Robot 6

Flashpoint world map sparks controversy

When DC Comics released its map of the World of Flashpoint this morning, fans began talking about it right away. What DC likely didn’t expect was the tone of that discussion. One of the largest complaints was readers’ quickly and strongly objecting to Africa’s being labeled as “Ape-controlled.”

The first comment on our post about the map, for example, was “‘Ape controlled’? Racist much?” And though other commenters were just as quick to point out that Africa is the home of Grodd’s Gorilla City, the expansion of which will be the subject of one of the Flashpoint mini-series, the wording of the label is undeniably unfortunate. Commenters also point out the mention of the “Asian Capital” that suggests to them a lack of awareness of the diversity that exists on that continent.

It’s not only Robot 6 commenters who are discussing the issue. The conversation is also being had at the Comic Book Resources forumsComics Alliance, and undoubtedly other places I haven’t discovered yet. Comments range from the relatively benign (“It’s almost as if DC wants to start racial controversy”) to outright accusations of racism and misogyny.

Others have noted that even if no intentional offense was meant (and honestly, does anyone really believe that it was?), in addition to a lack of sensitivity, the map also betrays a lack of imagination. Gorillas in Africa, Nazis in South America, and pirates in the Atlantic — for example — are standard tropes in adventure stories. Even Alaska as “Land of the Undead” has me wondering if we’re going to see a 30 Days of Night crossover. I’m guessing that familiar clichés are exactly what DC’s going for, but I understand the complaint that some of these stereotypes could use a second thought and another look.

On the other hand, it strikes me that the Amazons’ taking over Britain and declaring it New Themyscira is a pretty original idea. And I certainly wouldn’t suggest that a world full of talking gorillas, Nazis, pirates, merfolk and Amazons is a bad place to tell a whole mess of stories. It’s just too bad that it’s been overshadowed by another mess altogether. Especially since this isn’t the first time DC’s been accused of this kind of thing.

News From Our Partners

Comments

105 Comments

Kneel Before Grodd!!!

How come whenever anyone does something where they have an Asian capital it’s racist? Isn’t the continent called Asia? And doesn’t the mean they are all Asians? The same way I am a North American or some people are European? And is the idea the continent has a capital city in an alternate world that hard to grasp?

You can find racism and prejudice anywhere if you really want to look hard and deep enough. Everyone who is crying about it needs to quit being overly sensitive. In conclusion, people are dumb.

We’ve reached a point where some people are incapable of NOT seeing ‘racism’ everywhere they look. Some people are outraged that the word ‘ape’ and the word ‘Africa’ would ever appear remotely close to each other, even in a story where sentient apes have literally conquered the majority of the African continent. Other people are outraged that an alternate reality might have a different definition of ‘Asia’ and how it might have a single capitol.

Such reactions are rapidly becoming an offshoot of Godwin’s Law.

@morph1138

Exactly. The continent is Asia. Why couldn’t they label something “Asian Capital” denoting that it is…umm the capital of Asia? Good thing they didn’t have a “European Capital”. I don’t even read DC comics that much and I knew exactly what they meant with the African label.

But this is the internet and the only reason most people have to be on it is to voice their overly sensitive, politically correct feelings. Now, instead of trying to enjoy Flashpoint, they can moan about how racist DC is, etc, etc.

I hate the internet.

Sean T. Collins

May 20, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Four comments in and things are proceeding more or less as I figured they would. Good to see SOME things haven’t changed in the world of Flashpoint!

Nazis in South America… pfff… they were all working for the NASA.

I don’t disagree with the other commenters. I’ve never been soft on DC whenever I think they’re in the wrong but that said I think this whole thing is a tempest in a teacup, if that. Where would people expect Gorilla City to take over? Portugal?

Chris: It may me a tempest in a teapot, as you suggest, but I’m also guessing you’re a white, late 20s/early 30s male whose perspective on this is naturally different from that of a black man or woman. Look, I’m just another white guy and while I sincerely hope this doesn’t get massively over blown, the fact that more than just one person has brought up this controversy shows that maybe there’s something here and, if that map is used again or re-purposed in a comic or trade paperback, that “Kingdom of Grodd, Ape Region” or something along those lines should be substituted.

“Where would people expect Gorilla City to take over?”

Does it *have* to take any place over? Does it even need to exist?

Instead of accepting the existence of Gorilla City as an axiom and then using that to justify that it *has* to be set in Africa, try looking at it the other way. In defining the geopolitical situation of an alternate reality, there came a point where someone took a look at Africa and wondered: “Hmm, what can we do with that region?” And the best they could come up with was to have it be invaded by apes?

I think there are two separate issues here.

The first is, did anyone involved in this intend racism? The answer is almost certainly no. As Flashpoint says, I doubt anyone is going to argue that seriously.

But the second issue is, in what context does the work exist? Is DC publishing in a post-racial world where no one has to worry about giving offense accidentally? Or is it publishing in a world where certain epithets continue to be used against certain minority groups, and accidentally using keywords will trigger reactions in people who actually still encounter such prejudices, or who have memories of such?

Intuitively, commenters seem to find it ridiculous that it might matter what happens in a fantasy world. But the issue may not be as simple as “no racist intent” equals “no racist interpretation is possibly valid.” Indeed, I could see an argument that if one has to actively intend to be racist to be racist, then the vast majority of people in the 1950s and earlier were not really racist, despite acting in racist ways. But that’s probably not very much comfort to those who had to deal with the prejudices of that time.

I’m actually 20, and I find the treatment/depiction of women and minorities in comics abhorrent much of the time and feel like the industry should abandon stereotypes and cliches. But I don’t think that’s what this is. If you say “controlled by apes”, and the continent is actually controlled by hyper-intelligent psychic gorillas in the story, you’re just stating something that’s happening in the story. There are no connotations racist or otherwise, none that I can see. And I’m aware of the “black people=apes” thing that racists say, but again, THAT’S NOT WHAT THIS IS.

I’ll repeat what I said in the other thread and say that I DO think it should’ve been “Controlled by Gorillas”, as that has less of a head-turning ring to it.

HAHAHA @ Basque trying to imply the apes weren’t already there. There didn’t need to invade it. This whole thing is dumb and I can’t believe so many people are getting all up in arms over it. Its Grodd people, come on!

DC Comics:

“Do you fear the unintended racism found within your Flashpoint map?”

Read Fear Itself!

Well said, Michael — on all counts. Wasn’t there a stink made about the White Power Ring when it was introduced in Blackest Night?

Picture has been taken down off the article and comments have been closed too.

Where’s Charlton Heston when you need him?

“Does it *have* to take any place over? Does it even need to exist?”

Flashpoint has so far been about all over the super-societies rebelling and taking over/destroying the world, so it would almost be more surprising if Gorilla City DIDN’T start kicking stuff up. And I guess it doesn’t NEED to exist, but it’s a comic book, none of this really NEEDS to exist, and again, I think it’s a massive stretch to say that psychic gorillas have anything to do with black people, or indeed, people in general, racist or otherwise. I’ll even agree that the phrasing was unfortunate; I’m just wondering what any of this is going to solve.

