all how at the time of its emergence blacks needed that 9-iron touch. As blacks entered the mainstream, art couldn’t imitate life if all it wasn’t doing was portraying blacks as hapless, indigent, crestfallen boobs who weren’t, or had not been, pulling they-selves up from their bootstraps for the longest. So we get middle class black families all up on the TV; or we get examples of how blacks should be. That “Pound cake” speech sound real, real good now, don’t it?

la-et-st-bill-cosby-pound-cake-speech-20150708

Black superheroics, or “black macho,” hasn’t been without it’s problems in terms of how a brother can be super. (And Bro. Bill is lookin pretty weak these days, am i right?) If we locate, then, this debate in the historical context of when “to this day”-successful black superheroes were founded, and what prompted them, it might could explain, e.g., Hancock’s trajectory as super-thug turned superhero, in the 21st Century.

Like my man Rob Lendrum says, an explanation for the realties of black superheroes is located in the realities of black people; or those blacks who qualified for super heroic representation, such as Black Power men. In Black Power there was an embrace of phallocentricism and an assertion of dominance on the part of black males who were discovering that the fruits of a white patriarchal system were not for them: “The black male, cult off from the economic means of providing for his family, found it frustrating and difficult to establish a patriarchal family unit, which the dominant, normative model” (363) has done Indian-gave. This translated into all sorts of messed up-ness for brothers who couldn’t hold down a 9-to-5, in turn having no chance when it came to black women, who in the context of Black Power were seen as having “gotten out of hand…too strong, too hard, too evil, too castrating,” to quote Daniel Patrick Moynihan (DPM henceforth) – and more on him in a bit – and thus (the black man) turned to a pseudo-statesmanship once they got themselves some say.

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Enter MacArthur Genius/Black Panther writer Ta Nehisi Coates. In his “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration” Coates explores a funky document referred to as The Moynihan Report (TMR hereafter), named after our man DPM. TMR was author DPM’s way of saving the black family who at the time was experiencing a crisis as suggested by Lendrum. Coates: “He [Moynihan] believed that an undue optimism about the pending passage of civil rights legislation was obscuring a pressing problem: the deficit of employed black men of strong character” (“The Black Family”).  Aka, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” TMR was a clarion call for reversal of “the matriarchal structure” that “seriously retards the progress of the group as whole, and imposes a crushing burden on the Negro males and, in consequence, on a great many Negro women as well” (as cited by Coates). Moynihan’s homeboy President Lyndon Johnson then ran with the doc to the public, saying, “For this, most of all, White America must accept responsibility” as family breakdown “flows from centuries of oppression and persecution of the Negro man. It flows from the long years of degradation and discrimination, which have attacked his dignity and assaulted his ability to produce for his family.”

**Which bleeds into an interesting lesson on how terministic screens work (coined by lit theorist Kenneth Burke) which are these interesting compilations of symbols we internalize in order to make sense of the world around us. As Burke tells it in his Language As Symbolic Action:

…a man has a dream. He reports his dream to a Freudian analyst…or to a practitioner of some other school. In each case we might say the same “dream” will be subjected to a different color filter, with corresponding differences in the nature of the event as perceived, recorded, and interpreted. (It is commonplace that patients soon learn to have the kind of dreams best suited to the terms best favored by their analysts.)**

