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Racism in Media and Fandom: #AAIronFist Solidarity Exposes the Underbelly of White Supremacy

This weekend, I witnessed an interesting phenomenon.

Well, not so much as interesting as it is old.

To explain, several of my colleagues saw their mentions go up in flames after revisiting the issue of #AAIronFist. Part of the reason the tag reemerged was because of the revelation that Lewis Tan—who will be playing Zhou Cheng, the upcoming villain of Iron Fist—was fine as hell.

While this particular news was exciting (because who doesn’t like hot guys?), we weren’t thrilled to find out that he had been passed up for the role of Danny Rand/Iron Fist.

Still, the other reason the tag reemerged was because of squadron of these same colleagues—these Black femmes—were coming down from the high of having been represented so holistically in Luke Cage (I mean, I know I still am!)

Because of said high, Rebecca Theodore (@FilmFatale_NYC), MistyKnightsTwistOut ‏(@Steph_I_Will), Lauren Warren (@iamlaurenp) and many others used the weekend to go to bat for other groups who are underrepresented in media as well (in addition to questioning the casting of Finn Jones as Danny Rand). One group in question was the Asian-American/AAPI community.

The results were as expected. Doug™ flew into their mentions screaming about canon. Yelling about reverse racism. Saying Asian-Americans weren’t qualified to reclaim martial arts because it would be “stereotypical”. Calling for the Whitewashing of Black Panther (again), since, you know, it’s too late to do the same to Luke Cage.

LOL. STAY MAD, MY GUY.

LOL. STAY MAD, MY GUY.

As someone who had heard it all before, I was bored with the routine racism. Because that’s what it is. Routine. Of course, a slightly more interesting, but not necessarily surprising development occurred soon after this:

A fair amount of Blerds, mostly male, came out in favor of defending racist and highly problematic Iron Fist canon.

While I did see my share of this at the height of #AAIronFist, this is not an attempt to pass off the racism of fandom and in media to Black folx. This is mainly because people of color in this country cannot be racist in the sense that we don’t have any institutional structures in place to keep people down.

However.

That sure doesn’t stop any of us from horizontally punching the shit out of each other every now and then.

Y'all we gotta do better.

Y’all. We gotta do better.

Still…it all ultimately comes back to ‘ol White supremacy.

It’s simple, really. In 2016, Chet™ is shook. There’s less of him on TV. People are challenging his quirky movies for their lack of color and inclusion. People aren’t taking his racist shit laying down anymore.

These aren’t isolated incidents either. It’s not only one group of unrepresented people that are asking Chet™ to put some respeck on their existence. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. Black folx. Asian-American folx. Brown/Latinx folx. Trans folx. Queer folx.

Everybody.

And it’s always worse for Chet™ when these groups either overlap (as they do) or they purposely join forces to mollywhop him.

Which brings me to the main point of this piece:

White supremacy becomes irrationally irate when folx join hands in solidarity across racial lines in order to dismantle it.

This is a historical fact that has been illustrated time and time again. Think of ex-enslaved Black folx and poor Whites at the beginning Reconstruction (and what that could have been). Think of MLK’s Poor Peoples Campaign. Think of Ceasar Chavez uniting with Coretta Scott King against prisons and Jewish Rabbis joining Chavez in favor of the unionization of farm workers. Think of Black and Indigenous Seminoles banding together in Florida during the 17th century. Think of Black and Asian solidarity (Black Power + Yellow Peril) in the 60s/70s.

There are numerous more examples of demonstrated resistance through solidarity. And each and every time these examples occurred, White supremacy used every form of violence at its disposal to squash the alliance, be it physical, mental, economical, etc.

And there’s one and only reason White supremacy would be this adamant about destroying solidarity between oppressed groups:

Purposeful solidarity between oppressed groups threatens the very existence of White supremacy.

I have said before that [anti-]Blackness is the crux on which White supremacy operates. Having Black folx on the bottom keeps the wheels turning. It keeps White supremacy’s lights on. So, the moment when other oppressed groups recognize this and intentionally opt out of playing by White supremacy’s rules, suddenly, it has no leg to stand on.

It starts to fall apart.

Demands are made by the oppressed. They can’t be ignored. Shit starts to get done. And White supremacy starts to get undone.