Ethan: What picture has been removed?

Asia shouldn’t have a capital because it isn’t a political entity. There is no President of Asia, you can’t enter into a treaty with Asia, etc. It’s a geographic landmass that contains many nations. The “capital of Asia” thing from Flashpoint suggests more ignorance that racism. The “run by apes” thing again shows ignorance, this time of racial slurs/caricatures. It’s not that DC is racist in this instance, it’s that they are doing things, that in other instances, have been used to be hurtful to various races.

@Scud – that’s actually not at all what I was trying to imply. “Invade” was the wrong word to use. “Overtake” or “control” or whatever. It makes no difference. My point has nothing to do with how the apes got there. I’m talking about how the writers and editors arrived at the decision.

@moritheil

I disagree with your analysis of the issues involved.

Your first issue is completely irrelevant. Looking for “racist intent” is a dead end, because (a) we can’t read people’s minds and we’ll never really know what they intended, and (b) very few people actually “intend” to be racist assholes. That’s not how racism works. A lot of really racist comments are preceded by “I’m not racist but…”

Your second issue amounts to little more than what people dismiss as “political correctness.” It focuses on people being “offended” by accidental and unintended associations. I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss people’s reactions as taking offence at (as someone else suggested) the proximity of the words “ape” and “Africa.” Maybe for some people that’s the extent of it, but the criticism I’ve seen was a lot more nuanced than that.

The thing that people fail to take into consideration when they dismiss the accusations of racism is that this is not an isolated incident. The problem can’t be reduced to the words “Ape-controlled Africa.” That’s not just an idea floating in a vacuum that triggers random associations in people’s minds and that those who are “looking for racism” then interpret in a certain way. This is a creative decision by a team of (almost exclusively white and male) writers and editors working with characters and concepts that are part of shared universe that’s been around for about 75 year. In order to understand what is or isn’t racist about “ape-controlled Africa,” you need to look at it in this context.

And in that context, what bothers me about the idea is not so much that I’m uncomfortable with apes being associated with Africa, but rather the fact that Africa in DC Comics is very poorly represented to begin with, and when an opportunity to tell a global story in an alternate universe comes along, the best thing they can come up with is a bunch of apes taking over the continent.

How does that happen? What does that say about the appalling lack of imagination of the people responsible for this story? How many stories in DC Comics were set in Africa over the last, say, 20 years, and what percentage of those involved gorillas?

Everyone complaining about this needs to get both a life and thicker skin.

“Ape shall not kill Ape.”

I’m sorry. I see that and I think of the Planet of the Apes movies.

Wow. This is so dumb. They are just comic books. Read deep and find the racism you want to be there all you want. It’s not going to affect the way I enjoy them one bit.

Before I go I would like to ask one question though: Is it racist to assume that when the map says Ape-Controlled you immediately think of black people instead of well, you know, APES? Is it racist that you see the words Asian Capital and assume they mean Chinese, Japanese, Thai, etc. instead of Capital of Asia?

In conclusion, people are dumb.

Amen morph1138.

“They are just comic books.”

Seriously? Oh, man. I thought we were talking about an actual map of the word. If they’re just comic books, then, yeah, forget I said anything. Obviously comic books can never be racist. And even if they were, it absolutely wouldn’t matter. Right?

@Ethan: Comments haven’t been taken down. The DCU blog shut down its comments section weeks ago.

All the people who complain are a bunch of morons. I am a born citizen from Congo and when I saw the ape-controlled Africa I tought it was a terrific Idea as I know that the apes are native to Africa and Asia, although humans have spread to all parts of the world. I was never offended by the creative decission.

People who see this and thinks they are talking about black people like myself, they are the real racist here.

@Basque

Maybe you should re-read this part:

“Is it racist to assume that when the map says Ape-Controlled you immediately think of black people instead of well, you know, APES? Is it racist that you see the words Asian Capital and assume they mean Chinese, Japanese, Thai, etc. instead of Capital of Asia?”

They ARE just comics. People are looking for an intent that most likely wasn’t there. Should I look at anything in pop-culture that uses the word “ape” and assume it is being used as racism toward black people? Words are words. If you want a word to be racist it can be. If you want it to be taken for it’s most literal meaning it can be as well.

Like I already said, seeing the word ape and assuming it means black is racist. Using the phrase “ape-controlled” to define a place that is controlled by a race of super-intelligent apes is not racist. In fact it’s not even realistic. After all, they really are just comics.

Zach…,

What about ALTERED REALITY do you not seem capable of grasping?

More and more comic fans are reminding me of Hooper X from Chasing Amy.

You know what? All the people who complain are a bunch of morons. I am a born citizen from Congo and when I saw the ape-controlled Africa I tought it was a terrific Idea as I know that the apes are native to Africa and Asia, although humans have spread to all parts of the world. I was never offended by the creative decission.

People who see this and thinks they are talking about black people like myself, they are the real racist here.

Johan, nobody thinks they are referring to black people.

The people saying “Of course there would be an Asian Capital, Asians live in Asia!” seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that there are many different cultures and people in Asia. It’s not some big homogenous place. That’s like saying there should be an African capital or a European capital. No tensions between the people within Africa or Europe, right? I’m sure all those news reports of racial strife in those places have been way overblown. Must be, because why wouldn’t all Africans get along with Africans and all Europeans get along with each other? While we’re at it lets make a North American capital too. Mexicans, Canadians and Americans are all the same right? We all live on the same continent, so we MUST be the same.

I’m not saying its racism on DC’s part, but I do think it’s indicative of lazy writing and a lack of imagination. And ignorance on the fans part trying to explain it away as some logical and completely natural idea.

“The people saying “Of course there would be an Asian Capital, Asians live in Asia!” seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that there are many different cultures and people in Asia. It’s not some big homogenous place. That’s like saying there should be an African capital or a European capital. No tensions between the people within Africa or Europe, right? I’m sure all those news reports of racial strife in those places have been way overblown. Must be, because why wouldn’t all Africans get along with Africans and all Europeans get along with each other? While we’re at it lets make a North American capital too. Mexicans, Canadians and Americans are all the same right? We all live on the same continent, so we MUST be the same.”

You do know it’s a fictional universe right? And sometimes in fictional universes when there is a massive war thing going on and nations unite under one rule they have single capitals. I think it’s happened quite a few times with Europe especially. No one cried racism then.

Also your argument about all nations not getting along so they shouldn’t unite against a common cause makes little sense when most countries don’t even get along that well. Look at the conflicts in many African nations or the Civil War (the real one where the U.S. fought itself, not where Cap and Iron Man duked it out). Most people don’t get along but it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t unite against a common foe or problem.

Oh yeah and it’s fictional.

