How Colorful is Your Comic Book?


This weekend I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier with my boyfriend. Overall, the movie was great; it had a compelling storyline, a few twists, chair gripping scenes, and subtle critiques of society. But there was something that kept pinching a nerve, Falcon.

Falcon, one of Marvel’s first African American heroes, is Captain America’s faithful sidekick. In the movie, Falcon is there to answer Captain’s call for help when S.H.I.E.L.D is compromised and, at the end of the movie, Falcon solemnly swears to follow the captain wherever he goes. Falcon takes direction well and is strategically placed behind Captain America in most scenes. He makes Captain’s breakfast and clears the way for him to fight the villain and save the day. Even Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson), the commander of S.H.I.E.L.D, relinquishes his power and allowes Captain America to lead the way once he realizes there is no way to save S.H.I.E.L.D.

I understand that the sidekick is supposed to be a close companion and subordinate of the hero, but something about having Falcon be a black man and sidekick to a white Captain America did not sit well with me. Maybe because I knew the roles could not be easily reversed; I had never seen a black superhero with a white sidekick and probably never will.

Seeing Falcon in this movie caused me to inquire about black representation in the comic book world and sparked my interest in black superheroes. Not being familiar with comic books, I was surprised to find several black superheroes that play roles other than sidekicks.  The Black Panther, Storm and Blade are just a few black superheroes I ran across during my research for this blog post.

falco15The fact that I couldn’t list any black superheroes off the top of my head but could think of plenty of white superheroes is a problem. Luckily, I was able to Google search black superheroes and balance my exposure to black and white superheroes. But what about a black child who does not have this same initiative? What about a black child who grows up reading or watching comics and none of the heroes look like them? What does that do to their self-esteem? What does that tell them about themselves and insinuate about their people? At age 21, discovering so many black superheroes was empowering; I felt a sense of pride to see supermen and women that looked like me. Imagine how that same feeling would impact a child and influence the way they see themselves.

After the Captain America movie, my boyfriend and I had a discussion about the movie and the fact that Falcon was black. We also talked about how each time a comic story is remade for the big screen, different actors are casted to play them. And then my boyfriend had a crazy idea: What if a black man was casted to play batman or superman? That would be accepted in our “post racial” world right?

While you ponder that, leave your comments below! I’m curious to see who your favorite black superhero is and why. Which black actor would you cast to play a popular white superhero?


Twisting Things Up


For those of you who know me…or follow me on twitter, you know that I love Tuesday nights because that’s when my two favorite shows come on: Pretty Little Liars and Twisted. Both are ABC Family original drama television series, and both are the topics of my tweets on Tuesdays from 8-10 p.m.. Recently, both series aired its spring finale (*tear), and as I began to reminisce on Twisted’s season, I noticed something about the cast: It was super diverse!


Left to right: Danny, Lacey, Joe

Twisted’s main characters are Danny, Lacey and Joe. The respective actors/actresses who play these characters are part Indian, black and white. Other reoccurring minority characters on the show include Rico (this actor is of Italian and Mexican decent) and Rico’s girlfriend, Andie, who is played by an Asian actress.

With such a diverse cast, interracial couples are inevitable. At one point Danny (mixed race) and Lacey (black) hook up, but then Danny (mixed race) realizes his true love is Joe (white). The actor who plays Danny’s dad, Tarek Jarar Ramnini, is of Palestinian decent and although his race on the show is unclear, Danny’s mom is white. As mentioned before, Rico (ambiguous race) is dating an Asian girl. And lastly, what’s a teen show these days without a gay/lesbian couple? Lacey (black) and Whitney (white) flirt with the idea of becoming an “item.”

I was surprised to find that it wasn’t until the end of the season that I began to contemplate Twisted’s diverse cast. This may be because, so far (we are now awaiting the second season), race has not been mentioned in the series’ story line and many of the character’s races are ambiguous. In fact, for most actors, I had to research their race. This just goes to show how seamlessly the writers and directors were able to incorporate diversity into the show without making it seem forced.

