If you know anything about me, you know that I’m a big fan of superhero shows and movies. Recently I’ve spent a lot of time watching the Arrowverse shows Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The last of which has been my favorite because the writing is the best and because Bae, but recently SPOILERS they got rid of Bae. Since I’m almost certain they’re getting rid of the only other Black main character (Amaya) at the end of this season for plot reasons and they are currently the most developed and best written Black characters in the whole ‘verse (J’onn and Guardian are kinda just there, Curtis is kinda useless, Wally IS useless, Kendra was terribly written, Dig and Iris are getting better but still struggling, Joe and Cecille are kinda just damsels in distress, and who knows if we'll ever see Mari again), this is an issue. Now, I know what most of you will probably say. "But Marcus, look at all those Black characters you just named! And Black Lightning is coming too? Why can't you just be happy? You're getting that representation you beg for!" And to that I say, "You really don't get it, do you?"
There's a reason why I stopped using the word "diversity" for including characters of difference (meaning people of color, queer people, women, disabled people, and all intersections thereof). Because when you talk about diversity, people just get caught up in making this a numbers game. "Oh, if you drop a few Black faces, or a few women, maybe a Black lesbian for good measure, we'll be good!" No honey that's not how this works: you gotta put some thought behind these faces. Believe it or not, marginalized communities want representation AND for it to be good! I know, astounding! You cannot just throw any old Black people on the screen and expect us to be happpy with any old thing they put out. Take for example Black Lightning. Now yes, it features a black ass family all with superpowers headed by black ass Mara and Salim Akil (The Akils are known for having produced, written, and directed a lot of black shows like Girlfriends, The Jamie Foxx Show, Moesha, and Being Mary Jane). But even that's not enough. We have to look at what these shows an their new show is SAYING, not just how it looks. On one of the Comic-Con panels that introduced the show a number of people on the show talked about the show “transcending race”, addressing violence in Chicago, connecting Blackness with American-ness, and the duty to bring diversity to the superhero world. They even said that its important for Black heroes to focus on the community and not as much saving the world. Which is probably why the show won’t be a part of the larger Arrowverse, at least at first. Now while some of the stuff they bring up is necessary (I especially liked Mara’s point about showing WHY Black people do stuff and not painting us like we’re inherently bad) I can’t help but raise an eyebrow at their focuses with this show. As much as I love the Akils work thus far, and as much as people will tell me that I should like their show because everybody’s Black I can’t do it. That aint enough for me.
Just because you're Black doesn't mean you are doing or even know what is best for Black people. Why can Black Lightning only focus on his community? Is the Black community so broken that it would take all of a superhero's attention to fix (you better not say yes. We aren't the ones shooting up churches, movie theaters, and elementary schools). "Transcending race" is a nice sentiment, but it is not possible. This is always gonna be a show full of Black faces just as much as the others are gonna be full of white ones. But let me not harp on Mara and Salim, not when the whole of the media has the same problem. The Arrowverse in general has people of color, women, queer people, and all intersections thereof working, but that doesn’t stop them from taking four seasons to figure out what to do with Iris West-Allen, or from writing off gay relationships, or doing whatever the hell they’re doing with Wally (seriously; the guy was at his sister’s wedding and the subsequent crisis for thirty seconds and missed Christmas to run around Cambodia?). Even indie creators aren't exempt: across the board we have to stop accepting any old thing just because it comes to us from a Black person, or a gay person, or a woman, or whatever. Look beyond the identity and ask about the ideology too.
If I can make a leap here, I’d say that not accepting people’s opinions, ideas, and productions matters even outside of the media world. Like, I don’t know, in politics (Hey Keisha girl! WTF you doing girl?!) You can’t accept or support just a Black face or a queer face or a female face just because you’re in one of those groups. By all means, that can be your starting point (one of my tags for this site IS All Black Everything) but don’t let that be the ending point. I loved Raven-Symone when I was younger and Ben Carson is a brilliant neurosurgeon, but there’s no way in the hell I’m supporting any political beliefs they hold. We have to be willing to look beyond the surface and demand that people’s ideology matches (or at least supports) their identities. Just because you’re Black doesn’t mean you’re pro-Black, just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you’re a feminist (or womanist) etc, and just because there’s some Black ass characters on this screen doesn’t mean that they are gonna be everything we want from a Black ass character. Remember that next time you head to a poll or throw your support behind a show; you may just find out that all skin folks aint your kinfolks.
Now if you excuse me, I’m gonna go watch Attack the Block and get my Bae fix.
What do you think it means for ideology to match identity? What sort of ideologies do YOU hold that must be matched? Feel free to leave your questions, comments, and concerns below and don't forget to like, share, and subscribe!