EDITORIAL: What X-MEN Taught Me About Racial Equality

Any X-fan knows why the original comic characters were created in the first place, but I learned a few lessons on the topic of racial equality from the X-Men movies that I decided to share with everyone. Let me know what you think.

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By mikecantrell83 - 6/10/2014

Anyone who’s been reading comics for longer than 30 seconds knows the X-Men are an allegory for civil rights. This has always been the case since the book’s inception in the 1960s, the height of the Civil Rights movement in America.

While the stories of Professor X and his merry band of mutants may have, at that point in history, represented the struggle of African-Americans to establish racial equality in the United States, over time the characters began to become identifiers for any group of people marginalized by society due to the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, and so on.

The inherent individualistic human longing for acceptance seems to always be in conflict with the collective desire of society to resist change, to reject anything that doesn’t fit within well established norms. Rather than differences in each human being considered a thing of beauty, something to, pardon the pun, marvel at, it is a source of fear, as it could pose a threat to the comfort of the already established status quo.

This constant struggle has played itself out on the world stage at various points in human history, and the results were usually a catastrophic loss of human life. Take Hitler and his atrocious persecution of the Jews during World War II for example. He hated a group of people based on their ethnicity so passionately that he committed genocide to try and wipe them off the face of the earth.

The X-Men are so wildly popular today because a lot of people, especially moody, angst-ridden, outcasts who society has more or less thrown in the garbage and forgotten about, can relate to the plight the heroes face by living in a world that hates them.

X-Men stories have taught me a great deal about racial equality, but two lessons seem to stick out in the hollowed canyon of the skull that houses my pea-sized brain.

The first lesson is that in order to change something that sucks in the world into something awesome, you need to be a living example of that change to everyone around you. Second, when fighting for equality, do not end up becoming the very hate you despise.

Let’s take a look at what I mean.

Be the Change

Aside from being an extremely overused quote by Ghandi, being the change you want to see in the world is exactly what Professor X and the X-Men try to do in the comics.

Prof. Xavier understands that the way to achieve equality with humanity is to remove the fear society has of mutants. This can only be done through peaceful means such as education and demonstrating that mutants can be a benefit to society by using their gifts to improve the quality of life for everyone on earth.

The X-Men constantly fight to protect humanity, the very same people who persecute them, in order to be a living example of the change they want to see in the world.

This strategy of loving your enemy and doing him good rather than evil is in stark contrast to the philosophy practiced by Magneto and the Brotherhood of Mutants, which brings me to my next point.

Don’t Become The Very Hate You Fight Against

Magneto and the Brotherhood started out wanting the same thing that Xavier wanted, which was equality with mankind. Unfortunately, all of the hate and persecution seeped down into Magneto’s soul and embittered him.

Over time he became more and more cynical of the idea of co-existing peacefully with man, believing that the only way to stop the persecution of his people was to do the opposite of Xavier and instill fear into humanity rather than remove it. This was to be accomplished by demonstrating the true strength of the power mutants possessed.

This, of course, had the opposite effect that Magneto hoped for, as humanity reacted out of fear and attempted to annihilate the mutants. Magneto ultimately came to believe through all of this horror that humanity hated the mutants because they were inferior.

Since humanity was inferior, perhaps they didn’t deserve to continue on in their existence. Sound familiar? This is the exact same kind of thinking that led Hitler to slaughter six million people.

In essence, Magneto became the very same kind of prejudiced hatred he fought against. He lost his soul, corrupted by the evil of others. It’s tragic.

Wrapping It Up

I’ve been reflecting on these lessons pretty deeply over the last few days, but all that I really want to say would be way too long to put in an article. That being said, here’s why I decided to share this.

First, while racism in America is much lower now that at any previous point in its history, it still exists, and it still sucks. There are still groups of people being marginalized for what they believe and think.

Rather than attacking those who seem dead set on persecuting others for frivolous reasons, taking a posture of peace, and doing everything in our power to conduct civil conversations and debates on important issues is key to removing fear and opening up serious dialogue.

Secondly, people shouldn’t become so militant in the fight for equality that they hurl insults at their perceived “enemy” and attempt to use violence (verbal and physical) to force someone to accept them or their lifestyle. This only perpetuates the bigotry of others and gives them a reason to continue spewing their hateful rhetoric for the masses to consume.

Well, that’s all the truth I’m dropping today. Let that soak in for a bit, and I’ll see you next time.

Who says reading comics can’t be educational?

Do you guys agree with my points? What lessons have you learned from the X-Men or other heroes you enjoy reading in comics?