In short, TMR backfired on Moynihan, et al, as it was interpreted as failure on the part of black families: “Instead his document was portrayed as an argument for leaving black family to fend for itself.” Bros. now seen as a problem were going to prison at a crazy rate, which by the late 70s meant that by the age of 30 that 1 in 4 black males would go to prison by their late-30s. “By 2000,” says Coates, “more than 1 million black children had a father in jail or prison…”. Economist Devah Pager: “Prison is no longer a rare or extreme event among our nation’s most marginalized groups…Rather it has now become a normal and anticipated marker in the transition into adulthood” (as cited by Coates).Summarily-speaking, bros. of the 70s were embattled on all kinds of fronts, which bespoke Black Power/Panther politics along with its weird sense of superciliousness in the face of ailing black women who were raising their black children. (Idiots) Mind you, the govt. wasn’t doing the black family no favors, neither, nor were countrymen having it when it came to bearing the burden of looking out for blacks. The media took care of that, of course. And: considering that TMR was around at the time of black consciousness in comics, albeit a disaster, I’d speculate that to indignant black males TMR sounded real, real good; hence: their performance. What’s most interesting about TMR, I feel like, is its comparing blacks to femininity – “The Negro community has been forced into a matriarchal structure” – and even suggesting that black men “of strong character” would be the way to the Promised Land – “The very essence of the male animal, from the bantam rooster to the four-star general, is to strut”; which may or may not explain the physical, gestural, attitudinal, and rhetorical performances, en masse, of black superheroism.

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Back to Lendrum. Not to typify the black body, Lendrum observes the black man’s plight both within and without comics: “the definition of the superhero did not include people of  color [sic]” (365), thus explaining disparities between black and white performances of superheroism. Think “white is right”. For this reason, “The Buck masculinity [used in portrayals of blacks in media] is used to as a method to extend power too the black man over the white man” (366), the Buck referring to what I’ll say Chris Rock considers a “nigger,” or to be “nigger aware”: “When I go to the money machine tonight, alright, I ain’t looking over my back for the media, I’m looking for niggas [laughter].” Citing Donald Bogle, Bucks “are always big, baadddd [sic] niggers, over-sexed and savage, violent and frenzied as they lust for white flesh” (as cited in Lendrum). Basically, the Buck is a walking stereotype of black masculinity – which is how it compensates, or overcompensates, for its position on the social totem pole. Hence: Dr Julian Chambliss’s reading of Luke Cage as having “all these sort of little elements that really kind of speak to a racial [pause] lack of racial understanding, like [unintelligible] actually were stereotypical depictions of black masculinity – a black masculinity that was inherently less masculine in comparison to white masculinity. Then again bell hooks will tell us, “Seen as animals, brutes, natural born rapists, and murders, black men have had no real dramatic say when it comes to how they are represented” (We Real Cool).

Lendrum: “The black heroes may seem more macho than the earlier white heroes, but in an all out brawl, my money is on the white guy. Compared to some of the white superheroes, whose powers make them seem godlike, black heroes are just a bunch of sub-super touch guys,” further problematizing black participation in Big League superheroics. Unlike their white counterparts black superheroes such as big Luke weren’t necessarily all that awesome in the Powers Department. “Many of the black superheroes of the 1970s posses ‘super-savage’ abilities, or hyperbolized physical powers of the uncontrollable body of the Buck.” Whereas compared to, say, Batman or Ironman, whose alter egos command billions, if not trillions, of dollars, plus being top-of-food-chain smart, black superheroes have always just been kind of nice to look at; or emblematic of a kind of bravado only a brother could pull off; which if culturally/circumstantially influenced does make sense. For as Doc Nama points out about Luke Cage, relating him to an “anti prison movement coming about in the early 1970s,” it echoes of the issues Moynihan brought up re the black family, and the issues Coates brings up re TMR. See Doc Nama: “So this [Luke’s] origin narrative is layered with issues of race, is layered with issues of political and social reform, and when we talk about the prison industrial complex, is layered with his birth. …Now that to me is pretty potent.” All of which, intentional or not, point to the criteria for a black superhero; or at least in the case of Cage.

