Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (Part 5): I AM CURIOUS BLACK

When last we read: White Lois goes to Little Africa and is shunned, so she becomes Black Lois. BL meets SL (slum lady) and learns about tenements and poverty. Lois, still black, continues her exploration of Little Africa. Let's now return to I AM CURIOUS BLACK!

There appears to be a problem with schooling, as kindergarten is held in an empty lot with the kids sitting on crates, listening to a man tell them that black is beautiful. He says it several times. He makes them repeat it. He looks a tad... demonic as he says it. The kids don't appear to be afraid of him, but that wild look in his eyes chills me a bit (Black may be beautiful, but demonic possession never is). Am I discovering a heretofore unknown prejudice or am I remembering being in school with wacko Miss Herzog and her Hitleresque learning techniques? (a shiver goes down Joanna's spine). Definitely the Herzog effect.

(Social commentary: I've often heard the argument that if white people shouted the slogan "White is Beautiful" it would be deemed racist and bigoted, yet the whole "Black is Beautiful" thing was cheered in the late 60's/early 70's. This is a specious argument because society always allows the downtrodden to say what the ruling elite cannot when it comes to a struggle for equality. That's why there can be a women's lib, yet a 'man's lib' is laughable -- liberated from what: higher pay, higher social position, being the ruling class? "Black is beautiful" worked only because history had deemed them "unbeautiful" for centuries. To climb the ladder to equality, the non-ruling class has to fuel itself and the ruling class is not allowed to steal that fuel. The two panels that have the "Black is beautiful" kindergarten class is, therefore, a wonderful representation of the system at work. Tell small children who fear their futures that they are beautiful. That they can have pride and hope. That they can achieve. Tell them often enough and they will grow up believing it. That belief, more than anything else, will fuel the social change. Despite the crazy look in the teacher's eyes, I really like these two panels for what they represent in the mirror of 30+ years ago. I think they are far more powerful than the falling plaster, or the whitey is bad stuff.)

A hand touches Lois on the shoulder and she turns to see Angry Black Man from the day before. Only now he's Handsome Black Man (or because he actually has a name: Dave Stevens). He feels that he recognizes Lois and tries to pin down from where he knows her. Lois is speechless (we must assume she remembers him and his purple shirt and therefore knows that he saw her earlier as a white woman). He looks nice. I no longer hate him.

Before they can explore this further, Dave sees some teenagers heading for an alley. Not only are they skipping school, Dave knows they're up to no good. He immediately turns into a crusading hero, ready to take on the baddies who threaten the youth. He also turns into a male chauvinist pig (I'm using me some 70's lingo, baby!) by telling Lois to stay out of it because "...this is a man's business!" (He could have said, "Stay here, there might be trouble" or warned of danger or something like that, but instead he had to get all Archie Bunker on her and proclaim it a man thing). Let's see, he's racist and sexist. Oh yeah, real swoon material. He doesn't look nice anymore. I'm starting to hate him again.

Lois -- who has never run from danger in her life -- follows him. She's a reporter. Danger is her life (and no man is going to tell that feminist where she can and cannot go!).

As they run toward the end of the alley we see the teenagers talking to two guys (Isn't that nice? Black and white, working together in harmony) dressed as mobsters/crooks. (Hello, teenagers? I'd like you to meet Bad Influences. Bad Influences? Teenagers.) The teens have been stealing so that they can buy drugs. Dave is very upset about this, as he should be. Unfortunately, the crooks are also upset at Dave, thinking he's probably "the fuzz". They shoot. Lois escapes injury, but Dave is hit (ruining his favorite purple shirt)!

Oh no! Dave is going to die! Lois is black! The hoods are more racially harmonious than the good guys! What a world! What a world! Could I really leave you hanging like this? Sure can. Come back Friday for part 6 of I AM CURIOUS BLACK!


Anonymous said...

She looked god Black as well as White.

D.o.s. said...

thanks for the second paragraph. ive always wondered why its ok for things like that, take the film 'black nativity' if white people did that it'd be deemed racial supremacy probably. but now i get it. but still, shouldnt the message he tells those kids be '' every colour is beautiful'' not just black

Joanna Sandsmark said...

Thank you for your comment, D.o.s. Saying "every color is beautiful" is another white construct, i.e. a way to make sure white people are also praised. What those children need to hear is that THEY are beautiful. They have plenty of time to learn more nuanced and complex messages. They're in kindergarten. Keep it simple and make sure they get a solid foundation in self-love. It's the most important thing you can say to a child. Build them up because the world will spend the rest of their lives pushing them down. Without that message of self-love they haven't a chance. Black is beautiful. Pure truth. The rest of us are also beautiful, but that's a lesson for another year.