Source: MetaComix
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PAF - 6/10/2014, 3:19 PM
Wow. This is rich considering the franchise has done nothing to get more people of color in it. It's basically all white bread.
PAF - 6/10/2014, 3:20 PM
Good for you. I'm not knocking you. I'm just saying this franchise has a lot of missed opportunities with racism, homophobia, etc.
mikecantrell83 - 6/10/2014, 3:21 PM
I'm not talking about the movie dude. I just used that picture because I was in a hurry. I'm talking about the comic.
mikecantrell83 - 6/10/2014, 3:21 PM
Also, it's an allegory for those topics. It's not supposed to directly take them on. That's the point of an allegory. It's something comparable. Thanks for commenting.
Pasto - 6/10/2014, 3:25 PM
Dude, I may have hated your article on BvS, but you've struck gold with this one. Major props for having the balls to say this. Well done sir, well done.
mikecantrell83 - 6/10/2014, 3:29 PM
@BlackSpider....Thanks man! You're entitled to your opinion man so its all good if you hated the other piece! That BvS was just something that's been on my chest for a bit, so I thought I'd share it.

Stuff like this is more of the direction my content will end up going in the future. Thanks again man!
PAF - 6/10/2014, 5:18 PM
I know what is an allegory. Let's keep it cute. As for the pic...


CorndogBurglar - 6/10/2014, 5:50 PM
@ MikeCantrell

Looks like Stan Lee did his job then. This is exactly the response he wanted when he created the X-Men. :)
Enphlieuwince - 6/10/2014, 7:49 PM
Well done, man. Look forward to the next one.
ckal - 6/10/2014, 7:57 PM
Every X-Men movie is the same story - one race is bad and the other is not - on both sides.

In the end - even people of their own race are convinced they shouldn't be members of their own race anymore and look for cures.
Alfredo27 - 6/10/2014, 8:44 PM
X-men>>avengers

How can you say they are all white bread atleast they have storm. What color does the avengers have? A cameo from don? DC?
TonyChu - 6/10/2014, 8:44 PM
Interesting article. Weird thing is the last two Xmen movies the black mutants were the first to be killed.
SniktBub - 6/10/2014, 8:47 PM
The article CBM needed, but not the one we deserve
MileHighRonin - 6/10/2014, 8:53 PM
Love it, great article. I know what it's like to learn life lessons from a comic. Comics are the reason I am who I am. My father was not around, mother worked and went to school. Comics taught me how to be a man, how to be a good person. It's more than entertainment, it's more than art, it's inspiring. People ask what would Jesus do?, I ask what would Steven Rogers do? Much respect and love my friend.
DrunkenNukem - 6/10/2014, 9:01 PM
Some USERs should take notes from this...but most likely he will just bring up his usual namecalling to the table again..
Greez - 6/10/2014, 9:05 PM
Great article! Keep up the good work..
MileHighRonin - 6/10/2014, 9:07 PM
@sniktbub it doesn't matter if we deserve it or not, it only matters what we do with it. No disrespect, I know what you sent just had to put that phrase in.
KidGoku - 6/10/2014, 9:07 PM
Exactly why I love the X-men and the films do a great job of representing that. I think that's why I relate to them more than anything else.
KidGoku - 6/10/2014, 9:09 PM
Racism isn't so much lower, but it has decreased. It's just not as outspoken as it used to be.
dethpillow - 6/10/2014, 9:13 PM
great great article man!!!

this is a good one.

i gotta tell u, i agree so much, and also agree that sometimes it's hard to know where your very own feet stand on issues that are close to u. and for me, the thing that i just find for some reason i've been bound to in this life is what people used to call 'feminism'. and when I was younger, my first exposure to the ideas and ideals at the center of that movement, i just went nuts on it. it was like hearing my own language spoken for the first time.

it was very clear, but my enthusiasm and the network of things surrounding this movement put me in a funny position on it. and i've learned how much damage can be done when perfectly true things become cloaked in war.

becuz i became at war with these things, and i lost a lot of myself. this sounds dramatic, but i don't want to get into a bunch of personal stuff, but it's very true what you're saying. and one thing is... i quickly distanced myself from any organized movement towards what i believe is true. like I could instantly tell that they were motivated by messier things and hateful things. I don't mean the individuals involved but the collective consciousness that ended up being born from them, and that then ended up driving their efforts.

sort of.

but i read this thing that Bob Marley said about doing interviews and how one of the important things to do is... to always keep the upper hand and tell what you believe in, talk about what you are "for". rather than explain what you are "against" or explain who you aren't.
talk about what you want the world to be, instead about what's wrong with the world, in other words.