So… you have a group of people that for centuries have been seen and treated as sub-human and you create a piece of modern day fiction where they are conquered by sentient animals. I guess these people were too stupid and weak to fight back a marauding group of sentient beasts. Is that the conclusion we are told to make? Afterall, this is the only continent where in the fictional Flashpoint world it happened.

I think it would be funny if Mr. Grodd conquered the South. Now that would be a barrel of monkeys.

Oh for fuck’s sake.

That a text is fictional doesn’t absolve it of its racial meanings. Jar Jar Binks is still a racist caricature even with a hadrosaur face and orange skin.

The problem with “Asian Capital” is that one of the ways that racist european colonialist social science and humanities discourse has understood “The Orient” is as an undifferentiated mass whose internal demarcations are dwarfed and eclipsed by its fundamental and ontological difference from “The West”. I can see how folks could read this map as playing into that kind of logic. The whole exercise reeks of, at best a lazy ignorance on the part of DC’s chief creative officer.

The only thing this reeks of is some people needing something to complain about because anyone crying racism over the Flashpoint map is an idiot. Speaking as a minority it amazes me how much reaching there is by a certain faction of comic fans to look for something to rant over regarding sexism, racism or what have you. It’s like they are just reading these comics to get something to latch on and try to make a statement about instead of stepping back and realising just how silly they sound when they make those arguments. There is nothing racist or sexist about Flashpoint it’s a freaking comic about an alternate DCU in which the world’s greatest heroes don’t exist. If you take the book as being anyhing more than that than you are seriously deluded and need to find another hobby.

“But I don’t think that’s what this is. If you say “controlled by apes”, and the continent is actually controlled by hyper-intelligent psychic gorillas in the story, you’re just stating something that’s happening in the story.”

I think there’s perhaps some confusion here.

First, the continent is not actually controlled by apes. Because it’s a comic book. There is no continent. There are no apes.

What there is is a plot and a world and a setting that some people came up with because they thought it would be cool. Somebody said, let’s have apes control Africa. Somebody else said, awesome! Africa/apes in control! It makes sense! It’s natural! It’s exciting! Go for it!

Did they intend to be racist? Did they intend to say, hey, Africa is one giant uniculture, and that uniculture is best represented by the words “controlled by apes!” No, of course they didn’t intend to say quite that. And yet, at the same time, they made a bold new world in which Africa is a single uniculture, and that uniculture is controlled by apes. And because fiction has something to do with reality and that world has something to do with our world, it just so happens that — oops! — portraying Africa as a giant uniculture controlled by apes fits rather neatly with vile racist stereotypes of long standing.

Those stereotypes, unlike the psychic apes, actually existed. Given the well-documented existence of those stereotypes, which portrayed Africa as a single mass and the people as simians, the onus is not on anybody to prove that DC Comics produced racist garbage. The onus is on DC to explain why, exactly, they’re not being racist when they treat Africa as a single uniculture, and suggest jovially that it is ruled by apes.

If you draw a blackface caricature, it’s a blackface caricature. Iconography doesn’t exist in a vacuum. And the fact that you aren’t smart enough to figure out that you’re taking your iconography from racist stereotypes is not an excuse. It’s an indictment.

May I further suggest that if those are just comics, these are just comments. If you’re all up in arms about a comment on a comics blog, perhaps you’re not really in a place to be telling someone else they’re overreacting.

No.

The onus is on you to explain why you think DC is being racist.

You are doing a poor job so far.

No, actually I think Noah has done quite an excellent job of explaining his (her?) position.

And perhaps, given the vehemence with which these viewpoints are being expressed, we might consider precisely what’s at stake for the various constituents. For many of us? Absolutely nothing at all, I’d wager, except our unsullied sense of comics as a place for an escapist pleasure that serve our own particular fantasies of how the world works.

For others? Perhaps there’s more at stake than fictional psychic apes.

@Noah Berlatsky

Very well said, sir, couldn’t have done it any better myself. Don’t feel bad when most of these posters rip you for it though. I don’t expect that many are capable of grasping a logically valid argument through the veil of their baseless white anger.

Speaking of TerraNova, what exactly is your central thesis? Are you arguing that what DC did does not meet an agreed upon definition of racism? Are you trying to reaffirm your own personal definition by a majority consensus? Because agreed upon definitions, majority consensuses and, yes, even your hallowed personal definition are completely irrelevant in matters of racism. Racism doesn’t need to be certified, or meet criteria in order to qualify as such. It simply needs to be perceived by an offended party, at which point the onus of disproving it falls upon the accused party, in this case DC Comics. This is not my opinion, or Noah’s opinion, this is the very clever way that we now protect the civil rights of minorities in this country. If we instead placed the onus of proof on the numerical minority, well, we’d live in pre-Civil Rights Act America. That onus of proof is the miniscule price you pay for being in the otherwise advantageous position of majority. You get numbers, and they get legislation that ensures you don’t abuse your numbers. We have chosen as a society to protect the rights of individuals to not suffer racism, rather than individuals rights to commit racism. We have sacrificed your individual freedom in order to protect against the suffering of the few. This is fact, not opinion. What is it that’s so difficult to grasp about that dynamic? I know life just isn’t American without the ability to read about a fictional, alternate-reality ape-controlled Africa, but you’ll just have to figure out some other way to get by.

Racism has obviously, empirically been perceived here. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. So now the onus falls on DC to disprove that is the case. 1 + 1 = 2. It never equals 3, regardless of your opinion on the matter.

Noah said it better than I could. Thank you.

Well said.

Oh dear lord! ‘Asia united’ line of discussion is idiotic I have tears in my eyes…from laughing so hard. I mean I understand you didn’t pay attention in geography class, but there is never going to be a war big enough to unite countries as diverse Saudi Arabia, India and Korea. I see more racism in this thread than in that map. And I know you only have my word for this, but I do not make such statements superflously. Not even on the internet.

Everyone upset over this map has certainly been complaining for years now about the underrepresentation or poor representation of blacks, Asians and women in comics. Right?

Right?

Love to see everyone hop on the bandwagon of a fake issue and then not give a damn about the real issue.

Grodd doesn’t care what colour a human’s skin is. He hates us all equally.

TerraNova, claiming you’ve won the argument is easy. Actually making an argument is somewhat harder.

Do you deny that Africa has in the past been portrayed as a barbaric uniculture? Do you deny that black people have been likened to apes? Do you deny that those portrayals are racist?

If you’re not willing to deny any of that, it’s not clear to me what leg you have left to stand on.

Jumping up and down and shouting “it’s only a comic” is a good argument for ignoring superhero comics as entertainment and art and shuttering Marvel and DC. If we can’t expect more from superhero comics than that, then the medium is worthless and we should all move on.

“It’s only a comic” though, is not really a good argument for ignoring racist content. If you want us to ignore racist content, I think your only argument really has to be “it’s only racism!” I suspect that is what many commenters on this thread actually think. It would be refreshing to see the argument made openly so we all were clear exactly where we stood.