Careful not to generalize, though, because there’re enough black superheroes who are not as “groid” as Brother Luke. If we’re talking about black men of “strong character” and R E S P E C T, then we’re talking about Sam Wilson, John Henry Irons, John Stewart, and James Rhodes. Unlike their Brother in Arms Luke Cage, the shortlist its comprised of “good” blacks who were, like, the (black) firefighters, doctors, and police of the Marvel Universe. You wanted to be like them. Even still, their being subsumed under black specific fictional realties calls, or did call, into question the politics of black superheroism. A theory: this has something to do with the current trend in comics to turn historically white, classically handsome white male superheroes and make them anything but: the mythos of these once-white characters make for a less black narrative arc that doesn’t call into question politics of black superheroism. In a way black protagonists are inoculated from race-specific stereotypes that might undermine the character, or invoke a weird sense of cultural relevancy that a given out of touch white man would have no problems pulling off. Rather than being their own worst enemies, have them assume the roles of their white counterparts. Remember Hancock? Hancock was supposed to be white, which in this author’s opinion would’ve made for a less interesting film. Black Hancock is rich with social and racial commentary concerning how not only a superhero should be but particularly a black superhero, as a lot of the criteria established for black man superheorics is invoked. Hancock was all Buck; he’s also not all that “super” in that he’s really strong, can fly, but doesn’t exhibit any of the “super” qualities peculiar to superheroes. Not to mention being impoverished: Hancock lives in a trailer in west bumble fuck, where he takes Mary to have her explain to him who he is. A fight between them unfolds echoing Lendrum other point about the black Buck’s bad luck with women.

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E02HandcockB – For Wire story on Hancock – Will Smith stars in Columbia Pictures’ action comedy HANCOCK. Photo credit Frank Masi/Columbia Pictures. Maximum width 45 picas at 200 dpi. 6/30/08

 

What else? He (Hancock) be drinking. A lot. Before the black leather suit (and why a black leather suit? seeing as how Hancock is not canon and not hidebound by a origin that depicts him as wearing a black costume as something overtly and, perhaps, obviously celebrating blackness au natural) signaling his transformation, Hancock was a bummed out antihero who naturally the writers needed to make likable, which is kind of reminiscent of early Spider-Man whose motivation for using his powers wasn’t the customary default sense of “collective good,” but making money, i.e., hustling. Looking out for Numero Uno. Otherwise: Hancock wore thick black UV-ray protecting goggle-glasses, a beanie, shorts, Air Jordans, T-shirt and hoody; not that he was all that much above early Luke Cage, who’s classically depicted in a too-tight yellow tee and “wore a length of a chain around his waist to remind us of history’s cruelties” (Morrison), but he wasn’t necessarily dressed for the job. But check it, because Jessica Jones’ Luke got an upgraded wardrobe, as did our man Hancock in order for him to be taken seriously as a superhero, finally. All which to this author stands out as some White Magic to continue appropriating black bodies for the purpose of peddling white fiction couched in traditional acts in the service of the collective good.

…So let me render this verdict right quick. VERDICT White folks needed a way to make money and appease the social aware-ists out here sort of sucking all the fun out of comic books; for this they recruited blacks, et al to assume the mantles of their tried and trusted white paragons and shit. And: to be careful not to invoke the problematics surrounding ethnic representation in the past, e.g., big black brutes, they stuck the brother into another and called it diversity. How else could Spider-Man be black, anyway? how else could Spider-Man be black and young at time when this country could give a fuck what less about young brother getting kilt by police?EofESPq


I Prolly Shouldn’t Of Wrote This Like This, But Peep Game Because I Got Your Supahero, Son

Because I’m basically a crazy high-pitched screaming fanboy of everything black, right? How can I not love Black English? But hold up now. Don’t let the title make y’all think this sum old 1-sided mess, neither; yours truly be versatile when it come to his. What I’m saying is that I’d be a bold face lie if I said Vonnegut and his ilk weren’t all my home boyz; been my home boyz. (…)

So you see, it not that I don’t mess widdit, it just be that I’m complex when it come to mine. Proclivities and predilections aside, though. Give it up one time for the Pushers of Diversity out here making it happen so that we “black” people finally getting ours now, in comics. Whodathunk Sam Wilson get his as Cap; that Thor’s girl Jane Foster would get to wield the Hammer; or even that we’d see when a teenage Muslim girl could carry the Ms Marvel mythos; and yo, there’s an Asian Hulk out here busting up suckers in the streets! Diversity done run amok and retired a legion, almost, of white fellers from their duties as Men in Tights. And it got this author in particular all agog on some screaming high pitched avid fanboy stuff, too.

