Killing Rhodey

Alanna in high schoolLet’s talk about awareness. A lot of coaches think awareness is the ultimate way of insulating yourself from the fucked-upness of the universe. If you recognize the pressures you’re under, you can take steps to keep them from crushing you.

And that’s true, kind of. It’s a good thing to understand the context you’re in, no doubt about it. But awareness isn’t protection. It’s one more semi-adequate tool in a capitalist society that’s bad for our souls. Often, all “awareness” does is give you an explanation for why you feel so awful. It does not make the awful go away.

What makes the awful going away is doing something to change your context. Stepping away from business as usual. Getting involved in politics or activism. Writing your own fiction when mainstream authors exclude you. (my older kid is obsessed with The Defectives.) Or, you know, expressing your anger when commercial storytellers break your heart.

Here is a personal anecdote about awareness. I’ve always read about the importance of role models for kids. Of how hard it is to be a black kid or an Asian kid – or a girl – and not have any superheroes that look like you. It is bad for kids not to see any heroes that look like them. There is research and everything. I am entirely aware of that.

Last year, for my birthday, my husband got me Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal for my birthday. That’s the one where a young Pakistani American girl becomes a superhero. It sat unread for two weeks because every time I opened the book I cried. I cried the entire time I read it. A superhero who looked like me. Really, really looked like me. Kamala Khan could be my much hotter younger sister.

I didn’t even know I’d been hurt until something made it better. I thought my awareness somehow kept me from being one of the little brown girls who was hurt by the lack of representation. 45 minutes of cry-reading disproved that one.

All this, then, is a long way of saying, screw you Marvel comics for killing James Rhodes. Next time Ta-Nehisi Coates tells you not to do something, shut the hell up and listen to him.

(image above is teenage Alanna, who I now know was badly in need of a superhero that looked like her)