DanielT, more representation of minorities would be good, certainly. However, if “more representation” means “more racist caricatures”, then no, nobody’s going to be very enthusiastic about that. There’s no inconsistency in advocating for more representation and fewer racist caricatures. Surely that’s not that hard to grasp.

@DanielT

What is the real issue?

Understanding how the DC Comics universe works, yes, obviously the intent was to imagine Gorilla Grodd actualizing his Imperial ambitions and his violent hostility towards humanity. However, it is absurd to imagine that a segment of the audience is not going to see the phrase “Ape Controlled Africa” as having racist connotations and it’s insensitive to take the position that there’s something wrong with people who find the phrase potentially offensive. Racism is a real problem in the real world, and it affects real people. There are simple ways to down-play such connotations like portraying an on-going conflict between Grodd’s empire and humans going on in Africa

I suppose people ignorant of the DC universe might think it’s racist. Those who actually know the DC universe are being deliberately ridiculous which damages their position when they point out the very real problems regarding the roles of women and minorities in comics.

@Lorrie. I’m not sure what you mean by “know the DC Universe”? Isn’t this supposed to be a alternative universe. A universe created through a rip in time and the lack of Flash? A world where peaceful Amazons become killers who are rumored to castrate men? So what does anyone “know” about this universe except what DC has decided to tell us? And what they have told us is that in their “Everything changes” universe where the world is turned upside down, Africa is ruled by Apes. The choice of language, in light of the way other areas are described, is uncomfortable. The idea, for the reasons @Noah pointed out, is uncomfortable. I am loath to call DC racists. I will say they have shown a “tone deafness” when it comes to race. But whether they intended to be be commenting on race here is not the issue. Intent and impact are two different things.
I find it sad that there is so much anger and resentment against people who were taken aback or upset by the wording of the map but yet there is an uproar because Kevin Smith makes Batman wet his pants. Why is it that something like that is okay for folks to rage about but when the issue of race is comes up there is a knee jerk reaction, from some – not all, of “you’re too sensitive” or “you’re making to much of the issue.” And as far as the “very real” problems of women and minorities, how do you define those versus this? Because you think so?

Has anybody actually read any of the stories regarding “Guerrilla City” in the past few years? Has anyone seen the episode of the “Justice League” cartoon that features “Grodd” and “Guerrilla City”?

Many of the stories I have read and enjoyed in the recent past involving these characters and this place have serious racial and sociological underpinnings. If anything these stories have been spotlighting the cruel and brutal nature of mankind. Apes as a species have been hunted to near extinction in must of Africa. I would think that if anybody should be offended about this topic, it should be apes. Why shouldn’t simians have a fictional champion?

How would you guys feel if you opened the Grodd one-shot and saw Apes being hunted, beaten, burned alive, shot at, lynched, spit on, skinned, dragged down the street behind a car, raped, etc. etc.

Now that would be a real visualization of what racism looks like. Maybe then everybody could step back and see what darkness resides deep down in ALL of our hearts simply because we are human.

Travis, using the apes of gorilla city to tell an environmental story would or could be interesting and moving. However, the fact that such stories can be told, or that they have been told, doesn’t change the fact that in this particular instance DC has plugged into racist stereotypes. You don’t get a pass on racism because you have managed to not be always and everywhere racist in the past.

Lorrie, DC comics exist in a larger culture. That culture includes racist stereotypes. DC has aligned itself with those stereotypes. There isn’t any proprietary fan knowledge that can change that. The fact that Grodd is a longstanding character just means they’ve used Grodd in a racist way.

Honestly, you’d think someone would have caught the Aftica thing well before they sent it out.

Even if they said Africa: Controlled by Grodd, or something along that line, it would have the same meaning and without the, at best, awkward choice of words.

Noah is putting this a lot better than I could.

That image where Grodd sits on the corpses?
That’s exactly what’s happening in most of central Africa, for DECADES.

And it’s not just the Dictators.

All this tells me is that the people who came up with the map and whoever approved it were blissfully ignorant of the fact that “ape” can be used as a racial epithet (I refuse to think it wasn’t done innocently unless someone has proof otherwise). I can’t see that as a bad thing, unless you prefer that old racial epithets never die out (are people supposed to go out of their way to learn them?). They didn’t “align themselves with racial stereotypes” because they didn’t know the stereotype. I had genuinely forgotten and I’ve never heard anyone actually say it in that context other than in period movies/television. I saw “ape-controlled” and thought, huh, Grodd must have taken over Africa (and there is nothing wrong with a story in which hyperintelligent apes bent on world conquest take control of Africa, the continent on which they live in the fictional DC universe- I doubt I’ll read it unless it shows up in a trade I can get in a library, but nothing intrinsically wrong with it).

The actual problem is that DC obviously doesn’t have much racial diversity behind the scenes. The artist and writer credited with the map are white (and fairly young as far as I can tell). Even if the majority of people, including non-comics readers, would take the words “ape-controlled” at face value instead of leaping to racist stereotypes (and, call me an optimist, I think most would), I’m guessing most black people would also recall that “ape” can be used as a racial epithet. They’d be more likely than a white person to notice that the words “ape-controlled” attached to Africa might cause unintended trouble, even if it makes sense in context of the story and was meant innocently. And we wouldn’t be having this debate right now. Are there any black creators or editors involved in Flashpoint? Are there many black comic book creators (or other minorities or women) working for the major companies at all? Getting angry about the map is silly, as any offense was made innocently. The lack of creator/editor diversity is the actual problem.

@ I agree Lorrie…. to a point.

I would say though if DC didn’t have a LOUSY track record this would be a non issue. seriously. And to the people who would love to dismiss this as “Just Comics”, check this out from Dwayne McDuffie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u16sKK-1oLQ

“Getting angry about the map is silly, as any offense was made innocently. The lack of creator/editor diversity is the actual problem.”

Intent isn’t the point. Racism isn’t about what’s in their hearts. it’s about the thing they created.

I told a non-superhero comic reader about “africa: ape-controlled” and she literally gasped. The idea that you need to be black or really hyperaware to have some grasp of this country’s history of racist iconography is just pitiful. Just for starters, discussions of racist attacks on Obama have made headlines repeatedly over the last few years.

Which isn’t to dismiss the lack of diversity as a problem. The lack of diversity among creators is a major problem in superhero comics. It is also a major, separate problem that the creators responsible for this appear to be about as dumb as a bag of hammers. But the result of those problems is not that the creators innocently — oops! — just accidentally by happenstance stumbled over racist stereotypes. The problem is that they plug into racist ideas without planning to do so, because said ideas are out there, easy to pick up, and seem natural and cool if you are insensitive and kind of dim.

Again, I’m not saying the creators are evil or intentionally racist. I’m saying that they are insensitive, kind of dim, and, as a result, created this casually racist thing. And since it is their stupid, insensitive, racist art, and since they are adults, I think it is fair to hold them responsible for it, whatever their intentions might have been.

Are you kidding me? People are just too touchy these days.

