Many comic books fans everywhere were outraged last year when Marvel revealed that Sam Wilson would take on Steve Roger’s legacy as Captain America. But why were these fans so upset? Because Wilson was black.
It’s worthy to note that Wilson was chosen to represent the changing image of America. A black man who fights for the rights of minorities would induce panic among the conservative crowd when Steve Rogers was the white, blonde, blue-eyed, all-American hero that the country was so comfortable with.
But why is this topic relevant? Who cares what’s going on in the fictional world of Marvel? For the same reason that Dr. Lynn C. Owens discusses in the article “Network News: The Role of Race in Source Selection and Story Topic”.” Owens found that minorities accounted for only 21 percent of sources used out of 87 newscasts and 875 stories (p.360). A startling find when you think that the purpose of the news is to inform the everyday citizens of this country what’s happening outside their front doors, and even more so when, according to the United States Census Bureau, 40 percent of the country is made up of minorities.
The misrepresentation of minorities is present outside the Marvel universes and newsrooms. USC’s Annenburg School of Communication and Journalism examined 500 top-grossing films from 2007-2012 and found only 10.8 percent of the speaking characters were black, 4.2 percent were Hispanic and 3.6 percent were mixed race. Compare this to the 76.3 percent of white speaking characters and we can see that there is a problem (Smith, Chouetti, Piper, 2013, p.1).
Countless studies have been performed to find the exact same findings: representation of minorities in this country is sorely lacking, but the gatekeepers of the media continue to turn a blind eye. We don’t have a Captain America, either white or black, to fight for us. The only way for representation to occur is for everyday people to demand it.
USA QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau. (n.d.). Retrieved February 04, 2016, from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html
Lynn C. Owens (2008) Network News: The Role of Race in Source Selection and Story Topic, Howard Journal of Communications, 19:4, 355-370, DOI: 10.1080/10646170802418269
Obama Culture: New black Captain America battles SHOCKING villain. (2015). Retrieved February 04, 2016, from http://www.allenbwest.com/2015/10/new-black-captain-america-battles-white-conservatives/
Smith, S. L., Choueiti, M., & Pieper, K. (2013). Race/Ethnicity in 500 Popular Films: Is the Key to Diversifying Cinematic Content held in the Hand of the Black Director? MDSC Initiative, 1-11. Retrieved February 4, 2016, from http://annenberg.usc.edu/sitecore/shell/Applications/~/media/PDFs/RaceEthnicity.ashx