In a simpler time, where indoors is open, handshakes and hugs are common, and smiles no longer need to be hidden, I am sitting at a bar with a friend. We laugh, for though we were strangers in our youth, we share so many common experiences because we are from the same small city. So many common fears. So many common friends.
Friends we start to name.
Friends who are no longer here, lost to streets few remember and even fewer memorialize.
We eulogize their names over exorbitantly. priced cocktails and wonder, without a hint of sarcasm, whether our children are worse off for being shielded from the trauma that bred us.
You see, we are a gumbo of experiences, cooked by passions, flavored by our environments, and served to all those we encounter. And just like the difference between your momma’s cooking and a cheap (or expensive) imitation, inclusion of ingredients does not determine the taste of the dish. It is not simply what we experience, but how we are cooked and brewed and stewed that makes us, us. Who we are is a continuous culmination of all we’ve survived, each experience mounted atop the last to build us as brothers or rivals; as anarchists or law-abiders; as heroes or villains.
We know Miles Morales. We know the story of his a spider bite, his spider powers, and his spider mentor. We know his family, made up of a menagerie of cultures and calamities. For too long comics only explored the power fantasies of middle income white men. The acknowledgement of experiences that add honest diversity is a welcome change from that status quo. Representation matters.
But representation is not simply shading a character darker or name-checking a neighborhood. Representation is not simply the ingredients, but how those ingredients are cooked and brewed and stewed.
Miles is a young Black and Puerto Rican man (a boy, but our boys become men as soon as their voice drops) in working class New York City. He has a fresh haircut (props to his inkers for giving him a lining with waves; still waiting too see him wear a skull-cap under his uniform), fresh shoes, and self-confidence. Which means that he has almost certainly been stopped by…