I don’t see a big deal at all. In fact what is racist about calling it “Ape-controlled” if it is, infact, controlled by an APE????? Is someone implying that the Africans are Apes?!? People need to pull their finger out.
And by the way, if your upset about it being called “Ape-controlled” stay clear of the upcoming – Rise of the Planet of the Apes – where I guess that implys that every human is an Ape?!?

And just so everyone is clear. As well as ‘APE’ now being a racist term. If you call someone “CRAZY” you are ALSO a racist!! haha… (watch Survivor for that one!)

And how dare DC call Australia a ‘Neutral Territrory’. Neutral?!? Territory?!? I find that highly offensive! – in fact, I’d go so far as to call it racist! Yes, racist!!

Please note the sarcasm.

“what is racist about calling it “Ape-controlled” if it is, infact, controlled by an APE?”

Do you not understand that Africa is not, in fact, controlled by an ape? This is a work of fiction. Someone chose to tell this story. It’s not like they witnessed ape-controlled Africa and then simply had to report the facts. They MADE IT UP.

@Basque – haha… Are you the full quid? Or am I talking to a 10 year old? You realise this is a comic book we are talking about don’t you? OF COARSE THEY MADE IT UP!! And that, YES, this Africa, is controlled by an Ape – because just in case you didn’t get it – comics arn’t real – they have superheroes – and supervillians – and alternate worlds – and TALKING APES!!

Haha… I’m in shock by the sheer stupidity of some people.

Yeah, you must be definitely white… figured you’d take that tactic.

Faust; so what if they created a comic in which Jews had mind-control powers that allowed them to take over international finance? And they labeled Europe as “Jew-controlled”? Would that be cool? After all, there *really* would be psychic Jews in that comic. And they would control Europe (in that comic.) Where would be the harm? It would just be a work of fiction! Surely anyone who would take offense at that would just be silly.

@Monti – is that the logical tactic your talking about?

@Noah – Your argument doesn’t make any sense. Your trying to ADD IN a racist factor that isn’t there. An APE is not a derogatory term for a person of a certain ethnicity. It is a whole nother species.

They didn’t call it ‘black controlled’, ‘african people controlled’, or like you stated ‘jew controlled’, There is no racist content.

Damn, this is sad.

White people need to actually listen to other people sometimes, they might learn a thing or two.
Grodd isn’t real, but racism against blacks and calling us simian is real.

Don’t be an ignorant white person, be an enlightened and contientious white person.

Faust, I have heard it all: “ape” is not a derogatory term for blacks?”

Get your head out of the clouds and come back to the real world. How dare you speak with such authority and certainty; you have never ever spoken in a personal, serious way with a black person about race. You have never paid attention when black people have told their stories. You are willfully ignorant of the black experience–you are intentionally ignoring the black experience.

I really can’t believe I’d live to see the day that whites would actually try and deny that these racist terms exist.

Guess I’m too optimistic.

“APE is not a derogatory term for a person of a certain ethnicity.”

Faust, I provided you a link to a discussion of the way in which using “ape” in reference to Africans or African-Americans is racially charged. I could provide you numerous other examples. Here’s one. Here’s another.

If you want to continue the argument, you would need to start providing some evidence that ape imagery has not in fact been used in racist caricatures in the past. Absent such evidence, your claims are baseless and your motives are suspect. Specifically, at this point it looks like you are denying the racism because you want to continue to read racist comics without having to think about the implications.

You’ve got three choices if you want to continue this. Back up your points with evidence rather than assertion, concede the argument, or admit by default that you’re an apologist for racism.

DC’s fixation with talking-ape characters has a long history with tendrils in nearly every part of the DC universe.

That’s one reason I’ve always disliked DC comics. So as an outsider to this argument, I see this and any ape thing as a natural extension of the ape-obsessed mindset I associate with the DC home office. With DC you can’t escape the talking apes.

As a black Detroiter, I didn’t consider the Flashpoint news as anything else until I saw this column. Again as a DC outsider, I think it’s much ado about nothing, but can’t say I know enough or care enough to think about it any further.

Thank You, Noah for your argument. You put it more eloquently than I have in other places.

I would not have had the problem with this IF DC had put more of an effort in developing their ethnic countries in the mainstream DC Universe.

Some people arguing on both sides of this issue really do need to do a little research though. But the best thing about this is that hopefully some ethnic enlightenment can be gained through some of the b.s.

I know DC is not racist, but it was ignorant to think there wouldn’t be a backlash with these postings among their minority readers….

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

May 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm

I’ve read the article and skimmed the majority of comments on here (I’m bored at work, so I have the time) and just wanted to put forth my two cents.

Racism is (more often than not) very subjective, at least in the post-civl rights era. You don’t see signs that say “White people only,” “Colored drinking foundations,” etc. You don’t have laws that prohibit people of certain races from doing certain things or being in certain places (this doesn’t include the homosexual population because sexuality isn’t a racial characteristic).

Racism is, despite other claims here, directly related to intent, much like slander/libel. The burden of proof falls on the accuser (people who say the map is racist) and not the party being accused (in this case, DC Comics). To say otherwise is flat out wrong.

However, this erroneous mindset isn’t helped by the fact that claims of racism immediately taint nearly every conversation because, since the civil rights movement, America has become so EXTREMELY sensitive when it comes to racial issues that when someone (or something) is accused of being racist, a large number of people automatically believe it, regardless of whether or not there is any evidence to support said claim.

I won’t comment on the actual issue here because A) I haven’t actually seen the map and B) I don’t really care about Flashpoint. The only DC books I read monthly are the Green Lantern titles.

“So what if they created a comic in which Jews had mind-control powers that allowed them to take over international finance? And they labeled Europe as “Jew-controlled”? Would that be cool? After all, there *really* would be psychic Jews in that comic. And they would control Europe (in that comic.) Where would be the harm? It would just be a work of fiction! Surely anyone who would take offense at that would just be silly.”

That would be pretty horrible. It’s in no way analogous to the actual argument at hand, given that the apes in this comic aren’t caricatures of black people, but that would be a pretty awful comic, I agree.

You can attack the phrasing but you can’t attack the content. You don’t know what the content is. You haven’t read the comic. It hasn’t come out.

^Looking at my above statement, I suppose I don’t know either that the citizens of Gorilla City won’t be racist caricatures. Seems like good odds that they won’t be, though, given that they haven’t been…maybe ever.

@Faust. This dismissive to other folks’ view tactic.

I know it has been stated millions of times before: If they said “Controlled by Grodd” this would be a nonissue. I’m starting to think DC wasn’t meant or nonwhites… seriously.

I meant “for” NOT or.

Racism is not slander or libel. Slander and libel is a particular falsehood directed at a particular person. Racism is an ideology which claims that non-whites are inferior to whites. It is also a system of inequality.