Of course, because White supremacy doesn’t want to over-stretch itself trying to stop all of these shenanigans, it does use other means like…suggestion. The main tactic used is fear. Fear of the repercussions I mentioned. Fear of being on the bottom in society. Fear of losing the few privileges one has under White supremacy. And then there’s the other biggie:

Anti-Blackness.

While the Ultimate Big Bad™ is White supremacy, anti-Blackness is another villain that has just as much to do with why maintaining solidarity between Black folx (in particular) and other oppressed groups is so damn hard.

Black folx have to deal with anti-Blackness on a global scale. It’s prevalent in the White community. It’s prevalent in the AAPI community. It’s prevalent in Brown/Latinx communities. The internalized form of it even permeates in our own community.

It’s everywhere.

And often times, truthfully, it’s side-stepped. Which is highly problematic in itself.

It’s what has made these last two years—where we’ve seen an uptick of activism in some of these communities (particular Black and AAPI)–fairly tense.

Think of it as a one step forward, two steps back scenario.

When speaking of steps forward, I’ve had the honor of seeing both communities do a lot of good shit together.

I witnessed a helluva lot of people across both communities band together to push the #OscarsSoWhite issue (created by April Reign [@ReignofApril]). I saw both [nerd] communities join together to campaign for #AAIronFist (created by Keith Chow [@the_real_chow]). I saw plenty of people in both communities slam the Whitewashing and tokenism of Doctor Strange. I peeped members of both communities cancelling Ghost In The Shell after it cast Scarlett Johansson as an Asian woman. I clapped as both communities dragged the upcoming film about Bruce Lee that had the audacity to center some random White dude. And I cackled as members of both communities gave Matt Damon the business when it was revealed that he was going to star in a movie about The Great Wall of China…called The Great Wall [of China…but the “of China” part is silent, of course].

Why Beneslip Cumbersome look like Joel Edgerton's eviler brother?

But as it concerns two steps backward, it gets uglier.

I wasn’t pleased when members of the AAPI and Latinx communities demanded extra labor from #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign when they felt that they weren’t being “included” enough (especially on Oscars Night). I was not pleased that the reasoning behind that was because they felt that the tag “centered” Black folx too much (which is interesting, because the tag stated nothing about being Black and even if it did, so what? There is nothing wrong with fighting for yourself). This eventually caused Mikki Kendall [@Karnythia] to create the #NotYourMule tag, arguing that Black folx weren’t here to be anyone’s attack dogs or Bitch Boys™.

I was doubly upset when Ming-Na Wen came at Chris Rock’s neck for not including Asian folx in his opening monologue for the Oscars. Even though she eventually learned, her comments only added gasoline to the fire that was already burning due to people horizontally kicking at #OscarsSoWhite and #NotYourMule. And I shook my head that same night when Chris Rock allowed a trio of Asian children to be the butt of an awful joke no doubt orchestrated by the powers that be behind the Oscars ceremony.

I was pissed at Constance Wu when she attempted to co-opt the term Blackface to describe the fact that executives behind Ghost In The Shell were trying to test CGI on Scarlett Johansson’s face in order to make her look more Asian. And I personally had to leave her by the wayside when she doubled down on it, saying that people took Blackface more seriously than Yellowface due to the hypervisibility of Black folx.

Because it’s more “evocative”.

What she failed to understand then (not sure of now) is that hypervisibility doesn’t necessarily have any perks.

Okay, people can see us. Cool. We’re loud, apparently. Right on. But is that stopping us from getting killed at morbidly high rates?

No.

No, it’s not.

So, as you can see, all these things I listed off? They stem from anti-Blackness. They stem from the attitude that as long as you’re not on the bottom of the totem pole like Black folx, you’ll be okay. They stem from the entitlement to Black work and Black labor. They stem from unchecked anti-Blackness in all of these communities.

And because of this, there is this hesitancy, whether right or wrong, by certain Black folx [unless we’re talking Hoteps because if we are, they are irrational irrespective of these factors) to continue to show solidarity to these same communities when the time arrives.

The thought process is: if they don’t give a fuck about me, why should I give a fuck about them?

