During the 70s, America (and by extension, American comics) had reached a turning point in race relations. People of all backgrounds became less willing to accept the laws that allowed segregation, and discrimination against others, purely based on the color of their skin. The good intentions of the 60s gave birth to more practical attempts at social and legal equality.
That same decade, several brave writers began insisting upon more ethnically-diverse casts in mainstream comics. It is to those creators, and their sensitive portrayals of minority characters, we dedicate this week’s Yabs.
God bless you guys!
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22,300 miles above the equator, a satellite built of Earth, Kryptonian, Martian, and Thanagarian technology floats silently in geostationary orbit. Inside, Earth’s greatest heroes sit at the great table in the Meeting Room, as the viewing portholes pass stars too distant for any but Superman to appreciate. It is a surprise to no one that Hawkman and Green Arrow are arguing…
HAWKMAN: All I’m saying is that we should look at ALL possible candidates for new membership…
GREEN ARROW: And I’m telling YOU, this guy has it ALL. He’s tough, smart, and best of all, he’s WHITE!
HAWKMAN: Arrow, I’m shocked! You’re the LAST person I would think would give someone preferential treatment because of skin color!
GREEN ARROW: Hey, STUFF it, Birdbrain! Where do you get off, talking to me like that? Why don’t you come down out of the clouds and into the streets and see what’s REALLY happening?
BLACK CANARY (Gently touching Green Arrow’s arm…): Ollie, calm down a minute…
GREEN ARROW: Sorry, Pretty Bird, but this would-be flying fascist has had this coming for a long time!
HAWKMAN: ‘Flying fascist?’ Why, you pompous, arrogant, bleeding-heart…
SUPERMAN: ENOUGH! Listen, bickering amongst ourselves isn’t going to get us anywhere. Let’s stay focused. With J’onn gone, we need to look at a new member…
GREEN ARROW: That’s what I’m saying! And I’ve got JUST the guy!
WONDER WOMAN: Ollie, that’s not how the League does things. We all must have a voice in such decisions. The League needs warriors, not tokens.
GREEN ARROW: Princess, what this League needs is a giant cup of the TRUTH. Look around this table-nothing but black faces! Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman…even the ALIENS are black!
HAWKMAN: As are YOU, Arrow. The Justice League has NEVER considered skin color when offering membership. We’ve always taken the most-qualified applicant, based on their own merits. Yet YOU want us to trust the security of the world to some AMATEUR simply because he’s WHITE?
GREEN ARROW: Look, America’s a beautiful lady, but she’s awfully sick right now. She’s a beautiful, sick lady. And the medicine that’ll make her well is JUSTICE. And that’s what the ‘J’ in ‘J.L.A.’ STANDS for, right? How can we be FOR the people, if we aren’t OF the people? How can we be a rainbow, if we’re not a beacon? How can we stand for liberty, when we ourselves don’t know the road to take when freedom comes knocking on our boat?
FLASH: That doesn’t even make any sense…
GREEN ARROW: BLAZES! Listen, Fleetfeet, right now, there are kids in the STREETS selling HOOKERS for MARY JANE! Do you want THAT on your conscience?
GREEN ARROW: And WONDER CHICK! You say your mission is peace, but how can there be peace when the National Guard is spraying the BACK OF THE BUS with NAPALM in OHIO?
WONDER WOMAN: Ollie…I…I…I don’t know what to say! I’m so ashamed!
GREEN ARROW (To Green Lantern…): And YOU! SPACE COP! You’re an errand boy for the BLUE SKINS, and you help the ORANGE SKINS, and I heard one time that you worked with a RED SKIN…but there’s one color you NEVER helped…the WHITE SKINS! Why is that? Answer me THAT, Mr. Big Deal Green Lantern!
GREEN LANTERN: I…I can’t. I…I…I don’t understand the question.
GREEN ARROW: That’s what I thought. Look, everyone. I can’t tell you what to do… But the white kids of America are mostly GOOD KIDS. They just need a shot in the arm of HOPE. And it’s OUR responsibility to give it to them.
FLASH: I didn’t understand that part about the hookers.
GREEN ARROW: Enough with the yakkity-yak! Everybody, I want you to meet…WHITE LIGHTNING!
A solitary figure appears in the Justice League transporter. He’s showing lots of pale white skin in a costume that otherwise looks like that of a Mexican wrestler.
WHITE LIGHTNING: I’m HERE, dudes. Now who wants to get FUNKY?
