An open letter to the creators of Whitewash Jones and the new Captain America – savior of humanity, box office mega-star, fitness-model and long-time comic-book idol. Whitewash Jones, not so much…
by T. M. Burroughs
You seem so nice and respectable. You wear the Red, White and Blue and our nation’s colors never looked so good as they do stretched over your muscular body and flexed in the name of justice for all. You’re dreamy. Scarlett Johansson and I have both been crushing on you.
I did a little digging, however and I must say that your past has you toppling off the pedestal upon which I had placed you. You are nothing more than an All American white boy grasping for glory who will stop at nothing – even drugs and racism – to get your way.
Yes, siree, Bob, there are some skeletons in your pristine closet, Captain. Or should I call you Steve, Steve?
First of all, that Super Soldier project really is nothing more than an experiment with steroids, isn’t it? And you couldn’t wait to get your hands on it. A pusher with “doctor” in front of his name waves a magical serum in front of your wimpy, impulsive, willpower-less ass and what happens?
You fall for it like the dumb blonde you are. Why? What’s wrong with being a little underweight and pale? What kind of message are you trying to send to American kids about body-image? That performance enhancing drugs are the way to go if you find yourself a little on the scrawny side. Shame on you, Steve – what will we find next – a corked shield?
And then there’s the stereotyping of your African American fans. The illustrator put massive lips, big ears and an elongated head on your sidekick and named him “Whitewash.” He was given the prevailing slave jargon and ignorant lines about watermelon. He was frightened of “gh, gh, ghosts” and stuttered and stammered his way through your comic frames.
“Captain America was aided in some of his early adventures by a racist sidekick known as Whitewash Jones (a member of the group known as the Young Allies) who has since faded from view, having been ignored by successive books examining Stan Lee’s, Jack Kirby’s, and Marvel’s history.”
“With Captain America having appeared in three blockbuster movies recently, one of Marvel Comics oldest heroes has once again found himself at the top of the pop-culture pyramid. But for all of his success in the twenty-first century, few people know about some of the darker aspects of his past. It is crushingly obvious that the best qualities of Super Heroes are associated with whiteness. Comedy and mockery could be executed through characters like Whitewash Jones.”
I know, I know, it was the 1940s and you might think that makes it okay, because that was the norm back then when it came to race, but wouldn’t you think the geniuses of their day, musing on science-fiction and the future, day-in and day-out might have thought skin color in the future would have been replaced by content of character?
What if, Captain America, they did with you what they did with the Betty Crocker iconic symbol when it was time for an update? They took dozens of photographs of women of all ethnic backgrounds and morphed them into one wonderfully diverse whole to create the new American ideal of our beloved domestic goddess.
Think about it, Steve. Scarlett and I might be even more crushing then…
Star Struck in RW&B