Even still there’re haters hating and who gone say how we don’t need diversity, and how “the genre doesn’t need to apologize for itself, no matter how quintessentially American it is,” which to me and my black thought be doublespeak for how American ideals exemplified in comics is okay so long as the “American Dream is accessible to all.” But see, the American Dream isn’t necessarily accessible to all; or at least not to those who don’t subscribe to a model of respectability that holds certain groups of people to certain standard deemed or believed to be inherent and intrinsic to the monochromatic archetype, being: white people. Think respectability politics.

These hating behind people see it as “pandering” in order to reach the widest possible audience out here, which historically has meant white men mediating the “Black” experience in a way that elevates (the traditionally marginalized subject) and upholds a status quo making that already makes it hard for the very people the now-celebrated paragon is representing to just be themselves and live their lives. For these same people it very well might be hard for them to appreciate fake friends whose seemingly universal identities, albeit mostly white, straight, classically handsome, are being channelled into nuanced living experiences that for one reason or another, don’t feel the same anymore. Which is just bugged out to this author; wasn’t it just the case, anyway, for the portrayals of Egyptians in Hollywood to be handled by a majority white cast? Wasn’t it okay for Lois Lane to go black (Oh yeah!) at one point? Haven’t white men always been behind the wheel in creating fictional woman? Enough.

What I’m saying is that if said super-folk supposedly universal from Jump, then there’s nothing about who they are that makes them sweepingly and unilaterally white, and especially in the case of heroes who’re not even from this planet – and I’m talking about you, Superman!

But check it, because we can on and on about skin grafts and sex changes and shifts in sexual orientation for forever and a day. What I want to talk about right quick, really, is how – or rather what – about these changes make any of these characters 100%? Like, a female Thor is a female Thor insofar as much as she’s a visible woman with long golden flowing hair and an attraction for men, or just one man, that suggest heteronormativity we can point to and say, “Now there’s a woman”?  I mean, superficial markers are good and all, but if the point – in this author’s opinion – if the point is to empower and validate the lived experiences of historically ostracized/disenfrnachaised/marginalized/stigmatized groups of people, then don’t it make sense to imbue the fictional Graduates of The School of Hard Knock counterparts with the same characteristics that their real-life constituents locate in themselves; or at least are reminded of when they’re told one thing or another about the way they talk, walk, what they do or they don’t take an interest in, etc?

If the point is empowerment and diversity and a showcasing of the viability of all these walks and talks of life, then why not go all the way with the diversity and not let it stop at the epidermis?

I have some theories. And when it come to the new teenage, biracial Spider-Man, Miles Morales, I just can’t stop critiquing this fool. Let me get a witness, then, when I say that Miles just a “Parker Brother” in that he not all that different from the Peter Parker predecessor he done succeeded in web slinging, save for being visibly black and having “Morales” for a surname. He’s Peter in blackface is what I mean, in that nothing else about him make him unlike Peter. How could that happen, unless the schema of superheroism complicates diversity in such a way that the same criteria we unleash in real society to determine whether something is “good” or not, is being employed in developing less white guys. Unless: diversity is good insofar as much as standard ideologies remain intact in conducting the crossover.

Assuming that the universality located in superheroes is an American Dream engine wherein the incumbents “act in the service of the collective good,” then what good is it to cherry pick reps from real life deemed acceptable and respectable when it comes to acting in the service of the collective good”? So when it comes to Miles, I argue that he hisself a good case for flouting what I call the “white is right” model towards superheroism that limits so-called diversity to superficial markers, such as sex and skin color, and even sexual orientation. By that I basically mean talking and acting black. And: knowing how problematic that is, I locate my beef in the discursive site of writing and reading instruction that favors Standard English Ideology that say there’s only way that is the right way to write and speak.

