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Dear White People: Luke Cage is BLACK!!!
By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN (BASN) — When my brother and I were growing up, we were huge comic book fans. I was a Batman/DC Comics guy. My brother Cliff was more of a Marvel guy who followed Spider-Man, X-Men, and Daredevil. You youngins will never know the true bliss of a weekly allowance of $2.00 during the era of the 12-cent comic book.
Fridays and or Saturdays would be mean pilgrimages to Visel’s Drug Store and literally raiding the place of every comic book known to mankind. Nowadays, our combined four bits couldn’t even get you a pack of baseball cards, let alone a comic book. If I wanted a copy of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”, I probably would’ve had to wait for at least a month.
While I and my brother had different comic interests, all that changed in June of 1972. When Marvel debuted Luke Cage: Hero For Hire, we were immediate fans. And yes, it had everything to do with him being a black man that was a superhero. Much like the presidency before Barack Obama, the superhero genre as white as you could get.
There was a sense of pride that someone finally allowed a black man to be the lead of a comic book. I akin it to watching the opening scene of “Shaft” starring Richard Roundtree. Yeah, there was Paul Robeson, Sidney Poitier, and other black actors over the years. But seeing that strong, black alpha male walking the streets of New York during that era was something to behold for a young black kid growing up in the 1970′s.
Even though John Shaft and Luke Cage were fictional characters, we gravitated to them because of who and what they represented. Ironically, Roundtree was originally introduced to the black community as a frequent ad model for Duke Natural hair care products, Ballantine Whiskey, and other products.
Next to Muhammed Ali, there wasn’t a more popular face seen in damn near every black-owned barber shop around that time than Roundtree.
I said all that to bring the conversation to present day. Over the years, the Luke Cage character has appeared in many adaptations. Whether it be comics, movies, or other genres, Cage’s basic story remained the same. This past September, Netflix debuted “Luke Cage”, a weekly program based on the comic book hero starring Mike Colter.
The Cage character actually debuted on “Jessica Jones”, another Marvel-based show on Netflix that began just a year ago. In “Cage”, Colter’s character is a superhuman with extraordinary strength and bulletproof skin as armor as he fights to break down a corrupt government system in New York City which stays true to the origin of the comic book.
The story is set in Harlem and often references the city’s renaissance period as well as hip hop culture. While the initial episodes had received fairly decent reviews, there were still some white folks that had “a problem” with the show’s premise and its predominantly black and latino cast including Colter, Mahershala Ali, Alfre Woodard, and Rosario Dawson taking on lead roles and characters.
According to Vibe Magazine and other media outlets, many white “fans” jumped on Twitter to protest Marvel’s audacity to represent minorities throughout the 13-episode series. “Lack of white people in Luke Cage makes me uncomfortable. This show is racist, how is this on Netflix,” one person tweeted.
Another questioned why the black people on the show were speaking about being an African-American. “I’m not racist but :/ why is luke cage so political :/ why do they talk about being black all the time :/ where are the white characters.”
I had to laugh to keep from crying in reading this racist backlash. The old “Andy Griffith Show” was at its peak during the 1960′s on CBS depicting the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina. It was right smack in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement with an all white cast and you saw little to no black people depicted in the show.
Did black folks complain?? No.
When the show “Friends” made its debut on NBC some 30 years later, their all white cast were yuppies living in downtown Manhatten. Once again, you saw little to no blacks featured even in crowd shots on the show. Are you really trying to tell me that black folks didn’t exist in that part of New York City during the 1990′s?
A brief aside here: I was a big fan of the show “Living Single” during that same period of time. I had a white work colleague of mine at the time try to tell me how the show was a “black ripoff” of Friends. But to show you how narrow-minded and ass backward some white folks can be, I challenged them to find out which show debuted first.
For the record — Living Single debuted on August 29, 1993, on FOX, Friends debuted over a year later on September 22, 1994, on NBC.
A “black ripoff”, my ass!!! But as a smarter man than me once said, I digress…..
At the end of the day during this era of “post-racial America”, there are still many white folks that are just uncomfortable with anything positive that comes from the Black community. All you have to do is look at the headlines so see that. Whether it’s unarmed black men and women being gunned down in the streets
Whether it’s unarmed black men and women being gunned down in the streets, whether it’s presidential candidates calling our youth “super predators” or telling us “what have you got to lose by voting for me??”, or whether it’s sports fans and or media telling a certain quarterback to “keep your feelings to yourself”, the struggle continues.
White folks wanting to either “whitewash” the Luke Cage series, the legacy of the aforementioned Muhammed Ali, or other things have and still exist to this very day. When the Last Poets came out with the song “The White Man’s Got A God Complex” it spoke to the truth then and even more so during the present day.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a fictional black character or a real flesh and blood black person, there’s something sinister about a strong black man in any capacity in the eyes of a lot of “liberal thinking” white folks. We’ve seen the constant hate, jealousy, and envy rants heaped upon the President of the United States over the last eight years reach a crescendo as he’s set to ride off into the sunset.
It’s no different from the racist criticism that the Luke Cage show is getting. That same “I like it, but” attitude that supersedes some of our most outstanding accomplishments as black people. Well, I hate to break it to some of you but LUKE CAGE HAS BEEN AND ALWAYS WILL BE BLACK!!!!
That being said, I can just imagine that upcoming backlash when the Black Panther superhero movie hits the screens.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.