Admittedly, I almost fell into this trap, once upon a time. After the stressful night that was Oscars Night earlier this year, I felt horribly disillusioned. I watched April and Mikki get hounded all night by multiple sides. I had to cut ties with a longtime Latinx colleague when they demanded I explain why Chris Rock did what he did (demanding labor of me as if I can instantaneously read Chris Rock’s mind because I too am Black) and couldn’t see why that was problematic but had no qualms with calling the response to it–#NotYourMule—racist.

I was tired. A lot of Black folx were.

But, interestingly enough, several people, of both Brown/Latinx and Asian descent, reached out to me in the days and weeks following the aftermath of Oscars Night. Many of them apologized for the bigotry of their compatriots and many more of them took it upon themselves to call out these compatriots and take them to task for their anti-Blackness.

While I was still in quite the defensive state, I was floored by that particular response. And it reminded me of something a friend of mine said:

Not all the people who were granted civil rights fought for civil rights. Some turned their nose up at people who were fighting in the trenches only to turn around and proudly reap the benefits. The same could be said now. Not everyone who wants a revolution to happen will fight for that revolution to happen. Not everyone who wants to be represented will actually put in the work to be represented.

That doesn’t mean we give up on each other. And that certainly does not mean we turn our backs on each other, either.

Especially since that’s what White supremacy wants, really. It’s where all this madness stems from and it’s the oldest divide and conquer tactic in the book and for once, we need to be smart enough to not fall for the Okey Doke ™this time.

We're better than this. We can do better.

IT’S A TRAP. DON’T DO IT FAM.

So when I see male Blerds saying that the AAPI community should be content with merely having “Bruce Lee, American Dragon and anime” as representation rather than Iron Fist, I’m going to challenge that. Because that would be like telling us to be good with just Shazam, Steel, Spawn, Static Shock (the animated series), and (ugh) Catwoman (and the latter has been said to Black women on multiple occasions, as @Steph_I_Will can attest).

When I see male Blerds saying “Who cares?” in response to the Whitewashing in Ghost In The Shell and Doctor Strange, I’m going to say that “You should.” since Whitewashing isn’t isolated and doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Think of Gods of Egypt. Exodus. Lavender Brown in Harry Potter.

If we don’t stop Whitewashing in its tracks when it happens to one of us, then it will continue to happen to all of us.

That’s the thing. Like it or not, because of the way White supremacy is set up, our fates are essentially tied to each other.

And we ain’t gonna get free until we’re all free.

Images From: Giphy, Tumblr, PopSugar, TechInsider, Fangirlish.com
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12 thoughts on “Racism in Media and Fandom: #AAIronFist Solidarity Exposes the Underbelly of White Supremacy

  1. I am sharing this right now. You are very eloquent and direct in your explanation of a point that I have been trying to make for some time now. I particularly like this:

    “That sure doesn’t stop any of us from horizontally punching the shit out of each other every now and then.”

    Our experiences are different but our goal is the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. First of all, I love all your posts and this one is no exception. Believe it or not, the part that really surprised me was that anyone would say that anyone should just be happy with Catwoman. I was with you all the way to the end and then that was instant outrage. While there should never be a “just be happy with” garbage in the first place, how are they going to have anyone settle with a movie that was universally agree to be so horrible and feels like it was written for the sole purposes of “proving” that women aren’t into superheroes by making something no one wants to see. And that was her one and only appearance as a black woman instead of a white one. Okay, I guess there could be another one but I haven’t seen her black anywhere else.
    While there are other areas of my life that make it so that I don’t have to “imagine” what it’s like to be told something so ridiculous, I can’t even understand how people say things like “just be happy with” the one or two anything of anything, especially when they have so many. I’ve been loving the new diverse heroes that have been coming out, even though I can’t quite keep up with all of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much. I’m super honored as I’m still working on my craft.

      That said, I myself could not believe that people were using ‘Catwoman’ as an example but they did. And they continue to do so.

      I’m not shocked though. Being at the intersection of Black and woman makes it so that people think they can say shit like that to you and expect you to just take it.

      Nah.

      Furthermore, of course people who see themselves represented all the time would tell all others (including Asian-Americans and Black femmes) to be content with scraps.

      They’re not trying to give any of the goods up. Which, unfortunately for them, is not sustainable. We have never been particularly meek but in 2016? We’re not asking to be represented anymore. We’re demanding it.

      Liked by 3 people

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