Miles as Spider Man, as arguably one of the most recognizable figures on the planet, bears a burden to be successful; isn’t just the case that, when given the opportunity, “black” people just have to be successful? Rather than uphold what denotes success, however, why not incorporate less standard, historically stigmatized features to his spec sheet (…)


I Prolly Shouldn’t Of Wrote This Like This, But Peep Game Bcuz I Got Your Superhero, Pt 2

**Y’all don’t mind me, aight? Just came to share some things re my ch.**

Abstract-y premise: A case against the “white is right” model in depicting Miles Morales as an nonwhite superhero, and a case for less white approach. Rather than strip Miles of the historically stigmatized characteristics that would perhaps make him a “hoodlum”, validate those characteristics by imbuing, easily, one of the most – if not the most – recognizable characters in the country, if not world, with them. I contend that these “less desirable” markers are not problematic if they are informed by relative social and cultural realities that make them so. Otherwise: nothing about said less desirable qualities should should make the character less heroic, or even less respectable. (It will likely be the case, though, but then the readers have to change, with their racist-selves.)

This also isn’t to say that Miles isn’t black or biracial enough – I mean, who can really say? It’s not clear what that really means. From a push-for-diversity standpoint, however, the force is strong in Miles for mainstreaming non-mainstream realities when it comes to gestural, cultural, behavioral, and/or even linguistic performances.

Sections (working list)

black superhero theory/history?

gender/-ed language (think: black hyper masculinity, black manhood, “acting gay”)

culture (namely, hip hop)

race traitors/doublestandards

code meshing (which will be interwoven throughout)

“Make Another Hov Miles”

 

 


Interpolative Demonstration of How Microaggessions Work, And How We’re All Susceptible to Them, And How Microaggressions Undermine Respectability Politics, And How It All Basically Does Jack For POC

Since our new director the Writing Center’s gotten very PC. Not to say that we were cavemen or anything before her, or that we just went around refusing service to people on grounds of [insert your historically stigmatized characteristic here], or at least I don’t think so.

What I mean is that we’ve actually communicated that it is now our goal goal to meet every incoming student we’re they’re at, wherever that might be, so to better meet their needs. We do this through these training workshops held at the top of every semester, whereby we half-close the center to train staff on the policies of the center; what to do when working with, say, an irate student; how to handle difference, be it cultural, ideological, et al; and/or how to use technology. (“Half-close” because it’s not as if student-clients can’t walk in and schedule appts for the upcoming days, week, weeks, months ahead. Sometimes people just want to pay a visit to their favorite tutor or inquire about employment, or need a finger pointed in the direction of where they can print documents, which we do not support – and that goes for being a lounge place where one can just chill on the computer for a little bit whilst listening to music until their class or they’re just ready to be ambulatory again – but I digress.) (Just know that we get all manner of cats coming to the “wrong” place.)

Now, it’s not necessarily mandatory that everyone attend training – lives and everything – I myself do however wish that more folks would come to our training on diversity and microaggressions. And this’s coming from someone whose not even all that sold on the issue. What I mean is that I don’t always see “microaggressions” as as derogatory as they’re automatically presumed to be. (As a question: What constitutes the validity of a microaggression claim as something actionable?) Our sensitivity to them now is irksome, like a new new sense; how they’re framed in terms of protecting POC makes me feel as though I’m unaddressable, i.e., Say the wrong thing and that’s yo ass, man! And: I want to say I’m pretty cool when it comes to x, y, z – most times – and I don’t need all the bubble wrap like that, in all honesty. Making my kind-of non-stance on microaggressions a difficult one for me to have to locate myself in, because: you would think, right?

Here I am, though. And even so, I just wish it were more of a priority for some people so as to better engage difference, if even to just understand the realities of certain people, even if nothing in them says, “Yeah, that’s worth it to give a what about,” at least they can’t say they didn’t know.

At any rate, microaggressions are defined as very very subtle jabs or insults “outside of the level of conscious awareness of the perpetrator” against a person on the grounds of their, perhaps, superficial identity/group membership; think of it as anything that downwardly constitutes who a person is based on preconceived notions of the group they represent. Think of it as latent racism. L I T E racism. Racism 2.0. An example would be someone paying me a compliment re how articulate I am (if one should think that!) as if to say that in their experience people who look like me do not sound as good (as if!) as me.

