Alright, kids. It’s time for a story.
Every year, San Diego Comic-Con has The Black Panel, where Black artists, actors and writers discuss their projects. It’s one of the most popular events of the weekend, so you have to be in line early to get in. One year, I get there crazy early and I’m first in line. A while later, this white guy shows up and is noticeably upset that he wasn’t first. As the morning goes on, we chat about the con, comics, and movies, but it’s clear this isn’t just a regular conversation. He’s testing me. If you’re a woman or a Black fan, you’re familiar with the phenomenon where white males want you to prove you belong in what they perceive as their world.
So after a couple of minutes, I put my headphones in and ignore him, which further upsets him until another white guy shows up and they bond over white guy stuff, finally leaving me free to read my book. That’s right: a white guy was trying to make a Black woman prove her fandom while waiting for, of all things, The Black Panel. And that, in a nutshell, describes certain fans’ relationship to sci-fi/fantasy/comic book entertainment. It’s theirs and only they get to decide what’s acceptable.
But out here in reality, we know that’s ridiculous. The characters and stories belong to all of us, and I have just as much right to see myself in them as they do. If there are characters like Finn and Reva in the Stars Wars Universe, that doesn’t suddenly lessen your enjoyment of it, it just makes me feel like my favorite piece of entertainment has a place for me. You still have Luke, Han, Obi-Wan, Anakin and countless others.
There’s this idea among racist gatekeepers that including Black actors in certain roles isn’t faithful to the source material. That’s just stupid. When many fantasy novels and comic books were written, it was practically illegal to feature a Black person. However, now it’s 2022, and it’s perfectly reasonable for Black actors to be cast as stormtroopers, jedis, elven warriors, mermaids and medieval pirates.
Look, I understand the idea of Black fans being happy and feeling seen is just completely unacceptable to racists, but Halle Bailey, John Boyega, Moses Ingram, Steve Toussaint, Ismael Cruz Córdova and the countless others I didn’t have room to list have done nothing to these trolls but get cast in a major role and kill it in said role. You don’t own genre entertainment. I’ve spent my entire life invested in these stories and characters and I refuse to let a bunch of pathetic racists ruin the joy of seeing myself in my favorite worlds.
I will ride into battle and take on all comers, because I am sick and tired of hearing about Black actors being harassed by so-called “fans.” These people aren’t fans, they’re racist trolls and they’re the ones who don’t belong in our genre.