Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2016 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing a series of Black Panther comic books. I just stopped into a New York City comic book shop and they were sold out of #1 in the sequence; tomorrow they'll get some new printings of #1, plus the brand-new issues of #2. I hung around and chitchatted with another customer and the clerk, about the new Captain America movie, about DC doing gritty movies and sunny TV shows and Marvel doing the reverse, about the importance of Clark Kent's dorkitude, about the fad of re-starting series numbering at 1 to bring in new readers, about whether I'd need to read any backstory to understand the new Black Panther run.
The clerk mentioned that Doctor Strange, the Silver Surfer, the Black Panther, and Moon Knight are great characters who never seem to get a real continuous series. I'd never heard of Moon Knight so he explained who he was.
The clerk, who's white, said that he started getting curious about Coates's work, since this guy was attracting so many new customers who were asking for Black Panther, and since he hadn't read any of Coates's work before. So he got and read Between the World and Me. And he was caught off-guard by some stuff in there, references Coates made to aspects of the black experience that he didn't know. I nodded and said that this was true of The Beautiful Struggle too, like references to particular black musical artists I'm not familiar with. But the clerk said that what really struck him was a thing Coates said about how a black man who was a friend of Coates got pulled over by the cops and shot and killed, for no reason, and the cop covered it up by lying and saying the guy was reaching for a gun. And this happens all the time, over and over, and cops do this to black people, and lie about it. He double-checked with a friend of his, who's black, and his friend said, oh yeah, there are states he won't even go to, because it's such common knowledge that this happens.
I decided, in a split second, not to feign surprise, not to say "how did you not know about this already?" The other customer, a South Asian-American guy, evidently made the same choice. I'm glad that comics fandom, in one small way, made one white person in the US more aware of racism and police brutality. I told Leonard about it and he said, "he's one of today's unlucky ten thousand." But I have a heavy heart right now, thinking of the things I have to know that I wish didn't exist at all, of how Moon Knight is a pretty paltry trade.