Ideologies and systems are not about individuals intent. They’re about social structures in which entire societies participate. If you created a map for a comic with the phrase “Europe: Jew Controlled,” it would not make it less anti-semitic just because you had never heard of the Holocaust and really didn’t intend anything by it. Even if you were an ignorant fool, the map would still be anti-semitic.

Similarly, it is not sufficient to say, “I called Africans apes, but I didn’t mean anything by it.” What you say can be influenced by racist ideology and can contribute to that ideology without that being your intention.

“The burden of proof falls on the accuser (people who say the map is racist)”

I have provided several links demonstrating that simian caricatures have long been typical of racist ideology. You have provided nothing except your vague feeling that racism doesn’t matter now that the civil rights era has passed. Perhaps at some point someone arguing that this map is not racist will provide some evidence, and then we can go about trying to weigh it. Until that point, the case seems pretty darn cut and dry.

And you’re correct; America is very sensitive to claims of racism. So sensitive that anti-anti-racism has become a cottage industry on the right. And among comics fans too, apparently. Progress indeed.

Chris: “It’s in no way analogous to the actual argument at hand, given that the apes in this comic aren’t caricatures of black people, but that would be a pretty awful comic, I agree.”

The apes are not intended to be caricatures of black people. However, creating a map that says “africa: ape controlled” plugs into a history of vile racist iconography. Do you maintain that that iconography does not exist? Do you claim that the map does not dovetail with that iconography? If the first, I refer you to my earlier links; I’m sure I can provide more if needed. If the second, you need to explain why you think the map does not dovetail with racist iconography. Keep in mind that most people in the world don’t know or care who Gorilla Grodd is, but will have certain very understandable reactions to the claim the Africa is controlled by apes.

“You can attack the phrasing but you can’t attack the content. You don’t know what the content is. You haven’t read the comic. It hasn’t come out.”

The phrasing is content. Saying “Africa: Ape controlled” has a meaning. If the map said “Europe: Jew Controlled” you would be justified in saying that that was anti-semitic, no matter what the story was like. It is possible (even hopeful) that the story in flashpoint will be less racist than the map. That doesn’t make the map less racist, however.

Thank you Noah.

I gotta say i can see the point of view of those offended by “ape-controlled,” but personally, i think it makes sense in the context of the dcu. grodd has been based in africa for a very long time, and if any villain was going to take over africa, it would be him. “grodd-controlled” would probably have been a better word choice.

what i don’t get is being upset over “asian capital.” if someone takes over a continent, and has a capital, then it would be logical to describe it as the capital of the continent. a map is a tool of geography, not anthropology. we’re talking land masses, not cultures. there are many nations on the actual, real-world, map today that are comprised of many cultures, several of which would prefer to not be referred to by the name of the geo-political entity to which they belong. china contains 56 officially recognized ethnic groups, and yet, beijing is labelled the chinese capital.

I love the fact that if you don’t automatically think this is racist – you are white.

“you must be definitely white’

“White people need to actually listen to other people sometimes, they might learn a thing or two”

“Don’t be an ignorant white person”

I stand corrected. Looks like there is racism here after all. Because I know for a fact if you changed the word WHITE to BLACK in all those sentences it would cause an uproar.

Sad.

I am ASIAN and I don’t see the problem with Asian Capital. Not racially anyway.

The only problem I see with it is it’s WEAK.

The term and location Asian Capital seems to hint that China has taken over most of Asia (with some exceptions as seen on the map) and claimed it their own. Which is why the great twelve protects it. OK, I can live it with my country being overtaken by China.

But since the former USSR once called all the states under its rule “Soviet Union”, I just feel that calling it Asian Capital seem so lame by comparison? The Asian Republic Capital would have been a step up maybe? Hell, the Great Twelve has some pretty imaginative names.

However, as an Asian… it is NOT racist. (Just…)

Same problem have with the term Ape Controlled. What some of the casual commenters need to realize is that Gorilla City has always been in Africa. If they have moved it elsewhere, it would have had us longtime Flash fans up in arms. Also, Gorilla City under the late Solovar has always been peaceful so it hasn’t been a problem.

Nobody on Flashpoint just thought “let’s put Gorilla City in Africa” on whim. What some people don’t even realize is that Captain Comet first saw a primitive Gorilla City long before Flash came across it. (read the Greatest 1950s stories ever told) IN AFRICA.

Having read Flash comics for almost all my life, it is natural to me for Grodd to take over Africa. And beyond actually. He’s only been trying since the 50s. So in a world where no one opposes him, my only concern is…Grodd would have named it “Grodd Controlled” not ape controlled. Gorilla Country would have been a natural expansion of the name Gorilla City but Grodd’s ego would demand “Grodd Controlled”

Grodd isn’t racist, but fact is, he’s a “specieist” (ugh, how do you spell that?) He hates all humans regardless of color and thinks us inferior to his race. I suspect he’d have killed all the humans in Africa (or turned them into gorillas- Grodd joke only Grodd/.JLU fans would get)

And no, I am not white. I’m all Asian. Half Chinese, Half Filipino. (Just to set that straight.)

@Basque

Your original comment seems to suggest you think they put Gorilla City Africa JUST NOW.

It’s been there since the 50s. And it wasn’t a racial issue when Gorilla City was ruled by a peaceful ruler since it co existed with the rest of Africa.

Heck, it was hidden for years from the other African nations because Solovar feared HUMAN (not Black, but HUMAN influence) until he went public to get his land to join the UN and was promptly assassinated by Grodd’s guerillas. (Ok, that last one was a forced pun but lighten up)

It amazes me how everyone complaining about an “Asian capital” haven’t care a bit about a Nazi South America. As if all South America was on big giant bowl of salsa and cucarachas and we would all unite under the Nazi party. If people get so offended by an Asian capital, why not get offended by Nazi South America? I call it hypocrisy. A huge bowl of hypocrisy.

And by the way, Brazil (my country) is so diverse that people from the North can barely communicate with people from the South and their culture couldn’t be more different. And yet, here we are as we one country. It’s not that preposterous to think of a unified Asia specially in a world in turmoil. I doesn’t have to be a peaceful unity either. China to this day is a dictatorship and those don’t care much about how their people feel.

Oh, and I’m not offended by a Nazi South America. I find it funny. It’s interesting that the people who wants to victimize the minorities supposedly offended by the map are not even from these minorities. And those who are from these minorities couldn’t care less. Political correcteness is truly killing rational thought.

*Le sigh*

I know this is like spitting in the wind, but I’ll throw in my two cents.

Those defending the map should know the history behind Grodd. And, no, I don’t mean the fictional history (ret-conned or otherwise) in the stories. Grodd first appeared in 1959. In those days, comics publishers were throwing gorillas into comics left and right. Put a gorilla on the cover, and sales would rise. Little American boys loved gorillas.

