A few hours after Netflix released its new superhero series Luke Cage, there came a backlash from the most likely source: White people. Once again White fragility reared its ugly head and immediately tightened the sphincters of the collective Whiteness because—according to them—Luke Cage had too few characters played by people of no color (if we are “people of color,” then by the laws of inverse proportion, they are…you get it), too many references steeped in non-White culture and was overall too darn Black. There were tweets like this:
Lack of white people in Luke Cage makes me uncomfortable. This show is racist, how is this on Netflix???
— ᴇʟᴇᴄᴛʀɪᴄ★ʟᴏᴠᴇʟʏʟᴀɴᴅ (@CommanderLovely) October 2, 2016
Is it me or the new Netflix. Luke Cage a little racist. Notice it’s mostly black where is the diversity. @LIVE_COVERAGE
— LiberalsUnited (@RockerThompson) September 28, 2016
We’ve seen this before. Whenever Black people do anything without the permission of the White pop culture gods, it is deemed racist. That’s how White fragility works. Anytime they are left out or excluded they immediately feel insulted because White panties are easily bunched. Aside from the ridiculousness of being upset about a fictional character it is a charge Blacks routinely face in the new era of White sensitivity.
Ask any Black writer how often they are accused of being racist simply for talking about racism. Ask the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement how they are labeled by some as a hate group simply because the word “Black” is in their name. Ask the people involved with NBC’s production of The Wiz how White people took to twitter to proclaim their version of The Wizard of Oz was some Black Power Statement. Ask The Black Panthers. Ask Jeremiah Wright. Ask Colin Kaepernick.
Here is the thing:
Whenever Black people are called out as racist for doing Black things, we should immediately agree. We should jump the gun, quickly shake their hands and praise their all-embracing White consciousness, because if we accept their premise that excluding certain people because of the cultural or artistic value is wrong, then we get to say the same thing. If they say everything Black is racist, then they can’t get mad when we call out White racism.
They just have to smile and take it when we enact affirmative action legislation. Whenever we talk about how the media is biased against Black folks because people of color are underrepresented in newsrooms, they can’t breathe a word. When companies and schools enact rules to compensate for inequalities in education and hiring practices, White people can’t go out and field the next Abby Fisher to whine in front of federal judges because she feels like White people have it so hard. No court in America should hear it. The case should be immediately be dismissed under the legal precedent of “remember that thing y’all said about Luke Cage?”
Black people have been screaming this for years. When we complained about the lack of diversity in network television, some White folks responded that we shouldn’t foist the burden of responsible representation onto the artistic visions of TV producers. If you came of age in the ’90s and your perspective of the world was shaped by television, you believed that there were no people of color in New York City. Maybe there were a few Black people out in Brooklyn where the Huxtables lived and where Spike Lee movies were set, but not in Manhattan. You’d seen Seinfeld and Friends. Maybe Jerry, Larry David, Jennifer Anniston et al were just racists–hey, that’s not Black people’s accusations, we’re just extrapolating from the flawed hypothesis, because… Luke Cage. I might be forgetting Clark Kent’s cool-ass Black friend lighting Newports off Superman’s heat vision or the episode where Wonder Woman and her homegirl Keisha pulled up to the club balling in the invisible plane. But I have a pretty good memory. I think I would’ve remembered that.
As a matter of fact, anytime Black people are underrepresented anywhere we should break out the Luke Cage canon and just call out racism wherever we see it. Gather all the Fortune 500 CEOs and ask them why they discriminate against Blacks. Convene a joint session of Congress and ask them to explain why—according to demographics—the House and Senate are so White.
Do not push back against the fragile White ego that believes anything that doesn’t include White people must be purposefully exclusionary. We want them to believe that, because historically, when it comes to arguments about fairness, equality and diversity, they haven’t always had open minds or listening ears.
So when you see the social media posts about how a fictional universe about a superhero is racist, agree with them. Do not remind them about how they damn near had a hissy fit about Zendaya playing Mary Jane in Spider-Man a few weeks ago; how Jamie Foxx’s Black version of Annie caused an uproar in every Caucasian corner; or how the whole of Whiteness came within inches of a nervous breakdown at the suggestion of Idris Elba playing James Bond. Just tell them they’re right, Luke Cage is racist.
Then ask them, since they’re on the subject, if we can talk these other 500 years of racism too.