really really important stuff to start being aware of, i think. he was a smart guy. and just that change in how u think of things, makes you sometimes remember what it's all about. cuz it's easy to lose sight of that.

and that's why also, i don't call myself a 'feminist'. stupidest thing anyone could ever do. all's you're gonna do is deal with then trying to convince whoever you're talking about all the things that doesn't mean. you've already lost any chance of actually communicating with anyone. feminism is just equally to the advantage of men as it is for women.

it's not about putting men down at all. but that word is gonna get you misunderstood. and it's not like i'm saying instead it's good to trick people as to what you actually mean. it's just simply that what you mean is not what is associated with that word. and i think what's associated with that word is actually hateful, cowardly and ugly. so i recognize what people mean by that word, and when they use it, i do think in my head about what they might mean by it.

listening to people actually puts u at a huge advantage when dealing with them. the best thing anyone could ever do to get the upper hand in any situation is to listen to the person you're dealing with. i don't just mean in a basic decent human sense, but even in the crudest sense of domination and war... it really does put u at a huge advantage.
MightyZeus - 6/10/2014, 9:25 PM
I disliked your last article but this article seems really solid. Good work. I look forward to the next one.
dethpillow - 6/10/2014, 9:50 PM
and then what happens from this kind of obsession with war and this enemy, is that it can start letting some exterior thing set your goals for you. the 'enemy' becomes in control of you becuz you begin to react to them and you are trying to 'beat' them or punish them or something, and if u really look at it, they aren't really what your enemy is. and you have to keep your focus, not on them, but on yourself and on what love really means.

and this reminds me also of the animal rights movement, which i completely have contempt for, however much i agree with their supposed principles. they are totally great example of what can happen.

there's a fundamentalism to them, about not eating meat. they are fundamentalists. they have lost sight of what they are fighting for. and they have become, as a group, more invested in being "right" and "pure", then in making existence better for animals.

look why too... if you could convince America let's say for an example, to just not eat meat on Thursdays. let's just pretend as an exaggerated example. if you could do this, it would make such a huge impact to these industries that supply meat. huge huge impact. this would be an amazing thing. [frick]ing amazing.

you tell this to some of these people, and they just look at you...
and they are all like... no, eating meat is murder. it's not about just Thursday, man, what about Friday, and Saturday and every other day.

so it's all or nothing with them. becuz they have just upped the stakes and rhetoric to a level that is kinda actually impossible to coexist with anything but fundamentalism. u know?

and it's shooting themselves in the foot. they make up titles. if someone's a 'vegan' but then they eat ice cream, how long is it before they are a 'vegan' again? can they swear off ice cream again 10 minutes after they've eaten some? do they have wait til they actually shit it out? how much penance does a former 'vegan' have to do to be able to call themselves a 'vegan' again?

why do they need these kind of concepts of purity?

the majority of people involved those movements genuinely care about animals and the world and everything. but it's this group of fundamentalists that don't. it's become abstract to them. they care about being pure and right and winning the argument. but if you asked them, it would be the complete opposite of abstract, how they feel they relate to it.

and it can be hard to tell about yourself sometimes, like if you've gone too far on something.

and this actually doesn't just apply to political movements or anything about ideas, it really applies to just normal life too. things will consume you. and passion will drive u to be consumed, and at the time, it can feel like the price is worth it. you might not even see it as a price.

that's why in these films people are sometimes like... we don't want redemption for villains! why can't they just be evil?

but villainy is most often not born from just being 'evil' whatever the hell that word means to whoever says it, u know? and you can have characters that are just dumb and pretty useless like Carnage... or you can have actual characters like Doctor Doom, Loki, Red Skull, Bizarro, Bucky, Doc Ock... who try to form the world around them to make sense according to them.

to flesh out a villain doesn't mean to excuse them of wrongdoing, it's just makes them a more interesting villain.

dethpillow - 6/10/2014, 9:53 PM
Bucky was actually a really bad example that i shouldn't of included there. minus him tho.
Zuriel - 6/10/2014, 9:53 PM
There are definitely some feminist Magnetos out there.
dethpillow - 6/10/2014, 9:55 PM
And that's the one thing that both DOFP and First Class really handle incredibly well, even tho i don't like DOFP overall. but the way they do Magneto is just great. the older Magneto is great too, but there's something not real deal about him, just as a person, i don't mean to his character.

but young Magneto is totally real deal. great comic book movie villain, for sure. Fassbender is great as Magneto.
dethpillow - 6/10/2014, 9:55 PM
@Zuriel - totally.
dethpillow - 6/10/2014, 10:01 PM
@Zuriel - and the thing is too, that personally, i can completely agree with so much of what they say. and i could imagine us downing bottles of whiskey, playing Tetris or Mario World together, just being in agreement and really on the same page, but then there's a turn in thinking where they're always gonna go one way, and i'll feel bad to follow that. cuz it strikes me as hateful.

