This is a very interesting post that captures an issue I have noticed as well. It delves into the problem that when all (or most of) the superheroes are white, it makes it seem strange for a person of color to put on that costume for Halloween or at comic conventions. I see this played out with my own kids, who will say things like, you can be like a black Batman, or Master Chief, or something like that. A person of color can’t just be Batman or Master Chief, they are the black version. And while this may not seem like a big deal, when it comes to the sense of self-worth for young people, I think it does matter that they get the message that the cool heroes are generally white. They get the message.
From the article:
Cosplaying in and of itself can be stressful enough; I’ve definitely had convention days when I did not feel confident enough for tight spandex. But for non-white fans, the additional pressure felt when not playing a character of the same ethnicity can add an unspoken anxiety to the experience. It often feels like a white cosplayer can not only dress as their favorite characters of color but also do so in the most offensive way without comment. But when a non-white cosplayer colors outside the lines in the same way, there’s a risk of getting an awkward look because–instead of seeing the costume–no matter how perfect it might be, others see the color of your skin and you can see the confusion in their eyes: Why is a black girl dressed as Zatanna?
Worse are the ones who aren’t confused, but then think they’re being inoffensively clever. You know there probably weren’t many Black USO Girls in the 1940s, right?” Or, my personal favorite, “Wonder Woman? I thought you would’ve done Nubia.
I know it is not an intended ethnic slight by the creators of these comics, since most were created years ago and they are created by people who largely have the same skin tone as the characters. Not surprising. The hard part is that even when the few minorities in the field create minority heroes, few are going to make it to the popularity level of a Spiderman or Superman, because we also can see most whites also gravitate towards heroes that look like them, that they can fantasize and role play about being. So I’m not casting blame here. Just noting that it is a problem that really does exist unfortunately and I do hope that in time there will be more Hispanic or black, or Asian-American heroes created and that become mainstream. And in the meantime, I hope people can feel free to role play as any hero they choose to be. After all, it is all fantasy anyway.
The writer of the article made an interesting point though:
Of course, the half the beauty of white privilege in fandom is never seeing or thinking of yourself rendered as unrealistic in a space that’s supposed to be unrealistic and fantastical to begin with. So what’s to change, right?
Here is the full article.