The year is 1965. Lyndon Johnson is sworn in for a full term as President of the United States, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration completes a successful moon-photographing mission for the Apollo program, the Beatles perform the first stadium concert in New York City, Malcolm X is assassinated, and Martin Luther King, Jr. lead 3,200 civil rights activists on a march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery. It is without question that the American public bore witness to social change at the state, local, and federal level and also the beginning of our intent to venture beyond the bounds of our atmosphere to discover new worlds.
In November of 1965, Marvel Comics writers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created robots called Sentinels whose ‘creator,’ character Bolivar Trask, programmed these robots to exterminate mutants without any regard for human casualties along the way. Trask views mutants as a threat to humanity without any proof, scientific or otherwise, that mutants exist solely to harm humanity.
The primary target of the Sentinels is a group of humans with superhuman abilities known as the X-Men. Under the tutelage of Professor Charles Xavier, the X-Men hone their superhuman abilities to aid one another in battle and also save citizens who may admire their abilities but do not understand their shared humanity.
Now in the year 2016, we witnessed men, women, and children fall victim to the hands of people who believe that despite their humanity they are a threat to the very communities where they raise families and engage with their neighbors in meaningful ways. Similar to the programming provided to the Sentinels by Bolivar Trask, individuals and groups have demonstrated through their actions that the programming they have received throughout their lives influences their interactions with people of color and the LGBTQ community. Time and time again, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and mutants have been asked to forgive the actions of people who have trespassed against them. Without the proper punishment being administered to any guilty parties, this creates an opportunity for the guilty party to conduct themselves in a similar fashion later down the road.
The parallel that exists between people of color, the LGBTQ community, and mutants is that they are not afforded the opportunity to have their humanity recognized because they are not what is considered ‘normal’ by society. Instead, they have been castigated by their fellow man and deemed sub-human and unworthy of the love, respect, and kindness. They are described as “weak” for wanting safe spaces so that they can exist without the possibility of being harmed. Whenever they exercise their constitutional right to free speech, assembling peacefully in public, and the freedom to practice the religion of their choice, they are subject to the criticism. Criticism by people who feel that their ability to exist in society has been infringed upon by the same people who breathe the same air and drink the same water as their neighbors.
These incidents weigh heavily upon the shoulders of mutants in comic books in a manner similar to people of color and the LGBTQ community, asking themselves the question that seems to not have an answer: “what did I do to deserve such terrible treatment?” No one has come forward with an answer or research, scientific or otherwise, to explain why disgraceful behavior should be tolerated in any realm of our personal or professional lives.
Nevertheless, people of color and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters seem to have an unending store of steadfastness in the face of oppression. This is not because they are gluttons for punishment, but because they have come to the realization that they are more powerful than they could ever imagine. No news article, Facebook comment, tweet, death threat, or display of weakness from their oppressor will erase the fact that the world they live in belongs to them just as it belongs to the people that seem to have nothing better to do than to troll day in and day out.
The Sentinels are carrying out the mission of someone who does not possess the intestinal fortitude to face the X-Men or any of their mutant allies face to face. A mission with no desire to air out any misunderstandings that may have transpired. Instead, he sends an army of robots to do his dirty work while he sits in the comfort of willful ignorance.
So, after coming to terms with the fact that we live in a world where fear of that which is different will outweigh any attempt at rational conversation, we are left with a single question:
Are people of color and LGBTQ citizens inferior simply because they get up each day and do their very best to thrive in an ever-changing world? Or are people who perpetrate hatred with absolutely no regard for how their behavior affects fellow citizens truly the inferior ones?
Only time will tell.
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