I know first-hand how hard including diversity into a T.V. show can be. For my final project in my “Diversity in Communication” course, my group had to create a pilot show for a new television series with a racially diverse set of characters. This turned out to be a difficult task because it was hard to come up with non-stereotypical characters. With this said, I commend the writers and directors of Twisted for its diverse cast and characters that are non-stereotypical representations of the actor/actress’s or characters’ race.

Shows like Twisted that have a diverse cast are important because these begin to depict the growing diversity in the U.S. population, thus depicting a more realistic representation of our country’s population. By not clarifying or focusing in on the race of its characters, Twisted also begins to discredit racial stereotypes and indirectly address the taboo surrounding interracial dating. So kudos to you ABC family for twisting things up a bit!

Creating a Voice

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That’s exactly what UNC junior Taylor Webber-Fields did when she created  I, Too, Am Carolina, a social media awareness campaign that allows black students at Carolina to share their experiences I, Too, Am Carolinaon a predominately white college campus. Hearing about this campaign inspired me to think about how social media has allowed minorities to create their own voice in the media, a voice that is authentic and user generated. Take for example, Black Twitter. It has been deemed a cultural force in the new media technology age, one that relentlessly responds to racially insensitive pop culture incidents with hashtags such as #HasJustineLandedYet and #PaulasBestDishes. Not familiar with these incidents? Search twitter for these hastags, and Black Twitter will tell you all about it.

Social media movements, such as I, Too, Am Carolina and Black Twitter, allow black people to voice their opinion. This is important because, historically, black people and other minority groups have been underrepresented in the media. I’ve experienced this underrepresentation first hand with the Daily Tar Heel (DTH), UNC’s student ran campus newspaper. In the past four years that I’ve spent on UNC’s campus, I’ve seldom seen black students featured in the paper or events hosted by black student organizations covered. As a result, I feel disconnected from the paper because it does not reflect my life at Carolina and what I’ve experienced. If an issue concerning the black student population is written about, it is usually found in the back page of the newspaper on the opinion page and is written by a black columnist or student reader.

The lack of diversity I’ve seen in the DTH can be attributed to the fact that, in the past, there has been a lack of black staff writers. Although the number of black staff writers has recently increased, the editor’s staff remains predominately white. Until there are black people at the table making decisions about the content of the paper, the black voice will continue to be silenced.

This is why I find the I, Too, Am Carolina campaign so important and relevant to this blog; it acknowledges the fact that the black voice is underrepresented and gives black students on campus the opportunity to be heard via social media. Why wait on the media to cover your story when you can create your own?

Tweet 1

“Because my issues are not verbalized” #itooamCarolina

Tweet 2

“AAAD, my dept of academic scholarship is constantly the scapegoat for a broken ed system and te NCAA machine?” #ITooAmCarolina


“Just because I’m the only black person in class doesn’t mean my opinion represents my whole race’s opinion.” #itooamCarolina

As I come to a close with this blog post, an ominous question rests in the back of mind. If the media has historically been able to successfully marginalize black people, what’s stopping the internet from doing the same? So as I wrap up this blog post, I’d like to leave you all with some food for thought, “How has new media technologies marginalized minorities?” One way I begin to scratch the surface of this question is by looking at the digital divide  and how economic inequality (which inherently sparks a conversation about race) between groups has affected access to the internet and other communication technologies. This is something to think about and be aware of as we move from old to new media.

If you’re White you’re alright; If you’re Brown stick around; If you’re Black get back…

For me, the most memorable moment of the Oscars  was Lupita Nyong’o’s acceptance speech. She was beautiful, successful, and black, very black. The fact that a dark skinned black woman was receiving recognition for her acting role was a big deal in the black community…but why? A few days later, I saw a Facebook post from a friend of mine addressing this question and  the issue of colorism. Here’s what Julia had to say:


Colorism: the discrimination in which someone is treated differently based solely upon the color of their skin due to the social meanings and assumptions attached to their complexions.

This “-ism” is one that plagues the media and the Black community. It’s no debate that there is a national preference for light-skinned Black women in the media, if Black women are included at all.


