Gene Demby

Gene Demby is a writer in Brooklyn, New York. He blogs at PostBourgie.

Recent Articles

Masked Identity Politics

Comic-book creators have grappled with how to handle race for decades -- but don't expect this summer's superhero flicks to reflect that struggle.

The actor Ryan Reynolds before a panel at Comic-Con International for the Green Lantern, which premiers this June. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
A purple-skinned alien hurtles across the cosmos, bearing a ring that grants its wearer unimaginable power. The alien is mortally wounded, and the ring is seeking its next wearer -- the Green Lantern, Earth's champion -- by finding the planet's most courageous inhabitant. In a world with billions of people, what are the chances that the ring's next owner is a white American dude? Pretty high, apparently. In DC Comics' Showcase #22 , released in 1959, the power ring chose Hal Jordan, a dashing military test pilot modeled on a young Paul Newman. Jordan would become a founding member of the Justice League of America, DC Comics' flagship superhero team, and one of its most famous characters. And while comics, over time, began to challenge that whiteness, two major films to be released this summer avoid the critiques on race found in the original comics. In the early days, whiteness was so pervasive in comics that it could actually span the universe: a Kryptonian Superman could crash-land...

Rethinking the Pro Tempore Rules.

I'm on record as being less than thrilled with the eulogizing of Robert Byrd, whose major accomplishments as a senator seem to have involved funneling money back to West Virginia and holding down his seat for a really, really long time. The length of his tenure placed him third in line for the presidency as president pro tempore, but since his passing, he's been replaced in that role by Hawaii's Daniel Inouye, who is 85. Chris Bonanos wonders if this setup, which coincides with the aging of the Senate in general, might call for a change in the pro tempore rules. It's not outlandish to suggest that managing the business of a powerful and complex state like New York or California is, even for a legislator, inherently more policy-driven than doing so for Alaska or West Virginia, and therefore more likely to qualify someone to be president. Instead, we have a system that inherently favors provincial guys who are good at hanging on to their jobs. Therefore, since the president pro tempore...

"Acting White."

Over at The New Republic , John McWhorter lavishes praise on Stuart Buck 's book, Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation , which probably isn't terribly surprising. The thrust of Buck's book -- that blacks lag in educational outcomes because of a dysfunctional pathology that demonizes academic excellence -- has been McWhorter's pet cause for years. The idea that black kids who get good grades are accused of "acting white" gets so much play that it's taken as a given -- Barack Obama even went to that well at a campaign stop at a black church that was seen as dog-whistling to conservatives -- and McWhorter spends much of his review bristling at the idea that this alleged phenomenon is overstated, or even completely made up. Despite McWhorter's protestations, though, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of this meme, and Buck's reading of it in particular. Buck has said that he learned of this phenomenon after he and his wife adopted black children, and other white...

The Unbearable Whiteness of Bending.

As much as I enjoyed Avatar: The Last Airbender , the excellent and popular animated epic that aired on Nickelodeon a few years ago, I'm viewing the premiere of its movie adaptation tomorrow with serious apprehension, and not simply because it's being helmed by M. Night Shyamalan . The television show is set in a deeply imagined world whose inhabitants are mostly Asian. Aang, the heroic Avatar, appears to be a Shaolin monk, with an origin story similar to that of the Dalai Lama . His fellow travelers, who hail from the fictional world's cold south, are comparatively darker-skinned and appear to be Inuit. And yet, as the blog Racebending has been pointing out for some time now, the young actors playing those characters in the movie adaptation are white. But it gets better. (And by "better," I mean much, much more problematic.) Zuko, the series' chief villain, comes from a country patterned after imperialist China. In the film, he's played by Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame. The...

Sprinkle Some Brown on it.

Along with his fellow Republicans, Jeff Sessions spent much of the first day of Elena Kagan 's confirmation hearings weirdly taking aim at the storied judicial career of Thurgood Marshall . Why? Because Marshall was an enemy of originalists, and the senators wanted to portray Kagan, who clerked for him, as cut from the same ideological cloth. Later in the day, though, Sessions compared the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United , which granted corporations the right to make unlimited political donations, to Brown v. Board of Education , the landmark civil-rights case that declared de jure racial segregation unconstitutional. In the Citizen's United case, he said, the court went back to the principles of the Constitution to apply equal protection of the laws. "Is it treating people equally to say you can go to this school because of the color of your skin and you can't?" Sessions asked rhetorically. "We've now honestly concluded and fairly concluded that it violates the equal...

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