Comics and race: Can’t we all just get along?

A plea for peaceful coexistence
A plea for peace beyond boundaries

I was going to blog later about the recent controversies over race and comic books, but I’ll weigh in here while the news is still relatively fresh. Warner Bros./DC Comics announced that Laurence Fishbourne has been cast as Daily Planet editor Perry White, and Disney/Marvel revealed that after Peter Parker was killed in Ultimate Spider-Man (in one alternate continuity), the new Spidey is Miles Morales, an African-American/Hispanic youth.

I can understand that many fans will have negative reactions to any changes to well-known characters, from Samuel L. Jackson playing Col. Nick Fury to Jaime Reyes becoming the Blue Beetle. However, I’m distressed by the amount of invective spewed by ignorant people who see such changes as tantamount to destruction of the American way.

I don’t want to return to the “good old days” of the 1950s, when Caucasian males called the shots for much of the world, Jim Crow was still part of the U.S. legal system, and miscegenation (marriage of people of different ethnic backgrounds, of which I’m a product) was still frowned upon at best.

Yes, every ethnic and religious group has been guilty of crimes against humanity, but for the past few centuries, Europeans have shared their culture — and their hang-ups and wars — with the world. I’m not saying that anyone else would be better, but I do think the majority (if only 50%, if one combines people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent) should be mindful of the socioeconomic hurdles that minorities have faced and often still face. Is casting white actors as people of color more offensive than trying for more diverse depictions in fiction?

English settlers discriminated against Irish immigrants, the Irish against Italians, and they all sometimes banded against former slaves. Now, gay marriage is used as a wedge issue while potential federal default, wars overseas, and other more pressing issues are debated without the benefit of a well-informed public or reason and courtesy.

Women still earn less money than men on average for equivalent positions, even after factoring in delays because of childbearing. Comic book fans should be sensitive to Superman‘s “never-ending fight for truth, justice, and the American way.”

I hope that sanity and comity prevail, and several of the articles I’ve linked to above demonstrate patience and tolerance, even as they report about disheartening bigotry that persists among what I hope is only a loudmouthed few. My favorite superheroes, including Superman, Captain America, Batman, and Wonder Woman, have all been depicted with blue eyes, but real-world heroes come in all colors, faiths, and shapes.

Coming soon: More Comic-Con roundups, Cowboys & Aliens, and travel!