Why? Because in those days, gorillas were commonly portrayed in popular culture as violent, savage beasts. From Africa. In Africa. The “Africa” part was important. Because the “Dark Continent” was seen as a violent, savage place. The two most famous depictions of gorillas (or apes) as violent, savage beasts were (and still are) Tarzan and King Kong. In both of those works, the apes are inextricably linked with the dark-skinned, violent, savage natives. Seriously. Read the original Tarzan. It’s a great read, and it is also intensely, stunningly, and purposefully racist. The 1933 movie King Kong doesn’t include the sort of white supremacist screeds you find in the Tarzan novel, but the portrayal of the dark-skinned natives would make even the least politically-correct contemporary viewer cringe.

The point is, apes and sub-Saharan Africans were conflated in Western popular culture, from the time of the rise of imperial colonialism and the slave trade in the 15th century until…well, arguably until today. The concepts of “unilineal evolution”, and, later, “social Darwinism”, were used to justify colonialism, slavery, and the notion of white supremacy, neatly summarized in Kipling’s 1899 poem, “The White Man’s Burden.”.

These concepts were thoroughly absorbed into the popular conscience, and survive even today. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s really gained momentum that grotesque characters of “savages” (including sub-Saharan Africans, Arabs, Native Americans, Aborigines, Polynesians, and Asians of all kinds) became less and less acceptable. It was probably the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that marked the beginning of the end of widely acceptable racial stereotypes.

Racist associations of sub-Saharan Africans with apes have a long history. If you think such associations are a thing of the past, just Google “Marilyn Davenport ape Obama.”

As Noah and others have noted, intent is irrelevant. The deep-seated racism that led to “Africa: Ape-controlled” can be traced clearly and unambiguously. We’re not making some politically-correct leap of logic here. It’s all there, if you’re willing to open your eyes and see it.

Ugh. I meant “grotesque caricatures,” not “grotesque characters.”

Faust, white people have not historically been the victims of systematic oppression and racism. As Matt points out, racism is a historical phenomena. Equating racism against black people with Darryl’s plea that folks on this thread educate themselves is ridiculous and insulting.

Pointing out that white people have historically oppressed black people and systematically downplayed racism is not racist. It is true. Darryl is noting that as a black person, he finds the map offensive and racist. Instead of taking his concerns seriously, you call him a racist. That is contemptible.

“What some of the casual commenters need to realize is that Gorilla City has always been in Africa. If they have moved it elsewhere, it would have had us longtime Flash fans up in arms. ”

Joe, your suggestion that Flash fans are more concerned about whether or not Grodd is consistent with funnybook history than they are with whether he is used in a racist way is really depressing.

Carlos Futino

May 23, 2011 at 11:10 am

@Noah Berlatsky, I know I’m coming in a litle late and that i may sound that I’m nitpicking, but racism isn’t the belief that white people are superior to non-white people. It’s the belief that a given race/ethnic group is superior to all others. The most common kind o racism seen in what’s known as the “western wolrd” is that of whites against non-whites, but taht’s not the only one that exists.

Nontehless, I pretty much agree with you on all the rest.

Seems to me that the only ones up in arms about this are those that hate DC and looking for another reason to cry. This is as bad when some folks cried the Lion King was racist claiming that the lions were white and the dirty hyena’s were blacks. Stop looking for something that is not there if you enjoy DC thats fine if you don’t that is fine . If you don’t like it then don’t make up something that is not there. Reading the comments here and on other sites there is no uproar the only uproar seems to be coming from some writer for these sites that couldn’t write a story if they tried so they throw out made up stories to gain attention.

By pointing out the negative characterizations of Africans in relation to the word “ape” itself, are we not keeping those negative feelings and views alive. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I can smoke it and enjoy it if its my kinda thing. Or I can use it to burn people intentionally as a tool for torture. It all depends on how I use it. I do not believe it was DC’s intent to use “Ape controlled” as a racist characterization.

We should continue to seek knowledge and information about the past of our culture so that the same behavior can be eliminated in modern culture. Young children should be educated thoroughly on the atrocities leading up to and committed during the civil rights era. There should be no excuse for any action committed in the name of racism. With that being said, I will tell you that I am indeed white. I do not condone any form of racist intent or actions. I feel really sad when I read stories or see films that depict the subject matter. My fore-fathers were a bunch of Jack-holes for what they did to non-white people. That does not mean that I should spend every waking moment of my life worrying about how something I say or do will be interpreted by others. I have never called anyone, white or black, an “ape”. Don’t saddle all white people with this kind of behavior please. If you have been the victim of racism in the past then I am REALLY sorry, but why should DC or anyone else be held to the fire for the actions of others.

My 8 year old son sees the words “Ape-Controlled” on DC’s map and thinks about Guerrilla City. Everyone who has a problem with it sees the words and thinks racism. So does that make him right or wrong? Does that make you right or wrong? Some things should just be left to personal interpretation and simply end at that.

“Joe, your suggestion that Flash fans are more concerned about whether or not Grodd is consistent with funnybook history than they are with whether he is used in a racist way is really depressing.”

No, he isn’t saying that at all. He’s saying that the context of the comic counts as much as the context of the real world surrounding it, and he’s 100% correct.

Also, Matt, I don’t think your “Dark Continent” thesis washes since, once again, in the context of the comic, Gorilla City is a peaceful, progressive society that has advanced far beyond human beings in terms of science, technology and social justice(they don’t even allow the death penalty). It’s not advanced by comparison to the rest of Africa, it’s advanced by comparison to the rest of the entire world. Gorillas and apes have often, even consistently, been used for racist purposes in comics. Gorilla City has always been the exception to that rule.

^I don’t think your “Dark Continent” thesis washes IN THIS CASE, I should’ve said.

Okay, I’m at work, I should get back to it :)

Carlos, your definition of racism is far too simplistic. Racism is inseparable from a society’s power structure. Sociologically, racism is defined as being perpetuated by the privileged race against lesser-privileged groups of people. Bigotry can be perpetuated by anyone, but racism has three attributes in addition to bigotry: it is privileged, it is systemic, and it is self-perpetuating. The self-perpetuation is on display in full force in this thread.

Intent is not a factor in racism because it is so ingrained into the collective psyche of our society that many of us — minorities included — have internalized racist perspectives. This is not to say that we are all evil racists — but we have to be aware of the influence racism has and continues to have on our discourse and the way we think. If self-awareness and mindfulness is too heavy a burden for most people, it’s a very sorry state our society is in.

I go into more detail on this on my website, should anyone care to read it. http://www.jenniferdeguzman.com/2011/02/18/toward-a-working-definition-of-racism-part-one/

Travis, it is sweet that your 8-year-old son has not been touched by the knowledge of racism’s ugliness. Unfortunately, our society is not so untouched, and DC comics exist within the context of that society, not that of your child’s mind. If we leave all things up to personal interpretation, we have no foundation for understanding each other. Communication comes down to shared definitions of concepts, and those definitions must take into account our society’s cultural history.

And it’s Gorilla City, not Guerrila. That’s driving me crazy.

As I said, it’s like spitting in the wind. When people hear and see only what they want to hear and see, rebuttals and clarifications are futile, no matter how soundly based in fact.

