Wonder Woman and I were both outsiders on two levels. Her powers set her apart from other humans, but among the other members of the Justice League, she was relegated to secretary. My race set me apart from my white classmates, but I learned at a young age that within the black community my gender marked me as inferior. I remember as a child being told by my hairdresser that feminism wasn’t for black women. “For us,” she explained, “the man is here, and we’re here,” she said gesturing with her hands to illustrate that to be a black woman meant that a man I had never met would always be stationed above me.
As I got older, I became better able to name my double displacement; I was frustrated with the racism I saw in feminist circles and with the misogyny I saw among racial-justice advocates.
And Wonder Woman’s state of constant otherness only became more meaningful.
Nubia: Introduced In Wonder Woman Comic #204
But as a girl, I most commiserated with Wonder Woman when she sought to reconcile her inner strength and ferocity with the need of others to see her as peaceful and feminine. I had learned early on that it wouldn’t take a lot for me to be viewed as angry and deemed unlikeable. Images of neck-rolling, finger-snapping, gum-popping black women caricatured in movies and TV shows showed me exactly what people expected from me....
Wonder Woman didn’t get to act on anger, and neither did I. I was terrified of how I’d be seen if I ever did, in part because Wonder Woman once showed me exactly what could happen.
- In one famous storyline, Sacrifice part IV, Wonder Woman was forced to kill a villain, Maxwell Lord, to save Superman’s and Batman’s lives. Lord had tricked the Justice League members into thinking he was an ally, when in fact he planned to destroy all superheroes, whom he viewed as a global threat. Lord convinced Superman that both Batman and Wonder Woman were his enemies and forced him to attack. After subduing Batman, Superman came after Wonder Woman. Instead of fighting her friend, Wonder Woman captured Lord and used her Lasso of Truth. Lord told her the only way to stop him was to kill him. Which she did.
I don't think there's any maybe about why the male writers wrote that episode that way. When women, of any color, leave their prescribed roles and get violent in self-defense or defense of children, they go to jail for longer than men who murder sometimes. That's been true for decades.
Our fiction reflects who we are. Never forget that. Do not tell yourself, it's just a movie. If you see blackness maligned, womanhood maligned, or black womanhood maligned or erased it matters.
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IMAGINING A BLACK WONDER WOMAN