That’s considered a microaggression. Another would be asking an Asian-American where they come from as if they’re not American, or even complimenting them on their English as if it’s not their primary language. These are all micro aggressions just so you know, and typically they follow a one-way constitution model in that historically marginalized ppl. can lay claim to such mistreatment. And while seemingly harmless, Derald Wing Sue, who the expert on them, he say that microaggression can cause severe psychological damage. So: going back to the whole “sounding white” v “sound black”, what Wing Sue says is that enough encounters with this can threaten a person’s sense of who they are in relation to the world around them. E.g., if the popular idea is that people who look like me talk a certain way, then am I being traitor to people who look like me, because I just thought this is how some people talk. Now, whether or not that actually bothers me is beside the point, apparently, because the fact is that people’re miffed at people who commit microaggressions. But I have theory – or rather new way at looking at so-called microaggressions – because can a micro aggression be a microaggression sans taking into account the context wherein microaggression is happening?

Setting aside personal views of MLK, is it a microaggression if mid-March on Washington a white guy says to MLK that it’s good that as a black person he adopts respectability politics (i.e., talk good, look good, smell good, etc.) if such politics qualify him to speak on behalf of people who look like him in order to improve their situation? Considering the context and the so-called microaggression comes of as more of a compliment than a presumption of incompetence on the part of black people. It’s less “Good for you for being better than” and more “You are necessary right now”.

The last time I was “complimented” on my “performance” was by this one white professor of a class I’d been invited into to give an hour-long sermon on Chicago-style paper-writing. Trayvon Martin’s murderer had long since been vindicated, and protests against the unwarranted killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner were making their rounds. Now, in the moment following the so-called microaggression I wasn’t thinking so much about how this white man had just “micro-aggressed” me as much as I was thinking about how damn good is was to be alive, and that maybe said white professor was happy to see me, too, that I was able to present in his class, with my black-self.

Which isn’t to say that all scenarios are as tricky or idyllic as the aforementioned; in some cases the intent is to rankle. I mean, ignorant people abound and no amount of “politicking” ever inoculated yrs. truly or another variant of minority from, say, a blatant “Fuck you, nigger, but we don’t want no homie shit tonight.” What exactly is the point of being held to an unfair standard of whiteness – oh, I mean rightness – that in theory is supposed to protect me from prejudice, et al, when I can be blown away simply because I look wrong or say the wrong thing; or even if I defend myself, be it physical or rhetorical? Think of Trayvon. Think of Sandra Bland. That this can and does go down problematizes POR (politics of respectability) in such a way that I don’t know if pro-POR POC are just fucking delusional or if the intent is to reinforce a “White is Right” standard by recruiting a “rainbow” clique representative of the very populace in need to straightening out.

Mind you, I’m not necessarily the one this expression is for and/or about, unless I am and I don’t see it yet. I’m still not all that sold on microaggressions, unless that microaggression is the extreme case, obviously; in which case, call me. But: through an anti-respectability lens, like the one I’ve hopefully made clear here – no pun – microaggressions highlight the problematics in adhering to prescriptions and proscriptions for how a given minority person should live their life if they’re to stand a chance at getting ahead.

Admittedly, I didn’t take kindly to all the training seshes (read: sessions) at first, and I’d be a boldface lie if I didn’t say that I feel more…responsible? and just more aware of the Wall O’ Buttons people would like not to be pushed when interacting with them. Can I just say, too, that I think we all do a good just in providing the kind(s) of nuanced and in depth instruction some students need and will not get in a classroom whether that reason is logistical or otherwise; and it is because of our near-surgical approach to instruction I think we are an asset to such a diverse body of student who or may not necessarily identify with their professors, classmates, or even the campus community at large; and as writers.

