Today we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the voice he brought to equality, race relations, and civil rights. I was only a baby when Dr. King was alive, but I remember his influence growing up in the 70’s. I was a military brat, raised in a very strict environment, but race was never an issue with me.
One of my best friends in elementary school was African-American. I don’t remember his name, but I do remember him. We connected through our love of comic books. We would both draw our favorite superheroes during our spare time in class. We even cut them out and played with them like action figures.
I think that was the key to my “education” on race relations. In the comics, especially for the superheroes, race was not an issue. Captain America teamed up with the Falcon. The X-Men has heroes that were black, blue, Native American, etc. The best example from the 70’s was the Legion of Superheroes. The covered every race, religion, creed, and color imaginable and always fought for the greater good.
That’s what’s great about comics. They have always represented the best and worst of us, and always showed how good triumphs over evil. Comics teach us that it’s okay to be different, and that we should work together for the benefit of the planet.
Unfortunately, things haven’t changed since Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. We are still divided, not united, by race. People still use labels for self-identity, persecution, hate speech,and even violence. We are not being “judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin.”
I’m not going to get political here, pointing fingers at the left or the right. There are people guilty on all sides that are using race to perpetuate an idea or political power, and that’s wrong. We have to get beyond the name calling and find that middle ground. We can’t move forward if we’re not working toward a common goal.
Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” As writers, we have the responsibility to bring out the light and drive out the darkness through our stories. Stories emulate what’s going on in the world around them, i.e. The Jungle, To Kill a Mockingbird, Grapes of Wrath, etc. This trend has to continue, even more so today.
Even in fantasy stories, there are issues of race. The animosity between Dwarves and Elves is a great example. Although you really can’t compare that to the real world, it’s speaks to the heart and soul of the issue. J.R.R. Tolkien, was keen on representing animosity and friendship throughout the Lord of the Rings books.
Gimli Glóin’s son is renowned, for he was one of the Nine Walkers that set out with the Ring; and he remained in the company of King Elessar throughout the War. He was named Elf-friend because of the great love that grew between him and Legolas, son of King Thranduil, and because of his reverence for the Lady Galadriel […] But when King Elessar gave up his life Legolas followed at last the desire of his heart and sailed over Sea […] We have heard tell that Legolas took Gimli Glóin’s son with him because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf. If this is true, then it is strange indeed: that a Dwarf should be willing to leave Middle-earth for any love, or that the Eldar should receive him, or that the Lords of the West should permit it. But it is said that Gimli went also out of desire to see again the beauty of Galadriel; and it may be that she, being mighty among the Eldar, obtained this grace for him.
— The Return of the King, Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers
I’m not trying to compare race relations in a fantasy story to the real-world issues today. What I’m trying to say is before you let that hate and frustration fill your heart, before your type that profanity-laced rant on Twitter or Facebook, remember this … Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.