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2 vs. 1, Captain America and Racial Identity: Does the fact that there have been 2 black Captain Americas and only one white one matter?

I’m taking a course on race in pop culture and was recently assigned to read Truth: Red, White, and Black. This alternate mythos of the Captain America story suggests that before Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson there was another Captain America- a black man named Isaiah Bradley. Bradley (and many other African American men) are unwillingly forced into government experimentation to perfect the super serum that will later make Rogers a hero. However, many of these early test subjects died on the table, or suffered from complications later on. Isaiah is the only survivor, and dawns the Captain America costume on a suicide mission behind enemy lines. Though he survives, Isaiah is ultimately mistreated by the American government until Steve Rogers finds out about him and demands a form of justice. Including this title, there have now been two black men do wear the Captain America persona. Should this be getting more attention? Does the popularity of Steve Rogers (as much as I love him) above Sam Wilson and Isaiah Bradley say something about the way we accept our superheroes; especially one as symbolically loaded as Captain America?

  • I see it as a nod to change. Historically there have been a lot of white men as superheros due to racial pregudice and societal norms. Now thst its changing and theres a growing acceptance for different races, sexualities and religions; comic writers are looking to show that they believe in the changes society has made. – Cojo 5 years ago
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  • You raise a good question. There is something essentially American about Steve Rogers, but it is important that the mantle of Captain America represent more than one man or one race. Several other white men have worn the costume as well, including John Walker (U.S. Agent) and Bucky Barnes. It might be more telling that the black cultural experience appears twice, whereas there are no iterations of the character that are Hispanic, Asian, or (native) Indian (unless alternate Universes count). Does the black American experience validate American symbolism in a way that is different from white versions? Questions like this are why I thoroughly enjoyed the real world Sikh Captain (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30941638). – KingSheep 5 years ago
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  • As someone who has not heard of Sam Wilson and Isaiah Bradley I find this an interesting topic to raise. This of course emphasizes the good nature of Rogers while raising political issues about the racism of the American government. If there was a movie centered the character of Wilson or Bradley instead of Rogers their popularity might be raised. – melimangoes 5 years ago
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  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but you called this an "alternate mythos", meaning someone came up with a different background for the Captain America character. As an author, I strongly dislike when people do this simply to satisfy the current culture's hot topics (In this case, racism). There's so much complaint about whitewashing, and rightfully so because whitewashing can be very damaging, but I have an issue with taking a story and changing its 'white' origin to one of 'ethnic' to satisfy pop culture. – Qiao ChengHua 5 years ago
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  • As someone who has not had much exposure to comics, I can see why this alternate story is an interesting way to point towards the "obvious" stereotyping of super heroes. I would disagree with Qiao's argument that the story is being changed from a "white" origin to satisfy pop-culture. I think it is a rightful hypothesis that points to the fact that during WWII the African American soldiers were forced to endure deadly and painful experimentation - for the sake of enhancing the survival rate of their white counterparts. (Just look for an Article recently released by NPR called "Secret World War II Chemical Experiments Tested Troops By Race"). I would argue that the alternate story takes "reality" into effect and tells the story of how it would really be, if during those experimentation's one of the African Americans became "super powerful" and how, or if, Americans would have accepted him as a hero. After all, when Jesse Owens won the Olympic medals in 1936 - he became a test subject. Somehow I think it is important to notice the ease with which we suspend our believe of a white soldier being experimented on and becoming a hero vs. the criticism and reservations we have thinking that a black soldier could ever become a super hero - even though they were actually experimented on and even though they have proven their exemplary abilities time and time again. – pmaschke 5 years ago
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