Dear America: Are You Ready For A Bulletproof Black Man Like Luke Cage?

Can America Love A Hero And Hate Us?


You love Luke Cage, eh?

cheo coker luke cageThere I sat inside the main hall of the 2016 Comic Con in San Diego. I mean, this was a room of geek having a simultaneous nerdgasm.

But all I saw was you, America. An hundreds of nerds were like Romans at a gladiator’s arena.

As a lifelong comic fan, I have seen my share of excitement around heroes, but this was remarkably unique. Marvel unveiled “Luke Cage,” a new series on Netflix that drops September 30. There were heroes before the comic legend once known as Power Man, but few have been as palatable and wildly popular especially to Black youth. But, for a moment in time I saw you, America, yelping approvingly for a beloved Black man.

Somehow a Black man has managed to slip into your world under the guise of a super hero, which is wildly confounding amidst today’s social and political conditions. White people cheering for a Black hero such as Cage. America, are you REALLY ready for a bulletproof man of color?

Fan boys and girls alike were in sheer unhinged bliss for a Black male superhero with bulletproof skin. Furthermore, Luke Cage is a convict deeply entrenched in the streets of Harlem. Falsely convicted of a crime, Cage still manages to overcome and use his super strength and durable body frame for good. In the Netflix series, Luke Cage is played by Mike Colter, who truly encapsulates the essence of the Marvel-made hero.

When bullets bounce off Cage in the official trailer, fans roared. When he tosses criminals around, they got more excited. It really is fascinating when you compare and contrast it with what is going on in the United States these days. The racial tension is thicker than I’ve ever encountered in my life. If Cage were real, would you be so supportive, America?

Doubt it.

You would probably be even more fearful of Cage than your average Black man. A man police cannot murder? AmeriKKKa’s real nightmare, indeed.

A 2014 study revealed that White people have a view of African American’s that causes them to stereotypically believe that Black folk have super strength, inhuman speed, an uncanny resistance to pain and other magical qualities. The study showed that that superiority didn’t apply to menial tasks and activities that required more thought. (Read: Whites See Blacks as Superhuman)

Cage is largely a creation of the times – the 1970’s and 80’s. He was inspired by Blaxploitation characters of that day like Shaft. With chest out and muscles bulging, he was not regarded as the smartest guy. However, he was the “every man” that a lot of kids gravitated to. Cage got his powers after he was illegally experimented on in jail and it went wrong. Sound familiar? (Hint: The Tuskegee Experiment.)  Going forward, he has been updated as a smarter, refined brother trying to flatten the wrinkles in his life. Sound familiar?

Clearly, it is easy for Marvel fan boys and girls to show love to Luke Cage, America. As Black as he is, wouldn’t that somehow translate into some compassion for Philando Castile and Aston Sterling, two Black men that died from police bullets? Not so much. If you look at Cage, he’s a lot like those guys, or even Mike Brown, who was murdered August 9, 2014. Luke Cage’s past was far from perfect, as a product of you, America (wink, wink). The treatment of Cage is consistent with the treatment of most celebrated characters – until they somehow manage to upset White folks. And then they are almost never forgiven. They are almost always dismantled and destroyed.

The looming Netflix series is helmed by the legendary Hip-Hop scribe Cheo Hodari Coker, who is now a heavy in Hollywood. However, Coker – the series show runner – is able to bring authenticity that would certainly escape others. At a round table press conference, he told a group of us journalist-types that it was no coincidence that Mike Colter frequently dons a hoodie has he plays the Harlem-bred. hero. It honors Trayvon Martin, who was murdered by vigilante, George Zimmerman (He was recently punched in the face for bragging about it). And at the press conference, Coker took it a step farther and told all of those fans: “The world is ready for a bullet-proof Black man.” Raucous applause ensued at Comic Con.

chuck creekmur mike colter
Chuck Creekmur & Mike Colter

America, are you REALLY ready for a bulletproof man of color?

I’m going to say no. The outright acts of injustice are increasing. Fear-mongering may as well be a governmental job. The militarized police are becoming more and more prevalent. And you know, Luke Cage can bleed with the right type of bullet. Almost every time an unarmed Black man is shot, the police/media description sounds something like Luke Cage. The stats of Black men that are wrongly accused, falsely convicted and then exonerated are staggering (read about some of that HERE). The dude is a former criminal that is a menace to some. He’s typically larger than life or, in 12-year old Tamir Rice’s case, can seem really threatening if you are already fearful. Whoever the Black man is, he is almost always more powerful/more threatening/more dangerous/more bulletproof than reality calls for. When Alton Sterling was tackled by a pair of cops, the cop pumped six fatal slugs directly into his chest at pointblank range.

We’ve all universally celebrated Superman (aka Perfect Man), even though Kal-El should be Black according to scientists (Read: Science Says Superman Should Be Black). And we’ve loved the genius of Batman, the tortured vigilante (Should be a Black man too! Smile.). When I saw Cheo Coker, I immediately told him I am proud of him. I don’t use those words often. That was based on the quality of “Luke Cage,” but it was also deeply rooted in the messaging within the story’s narrative. Change. The way Hip-Hop is infused in the storyline. The nods to Trayvon Martin. The complexity of the characters. That truth that “normal” Black people do good – a lugie in the face of the age-old, false narrative that we are all criminals. The notion that there are heroic Black people.  The notion that Black Lives f**king Matter, America.  I hope you get it, America, because they are subtle nuances. Nonetheless, tremendously significant.

White America, are you REALLY ready for a bulletproof man of color?

If the answer is yes, then some of you are going to have to conduct yourself a bit differently. White Silence is beyond annoying at this point, but its downright hurtful when you cheer for a super hero who would be a “menace” if he were real. Giving life to Cage, but offering death to us normal folk..what a quandary. Don’t be afraid to speak out against injustice. Talk to your friends. Vote for people that support progressive reform. Listen to what we are saying. Give money to organizations that fight daily for quality. Use your powers of privilege for good. Hell, treat us all like Luke Cage.

Yes, Luke Cage is fiction. So was Cliff Huxtable, but that character served to unify and uplift us all. Anyway, I’ve already seen a lot of the Luke Cage Netflix series and I am certain you are ready for this. It is greatness. I just hope you are ready for the rest of us, because we are coming too.

Waves of greatness, America. Waves.

LUKE CAGE Myles Aronowitz / Netflix