GREEN ARROW (Performing an intricate welcoming handshake…): Hey, man…glad you could make it, “‘bro!”
WHITE LIGHTNING: You know it, ‘Soul Brotha!’
HAWKMAN: Now, White Lightning, no disrespect intended, but Green Arrow here MAY have been a bit hasty in offering you membership without our consent…
WHITE LIGHTNING: CHRISTMAS! You son of a witch! Mace-totin’ FREAKIE-DEAKIE!
HAWKMAN: Excuse me?
WHITE LIGHTNING: YO MAMA!
HAWKMAN: Now, surely we can leave my mother out of this…
WHITE LIGHTNING: PLUCK YOU, SUCKA!
SUPERMAN: I really don’t think this sort of language is necessary.
BATMAN: Yes, I did some checking, and aren’t you actually Jefferson Lincoln Washington, a noted and respected English teacher?
GREEN ARROW: Hey! BACK OFF, Long Ears! Give the man some ROOM!
WHITE LIGHTNING: Get off my sweet A!!! I ain’t goin’ back to PRISON!
BATMAN: What? Have you ever been to prison?
WHITE LIGHTNING: No, BAT-SUCKA! Hey now, look at the princess! Whazzup, Foxy Mama? How’d you like to see my Lightnin’ Rod? Shake a hand make a friend-LOVE TRAIN!
HAWKMAN: Beware, Diana! I have heard that white men often wed black women as status symbols!
WHITE LIGHTNING: You muthaless SCUM! Can’t a brotha even TALK to a fine, foxy lady without a buncha GARBAGE from THE MAN? Freakin’ COPS’re all the same, tryin’ to keep a brotha DOWN!
GREEN LANTERN: Maybe if you told us your POWERS, White Lightning?
WHITE LIGHTNING: I got ‘lectricity MOJO! Look out, HUH! Feel all right!
SUPERMAN: I don’t understand a word he’s saying.
GREEN ARROW: That’s the language of the STREET, Supes! Maybe if you’d come down off of your castle in the sky once in a while and LIVE! SMELL! TASTE!
SUPERMAN: I don’t have a castle in the sky! What are you TALKING about?
GREEN ARROW: What YOU need is a slap in the pants of REALITY, Krypton-Man!
FLASH: Someone ask him about that selling hookers thing. I didn’t get that at ALL.
WHITE LIGHTNING: Workin’ my funky Zipper-Zapper! SWEET CHRISTMAS! Shut my mouth, talking ’bout White Lightning!
BLACK CANARY: White Lightning, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?
WHITE LIGHTNING: Oooh, another foxy mama! How about a little CREAM in your COFFEE?
FLASH: Now that one I got. He’s talking about sex. He’s talking about having sex with Black Canary.
HAWKMAN: It’s a way for him to attain STATUS.
WHITE LIGHTNING: See, you black folks have no idea what it’s like on the street. You in your fancy houses with your shiny cars…It ain’t like that where I grew up. See, first they call you ‘cracker,’ and then they get REAL poetic. Vanilla Bean, Zygote, Tightie-Whitey, Ghost-Boy, Mashed ‘Tater…
SUPERMAN: We get the idea, White Lightning….
WHITE LIGHTNING (Weeping…): Pastie-face, Chalkie, Glow-In-The-Dark, Nougat, Double-Stuf, Moby Dick, Walla-walla, Whitewash, Snowman…
GREEN ARROW: I think they get it, W.L.!
WHITE LIGHTNING (Tearing at his clothes in self-revulsion…): White-Out, Egg-White, Caucazoid, Albumen-head, Can’t-Get-No-Pigment, Blank-y, White Meat, Salty Sam, Christmas Kid, Mayo-Boy…
WONDER WOMAN: White Lightning, this isn’t necessary. We’d be PROUD to have you in our League!
WHITE LIGHTNING (Laying on the floor in the fetal position, sharing his pain…): Light-Bright, White-Bread, Marshmallow Mouth, Dough-Boy, White Dwarf, 50-Watt, Colgate, Bleach Breath, No Tan, Pallid-puss…
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…And so, this historic meeting helped make the change, from ethnically-insulting characters such as the Spirit’s sidekick, Ivory, to hip NEW urban characters like Vibe, Gypsy, and White Goliath. To those brave creators who fought to bring the STREET into comics, we salute you. SWEET CHRISTMAS!