Even so, we’re not all-the-way there yet. And in our defense, it’s become increasingly (strangely?) normal (popular?) to lay claim to an identity and use it as a borderline Joker-card against policy. Which isn’t necessarily all wrong. I just sometimes wish that people would pick better battles, or that people wouldn’t try to render me a conspiracy theory for everything that goes on (or wrong) and didn’t benefit them, or something or another. “Everything isn’t because you’re black,” I want to tell some people. Or: “Everything isn’t because of aliens,” some others. But then folks probably say the same about me: “Everything isn’t about race, André.” And: I know. But then again, I am me.

What I mean is that, I don’t know, if my life were The Truman Show and you were all in on my life from birth to now, you’d know what my experiences have been when it comes to race, and how some people can just be so oblivious to it, or might even use it against some people, and how that’s pretty much what the fuck my life has been like. I always prime my black experience with a story of my father’s, from when he was a youngin: Dad and Uncle R__ are walking to the store when they see two white men buck-50 a black woman across the throat in broad day. Mind you this’s Boston circa the 60s, yet Dad’s made it, like, his boogeyman story to me when I was a kid.


I Prolly Shouldn’t Of Wrote This Like This, But Peep Game Bcuz I Got Your Superhero, Son

For the 2nd Act of my thesis (because now I’m thinking I’ll ditch what I’d started) I will make my case against respectability politics (see part 1 of thesis) and for language democracy by locating my “War on Standardization” in the Push for Diversity Movement ongoing in comics and related media.

I contend for the full on implementations of distinct cultural makers as they pertain to the representations of historically marginalized groups of people beyond superficiality – that is, for example, not stopping/going beyond the epidermis.

Now, my subject is Miles Morales, the new teenage biracial Spider-Man. As an ethnic Other it is not snuff that the character’s legitimacy as “diverse” stops at his skin color and presumably ethnic name; Morales should bear more trappings of diversity inclusion than he currently has. I’m also aware that I am bordering on stereotyping and tokenism, which is typically frowned upon when it comes to POC. Albeit tricky, I’ll make the case for culture and upward v. downward constitution on the grounds of behavioral, gestural and linguistic performance. What I mean is that Morales is a good case against the status quo when it comes to minority representation and perhaps should maintain (or validate) those historically stigmatized qualities traditionally located in young brown-faced youth like him. Think hip hop generation, and even blaxploitation era: while Dolomite and other like figures might be or have been problematic there is truth and authenticity in their performances, but if handled correctly; that is, by the right people.

This isn’t to say that only POC or any sexual, gender, racial minority has the chops to adequately treat a nonstandard character; think about how late-Dwayne McDuffie killed it when he handled the Justice League. Rather: I make salient how exteriority problematizes nonmembers’ involvement in telling stories centered on a minority, and how it is understandable that the schematics of the minority stand in are altered in order to be better fit the (mythos) of the historically white character. Key texts include and are not ltd. to: Grant Morrison’s Supergods; Engaging Cultural Differences; and everything immediately featured, and not, here.

As for Cs: I’ve commissioned Matt’s girl and artist Gen Rod, who’s agreed to provide illustrative support: several panels sort of telling the story of how diversity in comics should not stop at skin color or sex change, and should go further, i.e., do more, in validating and legitimizing historically stigmatized facets of people. Keeping in mind laments against stereotypes, I’m coming from the locus of culture; e.g., hip hop. There’s also a historical component, such as the fact that African slaves came to US against their volition and were unable to communicate with each, and so had to create a pidgin dialect in order to communicate with one another. This pidgin dialect has been and still continues to be “de-creolized” thanks to integration, and blacks’ personal interests in participating in the Mainstream.

**Keep in mind that ideologies differ, even within the black community; and I want to say that I am part of a faction of pushers for diversity in the black community, and I just so happen to be subthrity/forty. Generational differences aside, though, I don’t think we can’t continue to shortchange (O)thers because of some long-held revolutionary tradition that complies with respectability politics, and ostracizes and stigmatizes those who don’t and might not want to get down with Whitey. Here’s to blackness.**