Let me start with a story. As a way to earn extra cash I often baby-sit through an agency. (I mean NYC is EXPENSIVE and a girl gotta eat.) I recently babysat this adorable 4-year-old boy who is OBSESSED with Spiderman. I even had to keep him from climbing on the furniture several times. LOL! Any who, it was movie time and he brings me the DVD for “Spiderman 3” which has the following case art:
After convincing the 4 year old the movie is too scary for ME to watch, he looks at me, with complete innocence, and ask, “Why is that Spiderman black?’
Now, because I am a complete comic book GEEK my initial thoughts were, “WHAT!?! How do you not know???? He’s Venom, DUH!!! Come on kid! I THOUGHT YOU WERE A FAN!?!!!!!!” But it would have been wrong of me to
make fun of scold him due to his lack of Marvel education, so I simply said, “Because he’s Venom.” How silly of me to think that would be good enough explanation for a 4 year old? He asks again, “but why is he black?” so I responded, “Because he’s the bad guy.”
At first I didn’t think much of my response. It’s the truth, Venom is one of the villains in the third Spiderman movie thusly a “bad guy”. It wasn’t until the little boy said, “So, the black one is the bad one?” that it hit me. I looked at his innocent little face and could tell he was digesting the thought, “Black one= bad one=evil.” I freaked.
My mind started racing, “What have I done??? Will this be the catalyst that will start a spiral of racial profiling??? OH-EM-GEE!!! Did I just help create another radical conservative!?!?!” (Shameless jab)
Now, it’s possible I was thinking too hard. As a side effect of babysitting various privileged kids I often find myself relating to the Best-Selling novel and Oscar Nominated film, “The Help.” I just think…
So I quickly sat the little boy down and tried my best to explain to him in the simplest, most delicate matter that Venom is AWESOME! In fact he is one of the best characters/villains in the
Spiderman Marvel Universe. That the actual Venom persona is the side effect of an extraterrestrial parasite that attaches it’s self to Spiderman’s suit. Ultimately turning the suit black and causing Spiderman to act irrationally. I tried my best not to focus on the actual color of the suit but the simple fact that when the suit changes color its a visual clue that Spiderman isn’t his usual “friendly” self.
After a 20 minute, well thought out explanation, the little boy turns to me and says, “So when he turns black he turns bad?” LOL!! Bless his heart. Can I blame the kid? He’s 4! How can I expect him to grasp concepts deeper than shapes and colors? Can I blame Stan Lee , the creator of Venom, for having a “black” villain when he also created the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Sandman? Can I blame myself for not thinking how he might internalize my answer? I don’t know. All I could do was laugh, rub his little head, and say a small prayer that 1.) One day he will understand the concept behind the “Venom Suit” (nerd prayer) 2.) He will not be eternally brainwashed into relating black to bad.
Now most would say I was just being paranoid but was I? Look at what’s happening to our society. Over the last month the amount of racism I have seen in our country has been disgusting. Maybe I just live in a bubble, but I really thought WE, as a people in the United States, had transcended the ignorant thoughts of predecessors in terms of skin color. More specifically the younger generations, who are growing up in a mixed society where there is an African- American president. Call me crazy, but I expect to see more levels of acceptance among our youth. How naive of me?
Instead I fear for our youth. Surfing the web I have come across the most disturbing things and I’m not just talking about the sad case known as Trayvon Martin. I’m talking about the Face book posts, bumper stickers, the public outrage on movie castings, the hate crimes and don’t get me started on the ignorance of twitter. It’s really sad that so many young minds (of all races) feel/ think this way. You really have to wonder, “Where do these kids get this?” The worst part is most of them don’t even realize they’re being racist. SMH! We need to do better.
Many will debate that racism will always be an issue if you keep talking about it but acting like it doesn’t exist and constantly sweeping it under the rug doesn’t help either. The truth of the matter is that racism is ALIVE and KICKING. The evidence is all over the Internet. So you have a choice, you can 1.) Ignore it. Or 2.) You can educate those around you and let them know it’s not ok to judge a person’s moral character based on the color of their skin. At least I tried to explain the “Venom” concept to the little boy. How many of you would have ended the conversation when he said, “So the black one is the bad one?”
Just some food for thought.
Author’s Note: I on purposefully left the little boy’s race out of my story and decided to describe him simply as “Innocent.” I wanted to show that it doesn’t make a difference if he was a Caucasian or Person of Color. If he relates “Black to bad” he could grow up both hating himself and people like him or hating those who don’t look like him. Either outcome is a problem for our society as a whole not just a singular race.