In Defense of Racism

It seems like tossing the words ‘racism’ and ‘racist’ at people with differing ideas has become too easy and too much of a default argument these days. Some people argued that casting Idris Elba as Heimdall- a norse God- was ridiculous. Their stance was that Norse gods were modeled after their worshippers: essentially the vikings and other very white folks populating ancient Scandinavia. Why on earth, they argued, would there be a black Norse god. (Nevermind that Idris Elba has a practically god-like physique and mien.)

Their opposition argued that it was racist to think Elba shouldn’t be cast a Norse god, based on his skin color alone.

Was it racist or was it simply a fairly reasonable argument? Honestly– is there a flaw in the reasoning laid out above? Please let me know.

Now, the deeper issue– which is what we should really be getting at except that the loud voices are too often happy to shout their lazy thinking– is whether it actually matters. It’s a film based on a comic inspired by a mythology. How much does it matter what the skin color of these guys happens to be when the thing is put to celluloid? That’s the real issue. It’s a piece of ever-loving entertainment.

I don’t think it was racist of those people to protest Elba being cast as a Norse god; I think it was silly. Those folks maybe don’t realize that for many of Shakespeare’s plays, the actors were all men. People knew the actors doing female parts were men. Big deal– it was a piece of entertainment. There is a long and excellent tradition of cross-gender and race casting in our visual entertainment.

Now we have people getting feisty over the new, half black/half latino Spiderman. Look, these are by and large the same people who protested Peter Parker being killed in the storyline in the comic books. I read every new Spiderman comic as it came out from 1987 to 1990. I adored them. Peter Parker was a white kid. He was a white kid in everything that has ever been created about Spiderman.

Inertia.

Granted, some of this inertia ought to have been examined, because really, why not have the guy be black, latino, polynesian, or even Asian?

But can’t we allow people a little bit of grief, or mourning, or at least a little time, to get used to the death of a superhero they have loved since they were kids? I will also grant you that some of the protestors might be somewhat motivated by a certain racism, but in general, they’re probably just people who get irritated by change.

They would probably complain if their favorite actor got a drastically new haircut.

As for me, I thought Donald Glover would be very cool in the Spidey suit. I was interested in where the story would go with him taking on the role. I don’t mind that Peter Parker’s dead.

But before you go all ad hominem on people, calling them racist over their objections to a new person inhabiting the Spidey suit, and thus taking the story in different directions than what they were comfortable with and loved for so long, think a minute before spewing the racist label, will you?

Call me naive, but I think people in general are better than the racist label.

And to make myself clear to everyone: I’m not actually defending racism. That title is there to draw readers in– it’s a cheap shot used to get your attention. Hey, it worked, didn’t it?

Now you tell me: What’s your pet peeve about our national discourse? Or What’s your pet peeve about movies, comics, or modern stories in general?

About jaredgarrett

Jared Garrett is the author of Beat, a YA scifi thriller, and its forthcoming sequel, both published by Future House Publishing. A new series, debuting in January 2016 and also published by Future House, kicks off with Lakhoni, a fast-paced rescue adventure in a world reminiscent of Aztec culture, to be released in January 2016. He self-published Beyond the Cabin, a novelization of his childhood in a cult, in December 2014. Both Beat and Beyond the Cabin were Whitney Award nominees, and his story Song of the Wind, received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. In addition to writing, he's spent fifteen years in adult education and is an accomplished public speaker and workshop leader.
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