Affirmative Action in Fiction
by Saab Lofton
"White fear is profitable. Bond issues for prison construction managed by major investment banks are more profitable than school construction bonds for improving the decrepit, crowded public schools like Taft High School in the Bronx. The prison construction bonds also depend heavily on a steady flow of young, brown bodies of former students of de-funded schools, as do the crowded barracks in Iraq's deserts."
--Roberto Lovato of the Pacific News Service, May 18th, 2004
"Over the past 20 years California has built 23 new prisons and only one new university."
--Workers World, May 22nd, 2003
"The idea that we're just gonna keep incarcerating, keep incarcerating, pretty soon we're not going to have a young African-American male population in America. They're all going to be in prison, or dead. One of the two."
--John Edwards, 2008 Democratic presidential candidate
Maybe if I was as famous as Hanna Montana I wouldn't have to be so damn redundant, but we the people are long overdue for an eco-friendly version of FDR's New Deal; pay the poor to save the world. Given the sorry-ass state the environment's in, there are more than enough jobs for everyone -- from so-called illegal immigrants (Superman is the only "illegal alien" I know) to ghetto gangstahs to trailer trash. Now, how can America afford a LIVING wage for all these people to build windmills, grow industrial hemp and install solar power panels? Tax the rich and cut the military budget, of course ...
Aside from the irrational, libertarian fear that Patrick Swayze's 1984 movie Red Dawn will literally come to pass if the rich are taxed and the military budget is cut, there's still this "profitable" fear all too many whites have that Roberto Lovato wrote about -- which basically equates brown-skinned men with The Boogeyman (watch the Oscar-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine for details).
I'm an impoverished storyteller, therefore, I can only do so much to combat white fear, but there is an opportunity for storytelling to do its part: Quite simply, guarantee The Rock is cast as Captain Marvel in the upcoming Shazam movie. Captain Marvel is a superhero that a homeless orphan named Billy Batson would transform into whenever the magic word "Shazam" was said out loud by him. Shazam is the name of the wizard who empowered Batson and it's also an anagram for ...
... though Superman debuted two years prior to Captain Marvel, the latter actually outsold the former -- until DC Comics sued and bought out Fawcett Comics in the early 1950s, which is why the captain is now a DC character.
A pro-wrestling champion who later became a movie star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson would be perfect as Captain Marvel. Though the character was initially patterned after actor Fred MacMurray, its artist C.C. Beck (a man I was pen pals with for years) subsequently gave the captain afrocentric features (take a good look at the way Beck drew the hair and lips).
Plus, the wizard Shazam was always depicted as being from ancient Egypt, and since Cleopatra looked like Halle Berry, NOT Elizabeth Taylor, casting The Rock (and James Earl Jones as Shazam) would make all the sense in the world.
As Jill Nelson put it so well in an issue of Star Trek Communicator, "Who better to lead us into the future than a black male, someone whose existence and survival in the present frequently seems so precarious?" Granted, she was talking about another fictional captain, Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space Nine, but still ...
Unfortunately, there's talk of casting some white guy as Captain Marvel and casting The Rock as an equally powerful character named (of all things) Black Adam instead. This might seem like progress but it's not. Casting Halle Berry as Catwoman and Michael Clarke Duncan as The Kingpin from Daredevil may have seemed progressive as well, but guess what Black Adam, Catwoman and The Kingpin all have in common? They're villains! Just like those blacks whites see on the six o'clock news every night (again, see Bowling for Columbine)!
Independent publisher Alonzo Washington said it best at a comic convention: "The image of a superhero is one of perfection and morality. For years the mainstream media has always force fed the American public with the most negative and immoral images of black people (murderers, gang bangers, thugs, pimps, video tramps, whores, rapists, gangsta rappers, criminals, etc.). Therefore, the concept of a black superhero is almost a joke in the minds of most white people." And if the concept is a joke then so too is the concept of a black man being anything other than a clown to be dismissed ...
... or a beast to be destroyed. Hence the prison-industrial complex ...
However, if The Rock is seen by millions AND MILLIONS as Captain Marvel, two things might happen: One, young blacks tempted by gangs could decide to emulate the character's Golden Age sense of fair play (as I did in my youth). Two, whites of all ages may see a person of color (The Rock's mother is Samoan and his father is African-American) as someone to trust, not fear. Again, as Alonzo Washington pointed out, "the image of a superhero is one of perfection and morality," and it's about bloody time white America thought of a tan/brown man as perfect and moral for a change! Lives hang in the balance here!