ENROLLING IN A NEW INSTITUTION: The Solution to Racism in Fandom
I read a brilliant – and heart-wrenching article today in which cosplayer, Chaka Cumberbatch demanded better representation for Black women characters in popular geek media, because frankly, the lack of a Black presence in fandom has her fatigued.
“I’m tired of not seeing faces like mine in my comics. I’m sick of the notion that a black female character is a rare treat, a special occasion.”
“I’m getting really tired of just accepting whatever scraps are thrown our way.”
“I’m tired of not seeing faces like mine in my comics.”
“…faces like mine in my comics.” That was the beginning of my heartbreak for this brilliant sister truly believes those comics are hers.
They should feature more Black women – and men, for that matter – as superheroes because Black women are, well…extraordinary; but they don’t.
Because mainstream geekdom is not concerned with us. A Black hero is “different”; is “risky”; and no form of media in the mainstream is in the business of taking risks.
Now, watch someone pull Storm, Luke Cage, the Black Panther or Aqualad out of the bag and shout “We have given you these cool superheroes and yet, you still complain.”
Those characters were not written with us in mind.
As renowned veteran comic book creator, author and screenwriter Geoffrey Thorne says: “There can be no Black consciousness in comics unless there are Black creators in comics.”
Consciousness is the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself and we are acutely more aware of self than of anything external.
So, to put it bluntly, we are not part of the consciousness of the creators of fandom, who are mainly white men…white men are.
We are the only people who believe that if we write about a Black hero or shero, they must have a white sidekick or mentor in order for the book to be accepted. We are the only people who cry “I live in a multicultural world, so I write what I see.” White people live in that same world. If they decide to write a multicultural tale, the hero is, more often than not, a white man. If they are “really hip”, they might have a white woman as the protagonist, but a person of color as the protagonist is a rarity, indeed.
And we should not complain about that. People can write what they want to.
We should not demand more representation from the mainstream. The mainstream does not care about the Black demographic at best and is a racist institution at worst.
The institution of geek fandom is old and has been allowed to keep running with our support and our hope for a brighter and better day for women and people of color. However, this institutional racism within fandom will continue as a pattern of racial exclusion simply by virtue of folks doing things the way they have always been done.
Recently, Worldcon – the biggest convention in fandom – planned to screen the spectacularly racist film, Song of the South.
When called out on this madness, Worldcon fans – mostly white men, of course, were swift to defend their beloved con. One fan summed up the sentiment of fans nicely: “Going to cons–and Worldcon moreso–is a luxury activity. The truth is that most POC don’t have the disposable income [to attend fan conventions]. They’re a noticeable minority at airports, on cruises, and other luxury activities”.
I wonder if he received a free guest pass.
Geoffrey Thorne broke it down for us like this: “Marvel says they can’t make a Black Panther film because it’s too far fetched to present Wakanda as a real place while at the same time dropping both the new Thor film and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. Wakanda is more farfetched than Asgard?”
See? We need to transfer out of the racist institution called mainstream geek media and enroll in a new institution; an institution of our creation.
An institution in which Samuel Delaney is President; Octavia Butler and Charles R. Saunders are the Deans; Walter Mosley, Nisi Shawl, Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due are Department Heads; and Milton Davis, Nnedi Okorafor, Geoffrey Thorne, Valjeanne Jeffers and Balogun Ojetade are Professors; an institution in which veteran, up-and-coming and aspiring creators and fans of Black Speculative Fiction, Film and Art walk its hallowed halls.
My dear sister, Chaka – and every other sister out there who feels marginalized and underrepresented, check out works by the aforementioned creators and you will have plenty powerful, beautiful and extraordinary Black sheroes to cosplay – from a Steamfunk Harriet Tubman to a spear-wielding demon-hunter whose sisters are a pair of lionesses and more.
HAPPY BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH!
Keep this conversation going and join artist and Curator of OnyxCon, Joseph Wheeler III; comic book store owner, collector and publisher, Tony Cade; comic book author, collector and critic, Hannibal Tabu; and renowned comic book and animation creator and illustrator, Dawud Anyabwile, for Aint No Such Thing As Superman, a discussion on the influence of the conscious community on Black comic books and graphic novels and the impact of Black comic books and graphic novels on the conscious community.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm