Don’t Let Racism In Cosplay
I’m half black.
There, I said it. Phew! What a load off! Wait, what? You’re wondering what the other half is? Ha ha well it’s white! That’s why I am just so damn tasty — I’m an Oreo. A mulatto, if you will, although I never really liked that word for some reason. I’m mixed, biracial, “other” when selecting my race category.
Should it matter? No, not really.
The problem is that it has always mattered in this country, and now there is a newly-revitalized racism epidemic spreading, it seems. There’s the police shootings, the church burnings, and now the election. You’ve probably picked a side by now. Do black lives matter? Do blue lives matter? Do all lives matter? Pick.
But what does this have to do with cosplay / costuming, prop-building, and being a general weirdo?
This is about being American, and not letting racism in cosplay.
In my eyes, costuming is pretty American (because I have the freedom to do it even though people think I’m strange). The cosplay community is pretty wide-open, like Ellis Island used to be. Wow that’s American. But, who better to teach us how to be American than Superman, the most famous immigrant of all?
Today my mother-in-law sent me an image that’s being shared across the Internet following the recent US elections. In it, our beloved (and classic) Superman is talking to a group of kids. He wants them to make sure to stand up for others if they are being talked badly about or to regarding their religion, race, or national origin. He said that kind of talk is UN-AMERICAN … and basically those baddies need to STFU. It’s an inspiring colorized version of the original.
Check it out:
That’s pretty cool! And yes, he is right. I remember learning that one of the greatest things about our country – what makes it great – is the fact that it is a giant melting pot. Millions of people from different countries, backgrounds, races, religions, etc. coming together to build something amazing. And as Americans, we’ve done some amazing things!
Heck, when I was a kid, Superman was all about truth, justice, and the American way. That was something to be proud of. And it was NOT cool to be mean to someone because of the color of their skin or what church / synagogue / mosque / McDonald’s they went to.
So what happened to that? Remember when Superman decided that the American way wasn’t good enough? Sure, Superman wasn’t originally about those things, but it sure was great as a kid growing up in the 80s. What a role model! And what a great mom for making us an awesome cape with an “S” on it! Thanks Mom! But I digress. Superman knows that America is no longer standing up for what it used to, and it’s sad for everybody. What’s worse is that is partly due to the “Make America Great Again” campaign … does that make sense?
It’s sometimes hard for me to dress up as my favorites – Batman, Superman, Captain America – because they’re all white. Since I’m more of a tan guy, I don’t really look quite like those heroes and I never will. My curly hair will never be up to the task of being like Superman’s (if I still had any). But does that stop me from dressing up as one of these guys? Ha ha ha good luck with that.
But what if I posted the above picture of my 1/2 black self to a forum and said “Hey look how much like Superman I am!”? OH what if I posted it to YouTube or (god-forbid) Tumblr? Can you imagine the comments? Things like … well “you’re kind of grey”, “darkie”, and surely “oreo” would pop up. I actually have never received comments like that. The cosplay community is pretty great overall, and I don’t see much overt racism in cosplay. Most people are very welcoming and accepting of people.
Now body type is another issue I have that I won’t go too far into (if you are round then you won’t make a great Spider-Man), but most people are great when it comes to things you don’t have any control over. Things like race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender don’t generally matter to the cosplay community and it’s great. I don’t want that to change. With everything going on, I fear it will.
I have a son who is 1/4 black, and I don’t think he even knows it. Nor does anyone else except his family, really. And why would they – it’s not like we bring it up all the time. He has “white” skin, straight brown hair, and really shows no trace of it (other than being handsome like his dad). It’s really sad to say but in today’s climate, I’m almost thankful he shows no sign of being mixed. How messed up is that?
And it’s not that I’m not proud to be 1/2 black (or 1/2 white), it’s that I don’t want him to be called the n-word like I was called in 3rd grade for no good reason. I don’t want some girl that he likes to tell him she only dates white guys. I don’t want a mob of idiots to stop him on the street for dating a girl outside of his race. What’s more messed up is that these are things we still have to worry about, even as Americans. When half of the country votes for a President who seems to openly embrace bigotry in all its forms, that’s scary as a parent.
My boy LOVES to dress up in costumes, too. I’m so glad he’s a little cosplayer and gets so much joy out of it. But what happens when some jerk comes up to him and asks him why his skin isn’t green (while wearing his Hulk costume)? Kidding, I know … but I don’t want racism in cosplay, his life, or the country to become acceptable again to the point where he feels he absolutely CANNOT play a character because of the color of his skin. Or worse, he grows up in a society where HE thinks it’s acceptable, and forgets that he too is actually a minority.
Like this guy:
Back in the year 1950, we had a graphic that depicted an illegal alien with an S on his chest – good-looking as he was – telling kids to make sure they don’t let others be dicks. In 1950! If I have to dress up like Superman and go around telling kids the same thing to ensure that others don’t do the same to my son and on down the line, I will. If I have to yell at someone in line at Target for what they just said to a Mexican family, I will. If I have to report someone online for racist comments about YOUR cosplay, I will.
And I want you to do the same! Even if you voted for the new President-elect. While I can’t say I agree with you on that one, I would bet that you and I agree that Superman had it right way back in the day, and you don’t want racism in cosplay (or society) at all. Even with what’s going on and the way that some people have been acting, treating people that way is UN-AMERICAN.
So if you’re dressing up as your hero, act like that hero whether in costume or not by standing up for others. Make it so I don’t have to worry. Make it so our kids won’t have to worry. Make sure you don’t let a few pricks inject racism in cosplay that we cherish. And make sure I don’t have to do another god-awful photoshop job like the above again. Geez.
Give the people an ideal to strive towards.</rant>