Wham. Bang. Pow. It’s time for a Superhero to Fight Hate CrimesVISHAVJIT SINGH
We can’t seem to get enough of our fictional superheroes.
Hollywood keeps spitting out newer renditions of Spider-Man, Batman, Iron Man, Captain America. This summer, we got to watch multiple heroes stuffed into a single movie “The Avengers.” Our superheroes have fought anarchists, psychotic villains and Nazis.
It’s time for a new superhero.
One who fights hate crimes.
Hate has shown tremendous staying power, from slavery in its darkest hour to post-9/11 targeting of real and perceived Muslims. Every ethnic group has faced the wrath of those who settled earlier in this grand land of ours. Our resilience to transcend each manifestation of hate is notable, as is our ability to reinvent new targets.
Seattle has already spawned the vigilante amateur hero, Phoenix Jones. It was also home to Bruce Lee, the closest we got to a real-life Asian-American superhero.
This city could serve as the birthplace to a new fictional hero.
Some of our renowned superheroes have already been conceived out of the caldron of violence and emotional pain.
Captain America used to get picked on for his scrawny size. Batman emerged from the violent death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Iron Man was born out of torture and captivity.
Who would make the best candidate for a new superhero fighting villainous hate?
How about a black superhero? Who knows more about hate than this singular group of Americans, tied by the color of their skin to a shameful noose running through the long crevices of our history?
Times have changed. Hate has not been purged but we have a black president and had a black army general, to name a few political realities. Boys and men can dream of black men as saviors.
How about a Jewish superhero?
Many of our superheroes were creations of Jewish artists, who felt creating a superhero reflecting their experience would not have a kind audience in publishers’ offices and the streets of America. Imagine a Jewish boy who grows up to fight hate crimes against Americans of all hues, even Muslims.
Dare I say a Muslim superhero? An ethnic group with the unenviable presence of being the contemporary “other” in our midst. Its motives and faith in our nation are suspected at all times. How about a Muslim superhero who fights white supremacists and Muslim extremists?
Shall we migrate to the Latino superhero? Just about every food we eat is farmed by their hands. The construction industry relies on their sweat for making possible the American dream of homeownership. Imagine a Hispanic superhero born in the dusty corn fields to illegal parents who grows up to fight not only hate crimes but big businesses with ravenous appetites for cheap labor.
An Asian-American superhero? Chinese Americans built the backbone of our railroads. Japanese Americans were interned during World War II. Others have been bullied at home to become a doctor, engineer or lawyer. It’s about time we had an Asian superhero who burns the midnight oil book worming his way to mythical status, like Peter Parker.
Finally, how about a Sikh-American superhero?
This is a 100-year-old community whose history is littered with surviving holocausts, fighting Japanese fascists and German Nazis. Sikh-American men and women could make formidable crimefighters, with kirpans and long, unshorn, waist-length hair tied into samurai buns at the top of their heads covered by five feet of a glorious turban.
Anything is possible in America. We can sketch it, plot it, animate it and market it. Our commercial fantasies include Snooki, hobbits, Kardashians and wizards. It’s time we spice up our comical fantasies with colors of our imaginary fears and create a new American mythology.
Vishavjit Singh is an editorial cartoonist based in Westchester County, N.Y. His work can be found at www.sikhtoons.com.
[Courtesy: Seattle Times . Edited for sikhchic.com]
October 14, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Gurbani Kaur (15) (Boston, MA, USA), October 14, 2012, 10:22 AM.
Thank you for the lovely image of the super-hero family. I particularly like that you are showing our heroes in modern dress. Makes me want to be a hero too! I know exactly what I'm going to dress up as this Halloween. Can we have stories about this super family, please?
2: Hardeep Kaur (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), October 14, 2012, 6:04 PM.
Great piece ... but I would like to comment on the picture of the family. I couldn't help but notice how the 'mom' in the super family doesn't have any facial hair and is free of leg hair as well ... if I cannot see a reflection of myself in a female Sikh superhero, then which superhero do I as a Sikh get to see a representation of myself? I won't even bother extending the question to the hyper-sexualisation of the female from ... again so in line with the western superficial expectations.
3: Jaskirat Kaur (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), October 14, 2012, 7:00 PM.
I strongly disagree with Hardeep ji's comment re the female super-hero. Worse ... I think the remarks about the facial hair and legs are absolutely ridiculous. There seems to be this concept amongst a fringe group in our community that thinks that it is okay for men to be sexually depicted - but not for women, that something is wrong per se with a woman looking modern and sexually attractive, that being a Sikh requires one to be as dull and plain and talibanic as humanly possible. This may be the ideal for a handful of the nutty fringe, but it has nothing to with Sikhi. For heaven's sake, first you stare at the female figure with hyper-scrutiny - now, that's perverse, if you ask me - and not the male. Then, you ignore the fact that it is a cartoon, a caricature, a "comic" book figure -- all of which require exaggerated pop-culture elements to be effective. I firmly believe the future of Sikhi lies in our young men and women retaining the full Sikh identity while being the jazziest dressed people around ... certainly not in the shabby self-image that many of the self-proclaimed ultra-(pseudo)-pious parade around with a look of living martyrdom. Please, please, grow up ... please, please wake up and smell the coffee!
4: Millie Kaur (London, England), October 15, 2012, 7:26 AM.
Let's get productive and useful. Hardeep ji: why don't you draw a picture of how YOU would like a Sikh female super hero to look like, and send it to sikhchic.com. If you're like me, you may not have art skills. No problem: see if you can find an artist friend who will translate your ideas and thoughts on paper. That way, we can take this discussion to a more meaningful level. Look forward to seeing your image ...
5: Mahanjot Sodhi (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada), October 15, 2012, 3:21 PM.
I completely agree with Jaskirat Kaur (post # 3). It's about time that the 'ultra-orthodox' within our community leave behind their hyper ideologies and start smelling the coffee in tune with the modern times. I am in no way suggesting giving up our identity, but on the other hand to exhibit it or even flash it in a way more presentable way than we see many of us doing around. I would even go to the extent of saying that the same 10th Master, Guru Gobind Singh ji, who gave us this unique identity was one of the most handsome and fashionable men around in his times, and that was over three centuries ago! Why can't we try and emulate our very own Father? There is absolutely nothing wrong with adapting modern and fashionable outfits and attire while keeping our religious identity, as long as the same doesn't end up as a slide down into vanity.
6: N. Singh (Canada), October 15, 2012, 6:58 PM.
@Hardeep Kaur: As a child/teenager who was required to wear skirts as part of her school uniform as well as skirt/suits to work (it was not socially acceptable in those days to wear pants to the office), I can assure you that no one saw the hair on my legs. Like other Sikh girls, we often wore 2 pairs of panty-hose to cover our legs! I am not advocating being ashamed of one's body but the reality is that this is how we dealt with it. We did not feel the need to display the hair on our legs or armpits to the world. These things are personal and should remain as such. I second Jaskirat's and Mahanjot's comments.
7: N. Singh (Canada), October 15, 2012, 7:02 PM.
I also noticed that our Superhero lady is very 'buxom'! Any objections on that from those of us who are less well endowed and feel she is not representative of us on that account? ... LOL, sorry!