that kind of stuff really resonates more in real life too, when you're around hate, it's a powerful thing. and it's really ugly. but there's something compelling and really inspiring about it in certain ways as well.

it's almost like drinking whiskey or vodka actually. how u can just fuel some bender of pure apeshit from drinking a bunch of vodka. in small doses it makes u sleepy, in medium doses it makes u hopefully never behind the wheel of a car,

but in large doses it makes u a firebreathing hell talking lunatic that can stay awake for a day and a half. u know? kinda weird.
SauronsBANE - 6/10/2014, 10:19 PM
Great, great article man! As a minority, this definitely strikes a chord with me. Based on its history, CBM.com might not be the best place to post about these kinds of real-world issues, but if it gets even one person to think about it, then it's worth it!

"I’ve been reflecting on these lessons pretty deeply over the last few days, but all that I really want to say would be way too long to put in an article."

Take it from me: no matter how long your article is, if it's full of interesting, thought-provoking ideas like this, people will read it. I'd love to see your full, unedited version of this.

"First, while racism in America is much lower now that at any previous point in its history, it still exists, and it still sucks."

I get what you're saying here, but I'm not sure that's very accurate at all. It's certainly not as blatant or as bad as it was a few decades ago, but racism is still VERY prevalent in all facets of society unfortunately. Heck, Donald Sterling proved that most recently (though the very angry, vocal outcry against him is certainly a faith-restoring thing to see).

Still, this is some really great stuff and you make fantastic points. We absolutely need more articles like this around here! Comics and comic book movies have plenty to say against racism, sexism, homophobia, and any other kind of inequality you can think of. Well done mikecantrell83. Thumbs up!
bythepowercosmic - 6/10/2014, 10:37 PM
I don't think anyone who isn't a minority has the right to judge how prevalent racism is.
Nemeres - 6/10/2014, 10:48 PM
It's always cool to see people taking the best they can out of stuff. Even superhero comic books. Or particularly superhero comic books, should I say? Some people don't let the "good" in... they block it, they reject it, they question it or they invalidate it.

But others do. And that's nothing but a good thing.
McGee - 6/10/2014, 11:03 PM
Brainiac13 - 6/11/2014, 1:21 AM
Great Article Mike. :)

Orehrepus - 6/11/2014, 3:40 AM
@trolls and fanboys, as Mike said, read and let it soak in.

This is a good read indeed. Thanks, Mike.
DEVLIN712 - 6/11/2014, 4:20 AM
Great article, couldn't agree more!
On the topic of X-Men being better than the Avengers, I'd give up Age of Ultron for an All New X-Men film. The X-Men are 10x better in my opinion, there's so much more room for character development and better story arcs.
CherryBomb - 6/11/2014, 5:00 AM
Love this article! Very well written and your so right.

I hope to even see other sexualities explored in the movie universe with Northstar and Mystique's bisexuality even. But yes, more mutants of colour (and not just blue...) need to appear!

manofsteel1942 - 6/11/2014, 5:02 AM
LOL @ McGee..!!

Ace101 - 6/11/2014, 5:29 AM
great article!

im just going to add. This race idea that people perpetuate be it for discrimination or equality is equally harmful. why? biologically speaking race does not exist, its a human creation of division and discrimination, we are one species spread across the world. Keeping the idea of race, racism , having talks of racial equality in current times furthers the notion that we are divided, different from one another, not a singular species. It can cause conflict.

perpetuating the idea of race = willful ignorance because the biological evidence of us as single species and that each individual human is only little different from everyone else, has been there for almost 2 decades.

so i say lets do away with the notion of race all together.
xinstituto - 6/11/2014, 5:29 AM
Northstar teaches there is sexuality orientation to be accepted too
bropous - 6/11/2014, 6:09 AM
Hold on, we have been preached at, time and again, that the X-Men movies are all about gay rights.

So now it's supposed to have been about racial equality?

I'm confused...

Look. The X-Men are all about finding the HUMAN element in people, no matter who they are, unless they are some total murdering thieving lunatic maniac who should simply be put down for the good of all.

That's pretty much it.

And, there is only ONE human race on this planet - homo sapiens sapiens. ANY other distinction is simply cosmetic. Don't get hung up on surface appearances. People are good or bad in ANY societal group.

'Nuff said.
bropous - 6/11/2014, 6:12 AM
^Ace101.
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