Let’s play the buzzword game: Marvel lines up racist, classist, anti-Semitic writer for Captain America after handing him first Black Panther, then Black Panther and the Crew.
Eight-thousand, two-hundred and fifty-four words. Fifteen pages, single spaced, twelve-point font. Every word of it completely, utterly, mind-numbingly delusional. That is what Marvel writer Ta-Nehisi Coates vomited onto The Atlantic from the pages of his book, We Were Eight Years In Power.
It’s something to read if you’re particularly masochistic, or if you’re looking to measure the precise amount of garbage that can be pumped into a human brain before it starts leaking out inconveniently, or if you’re like me and you want to share a small taste of the psychopathic hackery running rampant in Marvel comics without inflicting the full horror on your audiences.
You should probably buckle up anyway.
Early in his essay, Coates shares his love of America and respect for all ethnicities:
“With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds.”
Huh. Put that way it almost sounds like he’s trying to argue being born white is an original sin, doesn’t it?
Oh look, he mentions Steve Bannon:
“Trump’s rise was shepherded by Steve Bannon, a man who mocks his white male critics as “cucks.” The word, derived from cuckold, is specifically meant to debase by fear and fantasy—the target is so weak that he would submit to the humiliation of having his white wife lie with black men.”
This, friends, is where being a comic nerd earns you bonus points. We of course know there is no racial overtone to being a cuck. White, black, Asian, Native American, Latino, it’s the cuckoldry in your heart that matters and we recognize all cucks with equal discrimination. But there’s a reason Coates thinks this is a racial issue.
He needs to have a long, serious heart-to-heart with fellow Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis. More specifically, they need to have a conversation about Jessica Jones, Scott Lang, and Luke Cage. Because if you want to see a celebrated cuck, you need look no further than the Alias trades.
“The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes,” charged the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, “is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we’re seeing now.”
That black people, who have lived for centuries under such derision and condescension, have not yet been driven into the arms of Trump does not trouble these theoreticians. After all, in this analysis, Trump’s racism and the racism of his supporters are incidental to his rise. Indeed, the alleged glee with which liberals call out Trump’s bigotry is assigned even more power than the bigotry itself. Ostensibly assaulted by campus protests, battered by arguments about intersectionality, and oppressed by new bathroom rights, a blameless white working class did the only thing any reasonable polity might: elect an orcish reality-television star who insists on taking his intelligence briefings in picture-book form.”
…You know, it sounds a lot like he hates the white working class and thinks any abuse the working class deals with is deserved.
Coates can’t stop himself:
“This transfiguration is not novel. It is a return to form. The tightly intertwined stories of the white working class and black Americans go back to the prehistory of the United States—and the use of one as a cudgel to silence the claims of the other goes back nearly as far. Like the black working class, the white working class originated in bondage—the former in the lifelong bondage of slavery, the latter in the temporary bondage of indenture. In the early 17th century, these two classes were remarkably, though not totally, free of racist enmity. But by the 18th century, the country’s master class had begun etching race into law while phasing out indentured servitude in favor of a more enduring labor solution. From these and other changes of law and economy, a bargain emerged: The descendants of indenture would enjoy the full benefits of whiteness, the most definitional benefit being that they would never sink to the level of the slave. But if the bargain protected white workers from slavery, it did not protect them from near-slave wages or backbreaking labor to attain them, and always there lurked a fear of having their benefits revoked. This early white working class “expressed soaring desires to be rid of the age-old inequalities of Europe and of any hint of slavery,” according to David R. Roediger, a professor of American studies at the University of Kansas. “They also expressed the rather more pedestrian goal of simply not being mistaken for slaves, or ‘negers’ or ‘negurs.’
So the argument is that the working class white people who voted for Trump and didn’t like Obama only felt that way because they are obsessed with racial politics from hundreds of years ago, with nothing to do with policies? That sounds an awful lot like judging people by the color of their skin and not the content of their character, Mr. Coates. Not to mention projecting.
He just keeps going on:
“Indeed, the panic of white slavery lives on in our politics today. Black workers suffer because it was and is our lot. But when white workers suffer, something in nature has gone awry. And so an opioid epidemic among mostly white people is greeted with calls for compassion and treatment, as all epidemics should be, while a crack epidemic among mostly black people is greeted with scorn and mandatory minimums. Sympathetic op‑ed columns and articles are devoted to the plight of working-class whites when their life expectancy plummets to levels that, for blacks, society has simply accepted as normal. White slavery is sin. N*gger slavery is natural. This dynamic serves a very real purpose: the consistent awarding of grievance and moral high ground to that class of workers which, by the bonds of whiteness, stands closest to America’s aristocratic class.”
“These claims of origin and fidelity are not merely elite defenses of an aggrieved class but also a sweeping dismissal of the concerns of those who don’t share kinship with white men. “You can’t eat equality,” asserts Joe Biden—a statement worthy of someone unthreatened by the loss of wages brought on by an unwanted pregnancy, a background-check box at the bottom of a job application, or the deportation of a breadwinner. Within a week of Sanders lambasting Democrats for not speaking to “the people” where he “came from,” he was making an example of a woman who dreamed of representing the people where she came from. Confronted with a young woman who hoped to become the second Latina senator in American history, Sanders responded with a parody of the Clinton campaign: “It is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’ No, that’s not good enough … One of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics.” The upshot—attacking one specimen of identity politics after having invoked another—was unfortunate.”
So you see, meritocracy is a huge problem for Mr. Coates. You can’t simply identify with people who aren’t the same race as you, that would be preposterous! And discussing more than one drug issue? Condemning black on black crime or discussing the plight inflicted on black communities by welfare? No, better to mock starving white families for struggling to make ends meet. You can’t ever, ever acknowledge multiple demographics have problems without placing them on an oppression hierarchy.
But wait Staff Writer, we can see the anti-white racism and the classism here but you said anti-Semitism too. How the hell does that fit in?
That’s not in this essay but something Marvel actually published. Issue #3 of Black Panther and the Crew, which featured four black people (some African monarchs, some ordinary Americans) and an “honorary black” Aboriginal Australian. All bound together by the amount of melanin in their skin.
And hating Jewish people.
The organization Hydra in Marvel comics is explicitly linked to WWII Nazism. Hydra’s nefarious, positively diabolical scheme for Black Panther and company?
Move all of the Jews into Harlem. Make sure the audience knows they’re Jews by making their noses extra big. Add some conspicuous lighting so no one could miss it then follow up with the line, “And Empire is a plague—insidious and relentless.” If anyone might have been confused, all they have to do is remember Hitler frequently compared Jews to viruses, a source of disease for Germany, and a “parasite on the body of the people.”
According to Mr. Coates, it would seem the evilest thing Nazis could do would be inflict Jews on black people by helping them find affordable housing. Wouldn’t want anyone thinking integration is a good thing, right?
For fellow masochists who want to see the train wreck for themselves, it’s worth checking Diversity & Comics’ reading of the issue.
Marvel so reveres Ta-Nehisi Coates’ morality, patriotism, and talent (the very talent that got Black Panther and the Crew slated for cancellation two issues in) that he’ll be trusted to revive Captain America after the unpopularity of Cap’s last storyline. Clearly it’s the perfect way for Marvel to redeem themselves after making Steve Rogers a Nazi in Nazi America that had nothing to do with ranting about the last election.
One should hesitate to call the corruption at Marvel deep only because deep doesn’t encompass the extent of their problem. Swimming pools are deep. Marvel is the Marianas Trench. And if Disney wants to actually make a profit off of comic books they have some swamp cleaning of their own to do.
Featured Image Via David Shankbone