All superheroes are white. Superman is white. Spider-Man is white. Batman is white. Wonder Woman is white.
But I’ve never wanted to be white.
For a lactose-intolerant person like me, whiteness is like cheeseburgers, tacos and vanilla ice cream: I recognize that the world considers them to be appealing and delicious, but they have made me sick so many times, I no longer consider them as alluring as most people do. My blackness is my aunt Phyllis’ fried chicken or a perfectly ripened watermelon on the front porch of my grandmother’s house. It is more than enough.
I’ve never wanted to be a superhero.
Superheroes are not special. Clark Kent is only super because he was born on Krypton. Wonder Woman’s power comes from her ancestors. Spider-Man is a victim of happenstance and a radioactive spider. Even though Batman’s actual superpower is anger, he inherited his wealth from his deceased parents. They do not impress me. They are born with their powers.
And I know you’re thinking: “But what about Black Panther?”
T’Challa becomes the Black Panther by eating a flower that anyone can eat. And sure, he is filthy rich, but only because Wakanda’s plentiful vibranium mines have not been discovered by the rest of the world. In fact, it can be argued that Black Panther’s only true ability is keeping his powers a secret from white people.
Last week, I wrote about the long history of Assistant U.S. Attorney Terra Morehead. The article outlined a 30-year history of repeated prosecutorial misconduct that’s resulted in multiple people, mostly black and brown, spending time in prison as a result of Morehead’s improper relationship with a judge, witness intimidation and evidence suppression.
After we published it, The Root received an overwhelming amount of mail asking us to follow up on this story. Many of the letter writers were sure that Morehead would be swiftly dismissed from the Department of Justice after our investigation became public information. One reader began contacting network television outlets and was frustrated when she was told that they were aware of the story, but probably wouldn’t cover it:
When people asked me why I thought someone could get away with this, I simply explained the truth:
Terra Morehead is a white, and whiteness a superpower.
For white people, America is like the yellow sun for Superman or spinach for Popeye. Even when they are not born to royalty like Kal-El or Princess Diana, this country will still make a bulletproof man out of the people lucky enough to be born with white skin.
Just as they manufactured a make-believe storyline about a poor Irish immigrant named Steve Rogers who became a hero warrior, they excused the racism, sexism and dim-wittedness of an entitled trust fund baby and made him the leader of the free world. There is no difference between Donald Trump and Captain America. They are both works of fiction created to sell the idea of patriotism to white people who dream of making America great again.
As I was writing this follow-up, The Root’s contributing editor Angela Helm messaged me about an American Public Media story on Mississippi prosecutor Doug Evans. Evans has been accused of using peremptory strikes to keep black people off Mississippi juries. APM looked at the data and reported:
Using information on more than 6,700 jurors in 225 trials during Doug Evans’ tenure as the top prosecutor in Mississippi’s Fifth Circuit Court District, APM Reports found that his office struck black people from a jury at almost four-and-a-half times the rate it struck white people. The prosecution struck 50 percent of eligible black jurors compared to only 11 percent of eligible whites. APM Reports also found that even when controlling for other, race-neutral factors raised during juror questioning, black jurors were still far more likely to be struck than white jurors who answered in the same way.
Using peremptory strikes (the right to dismiss a potential juror without explanation), prosecutors who served under Evans during his 26-year term struck blacks from juries at 4.4 times the rate they struck whites from juries. It was the way they conducted business. The statistics are startling.
One of the most extreme examples of this concerns Curtis Flowers.
In July 1996, four people were shot to death in a Winona, Miss., furniture store. Police arrested Flowers even though he did not fit the description provided by eyewitnesses. In the 20 years since the murder, he has not confessed to police, prosecutors or even his cellmate. Again, he does not fit the description that was given by eyewitnesses. Evans’ prosecution team charged Flowers with the murders and, so far, has tried him six times for the crimes.
After Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death in the first trial, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the verdict because of prosecutorial misconduct by Evans. In the second trial, Flowers’ conviction was overturned again because of Evans’ prosecutorial conduct.
In the third trial, the state’s Supreme Court overturned another death-sentence conviction, citing the fact that Evans had excluded black jurors because of their race. The fourth time, with a jury representative of the demographics of the district, the case ended in a mistrial, as did a fifth trial.
In the sixth trial, 11 white jurors and one black juror convicted Flowers again. But the Supreme Court is planning to review the case to decide whether or not there was racial bias in the jury selection.
Even after all of this, Doug Evans is still the prosecutor for Mississippi’s 4th District.
Evans, like Terra Morehead, Donald Trump and countless police officers across America, is still considered to be a hero protecting America from evil.
In this bizarro world where black people are supervillains and white eyes can see guns that do not exist, these heroes are virtually unstoppable. They work undercover as Starbucks baristas and Oakland, Calif., park rangers, ready to leap to tall conclusions in a single bound.
They are judges whose Thor-like gavels are handed down from the gods. They believe in untruths, injustice and the American way. No matter how difficult or racist their battle, they always win. And they always come out unscathed.
Even though I do not envy them, I wonder how it feels to be immune from sin; to be immortal. The luxury of never having to face the consequences of one’s misdeeds is a uniquely American type of invulnerability. Perhaps this is why they hate the idea of reparations and apologies. An unlimited number of second chances is like mastering time and space. It is the super-est of powers.
But they do not need invisible airplanes, bat caves or butlers who also possess remarkable skills in mechanical engineering. They were born with all the abilities they need. They are white. Whiteness is the cape that makes them bulletproof. Being white in America means you can fly.
I will say it again: I cannot understand why there aren’t more white atheists. What the hell does a white man or woman need a God for?
Their privilege is enough.