Recently, Pharrell has been heavily criticized for the exclusion of a Black woman on the cover of his new album Girl. But in an interview with TheYBF.com, the (legendary) artist claims that the woman in the middle of the trio is in fact a Black woman. He says she is simply light-skinned and has extremely European features, as some Black women do. However, the issue is not that this woman is light-skinned — the problem is colorism and the systematic exclusion of darker skinned women by the media.

But, before we get into all that, let me provide you with a little background on colorism and the role it has played in the Black community.

Colorism has created a hierarchy that dates back to slavery. Light-skinned slaves received preferential treatment — usually due to them being the offspring of the master’s extramarital affairs with other slaves — and were stationed to work in the house. Dark-skinned slaves, on the other hand, worked in the fields and were treated more sub-human than their lighter peers. Post-slavery, lighter complexioned blacks tended to hold a higher socioeconomic standing and held more access to the resources required to move up the ladder.

This is due to light-skinned Blacks being closer to whiteness. According to this article about colorism in advertising, Ronald Hall, a sociologist at Michigan State University, told The Washington Post that people are less threatened by those whom they perceive as being closer in racial proximity to themselves. This sentiment makes sense if you look at who controls the images that are proliferated in the media and those affected negatively by these images.

Colorism in the media presents itself not by excluding dark-skinned women, but by associating them with negative attributes. For instance, dark-skinned women are painted as less desirable and intelligent then juxtaposed with their lighter skinned counterparts (think Shelia versus Trina in Why Did I Get Married?). Additionally, successful Black women are almost always lighter complexioned (Olivia Pope from Scandal, Dr. Miranda Bailey on Grey’s Anatomy, Jacqueline Broyer in Boomerang, etc.).

But light-skinned women are negatively affected by coloristic stereotyping as well. Olivia Pope is a mistress while Dr. Bailey often comes off as bossy. Leticia (played by Halle Berry) in Monster’s Ball was disgustingly hypersexualized as was Rosario Dawson in Alexander. Stay Trippy — rapper Juicy J’s most recent album — features a nude light-skinned woman holding onto his leg. Kanye West’s Gold Digger video also predominantly featured light-skinned women.

Colorism, essentially, turns light-skinned women into objects of public affection while marginalizing darker complexioned Black women and deeming them undesirable. These sentiments are further reinforced when you have television shows and films that replace dark-skinned characters with light(er)-skinned ones.


Aunt Viv from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air


Claire from My Wife and Kids


Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone. Saldana is so light in comparison to Simone that her skin had to be darkened

These beliefs that lighter complexioned Black women are better are engrained —either consciously or subconsciously — into the minds of Black people. Lots of little girls are told that they are inferior or lesser than because they are dark. Equally as many are doted upon simply because they are light with a looser curl pattern. When you throw in the media, you’re left with light-skinned girls who do not feel beautiful enough, brown skinned girls who feel dissociated from the products being advertised, and dark-skinned girls who do not feel beautiful at all.

Our society has to cease inflicting European beauty standards upon women whose beauty is not rooted in European genetics. Lighter skin tones are not inherently more beautiful just as darker complexions are not ugly. Quite frankly, have y’all ever LOOKED at dark skin? It’s damn near flawless and it’s just amazing.

The hierarchy of colorism in the Black community must go as well. Light skinned women should not be viewed as uppity, snooty, bad texters, conceited, hypersexual gold diggers. Dark skinned women should not be called ugly, tar babies, nappy headed, and ratchet.

Recently, Black America has been praising Lupita Nyong’o’s beauty. We need more of this. We need more celebration of dark skin. But that does NOT mean we should tear down light-skinned women in the process (see this article which addresses this concern).

We are all Black. We are all beautiful. We all have color complexes. We all need to work together to rid ourselves and future generations of these complexes. The buck should stop here.

“What up, cuz? It’s all Black. I love US.” – JAY Z

*Liked this post? Check out more of Julia Craven’s infinite wisdom on her blog!*

© 2018 Media Whistle

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