A recent study finds that a majority of white Americans believe that anti-white bias is currently a bigger problem than anti-black bias. When I first saw that, I found it hard to believe that so many of my fellow white Americans could believe something that is so clearly wrong, so clearly at odds with measurable, demonstrable reality. But reading these comments, I see that I have been overly optimistic.

Jennifer, very well put, but, again, I’m afraid anything you say will fall on deaf ears.

Thanks for not actually rebutting anything, Matt, if that was aimed at me. Just because I’m disagreeing with you doesn’t mean I’m not interested in a conversation.

“By pointing out the negative characterizations of Africans in relation to the word “ape” itself, are we not keeping those negative feelings and views alive.”

Travis, the answer to your question is “no.” Those views *are* alive. You can see them in racist attacks on Obama, as just one example — and, for that matter, in the anti-anti-racism on this thread. Ignoring racism is not a way to get rid of racism, anymore than ignoring poverty will eliminate poverty, or ignoring war will eliminate war. Injustice does not go away because you pretend it is not there. In fact, the opposite is true; ignoring injustice allows it to grow and fester.

“but why should DC or anyone else be held to the fire for the actions of others.”

They’re being held to account for their *own* actions. The creators at DC are not 8-year-olds. They should know and understand what their words mean and what ideas and stereotypes they are plugging into.

Chris: “He’s saying that the context of the comic counts as much as the context of the real world surrounding it, and he’s 100% correct. ”

In that case, Little Nemo is not racist because the Imp is established in continuity as actually looking like that, so the blackface iconography shouldn’t matter. Is that right?

The context of the comic matters in terms of the story itself. The context of the comic is not an excuse for racist imagery or writing, however. Unless you believe that the comic is more real than the real world (which seems like a stretch for even the most rabid fan) then the specifics of Gorilla City really cannot change the fact that a map with the words “Africa: Ape Controlled” is racist.

Also, Chris…in terms of Gorilla City and racism. The issue is in part that Africa is often seen in a racist context as dark and mysterious, unexplored and exotic. One of the main ways DC comics has thought about Africa throughout its history has been through this one, hidden, mysterious society. Africa has been figured as a place where apes live in deep dark mystery, not as a place where lots and lots of humans live in the modern day. That ties into racist stereotypes and preconceptions (albeit more subtle ones than the Little Nemo strips.) Those racist stereotypes and preconceptions created the ground for the significantly more racist map DC created.

I would agree, though, that the map is more offensively racist than some of the ways in which DC often used Gorilla City in the past. This too is depressing, as you would hope over the decades the writers would become less racist, not more so.

Sorry, I see the words “Ape controlled” and I don’t think about Racism. I can only control my own thoughts. I can not control the thoughts of others. If someone felt slighted by the words on the map, then I feel sorry for them and hope they can find some peace.

I can see that, actually-even if Gorilla City’s location was “deep in the Congo” or something like that it would be better then just “Africa, the place where the apes are.”

Travis: ” If someone felt slighted by the words on the map, then I feel sorry for them and hope they can find some peace.”

That’s condescending nonsense, to put it kindly. You can control your own thoughts the way adults do — by educating yourself and listening seriously to what other people say.

Chris: I’m glad you see that this is a problem now. Thanks for being willing to think about it.

@Noah Berlatsky
“I told a non-superhero comic reader about ‘africa: ape-controlled’ and she literally gasped.”

Comic books are a specialized field knowledge, as laughable as that may sound to some. A good example is the word “vibranium”. Someone who knows nothing about the Marvel Universe will have no idea what to make of that word, and the term “endonuclease” would probably just as foreign to a literature student. You’ve just admitted to stripping the phrase of all context and background and managed to shock the female comic book reader in question. Congratulations, you’ve proven absolutely nothing. I could evoke the same reaction in anyone if I blurted out a sentence from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” that contained the n-word.

Is “ape” a racial epithet? Yes. Does DC Comics’ use of the word “ape” have unfortunate racial connotations? A big fat yes. Is it racist? Yes, even if it was unintentional. Was DC Comics being deliberately malicious? Unless they’re suicidal, most likely not. Is there a perfectly viable, non-racist interpretation of the phrase? Yes.

“Pointing out that white people have historically oppressed black people and systematically downplayed racism is not racist. It is true.”

No argument there.

“Darryl is noting that as a black person, he finds the map offensive and racist.”

Again, no argument there.

“Instead of taking his concerns seriously, you call him a racist. That is contemptible.”

Contemptible yes, but not entirely inaccurate. What I find equally contemptible is that you’ve conveniently ignored certain aspects of Darryl’s response in making that statement. His second response is filled with the following insults and unfounded assumptions:

INSULTS:
– White people never listen to anyone.
– Chris is an ignorant white person.

UNFOUNDED ASSUMPTIONS:
– Chris has never spoken in a personal, serious way with a black person about race.
– Chris has never paid attention when black people tell their stories.
– Chris is willfully ignorant of the black experience.
– Chris is intentionally ignoring the black experience.

So Darryl has made one direct assault on Chris’ character (one of which is at least partially true), he has insulted white people as a whole by accusing them of all being tone deaf (something which is most definitely not true), and he has made no less than four assumptions about Chris’ private life with a tone of absolute certainty even though he has no direct evidence to support any of these accusations.

One definition of racism according to the dictionary is “discrimination and prejudice based on race”. I consider an all-inclusive statement as general as “white people never listen to anyone” and all the unfounded assumptions to be, at best, signs that someone is prejudiced against white people.

@Joe C
“Racism doesn’t need to be certified, or meet criteria in order to qualify as such. It simply needs to be perceived by an offended party, at which point the onus of disproving it falls upon the accused party, in this case DC Comics. This is not my opinion, or Noah’s opinion, this is the very clever way that we now protect the civil rights of minorities in this country.”

And there’s a significant problem with that “I know it when I see it” interpretation: namely that any perception of racism is at least partially subjective and that placing the burden of proof wholly on the accused party automatically assumes that he is a racist. In other words, he is guilty until proven innocent and racist by default. And it’s at this point that a Catch-22 type line of circular argumentation starts: if the accused party admits to being racist, the offended party wins and if the accused party denies the allegation, he is accused of invoking white privilege or being (willfully) ignorant, thereby proving that he’s racist. In short, the offended party is assuming an unfalsifiable position and challenging the accused party to disprove it. That’s insane.

Your claim also has other problems. There were African Americans who complained about the words “niggardly” and “black hole” being racial epithets even though they were not. By your definition, that makes anyone who uses those words racist beyond all doubt simply because we can find people who’re insulted by it. As any ethymologist will tell you, this is absurd and can be proven wrong using firmly established facts.

And, on top of all that, your initial assertion is completely wrong anyway. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of St. Mary’s Honor Center vs. Hicks (1993) places the burden of proof when it comes to racism on the accuser.

Leave a Comment

 


Browse the Robot 6 Archives