What if Peter Parker was black?

what if Spider-man was black

This is a great idea that I wouldn’t trust Disney/Marvel to not fuck up if they tried it:

I keep thinking how much more powerful the Spiderman origin story would be if Peter Parker was an African American kid, whose Uncle Ben was shot by police while being arrested for a minor parking infraction. There is no formal investigation, and Peter decides to put himself on the line to prevent it happening again. He tackles the white crimes that go unpunished, punishes POC criminals fairly. He is the leveler, always fighting to be without bias, to be just. To protect people like his uncle.

But oh the stories you could tell. You’d need to be careful though, it’s so easy, especially for non-African-American creators, to fall into the stereotype trap. (Which is why I have issues with Noah Berlatsky’s proposal for a black Antman). Take Peter’s origin frex. Most of that could stay of course: bitten by radioactive spider, a loner and nerd in a high school that doesn’t appreciate it (but careful there, don’t get into anti-intellectual black stereotypes), Peter gets his superpowers and want to use them for his own benefits, uncle Ben can still give his speech, but you cannot make Peter responsible for his death in even the indirect way he was in his real origin.

Because that undermines the point you’re trying to make, that the system is broken, that black Americans are always at risk of being murdered by their own police forces regardless of how they behave. if Peter was involved in an altercation with the cop who murdered uncle Ben earlier, that provides an out to explain why it wasn’t really a murder. Nobody would argue that uncle Ben deserved to be killed because Peter let the burglar escape; but as real life proves, a lot of people would argue that Peter giving lip to a cop explains why his uncle was shot.

Spidey accuses Jameson from haunting him because he is black

The other thing is: would it be general knowledge that Spidey is black? Because occassionally that does come up as a throwaway gag like the above with the real Spider-Man, that because he wears a full body costume people cannot tell his ethnicity and so he can pretend to be black. Does anybody buy that? It would be interesting if he was, as such a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe, though wildly feared and mistrusted at the same time by the public at large and some of his fellow heroes, even when white: how much more so if he’s black?

Or the murder of Gwen Stacey, if she remains white? And what about the Punisher, who must look very different from a black Spider-Man’s perspective than a white one, with his killing sprees of mostly street level criminals and drug dealers? Or his relationship with J. Jonah jameson and The Daily Bugle? The easy way there would be to make Jameson just another racist, but the interesting thing about him was always that he was highly principled even if obsessed with Spider-Man and at times you could argue that he had a point about the menace of superheroes. Not to mention Robbie Robertson, the Bugle‘s black longtime editor, often the voice of reason arguing against Jameson’s crusades. He could be a great viewpoint character for a more conservative black view of Spider-Man, a counterpoint to Peter’s radicalism.

So much interesting stuff there, but it would’ve to be done as fanfic, cause I can’t see Marvel ever going for it. Or doing a good job if they did.

Jean Charles de Menezes 7 January 1978 – 22 July 2005

At 09:30 on Friday morning, a Brazilian-born man called Jean Charles de Menezes left a house that police had identified as the home of a possible suspect. He was an electrician, on his way to a job in Kilburn. But the police, anxious to prevent another Tube attack, jumped to the wrong conclusion.

Ten years ago, less than a month after the 7/7 Bombings, the Metropolitian Police tracked and murdered Jean Charles de Menezes under the impression he was one of the people responsible for the botched attack the day before. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for it, though we did get that disgusting health & safety prosecution against the Met itself.

His family is currently in the UK to take part in remembrance ceremonies for him, but also to plead their case for The European Court of Human Rights:

Lawyers for the family argue that the assessment used by prosecutors in deciding that no individual should be charged over the 2005 shooting is incompatible with article 2 of the European convention on human rights, which covers the right to life.

They claim the evidential test applied by the Crown Prosecution Service – that there should be sufficient evidence for a “realistic prospect” of conviction – is too high a threshold. It means that, in effect, the decision not to bring a prosecution was based on a conclusion that there was less than a 50% chance of conviction, they say.

It remains an outrage that ten years after his murder, there’s still no real justice for Jean, with his murderers and those who unleashed them never having had to feel the consequences of their actions. It also shows why the ECHR is so important, the last hope of all those denied justice in their own country’s courts.

Actual black nerd problems

Privilege is also, not having to worry about shit like this when going to conventions:

How the fuck is it that my Friday night Comic Con experience is hijacked by me doing the math on if I could get to my car with a giant, cartoonish sword strapped across my back? Why is this something that concerns me at all? It sure as hell didn’t concern the cool white dude who showed me his Levi-blade earlier. If I ran into him again and if he asked me if I picked one up myself, I wouldn’t know how to tell him about my reluctance to open myself up to possible harm. I wouldn’t know how to engage him on a level that says, “I’m glad we met and share an affinity for this same piece of art, but because I’m black and aware of the world around me, I don’t feel comfortable indulging myself at the same level you do.” It’s a tough conversation to have. It’s a tougher situation to articulate. It’s toughest though, just trying to live with that doubt in your head.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone”



It’s incredibly tense in the English Premier League at the moment, with three teams fighting for the title. With Manchester United disintegrating and lucky to secure European football, the much anticipated Spurs title challenge fizzing out and Arsenal struggling to even reach their customary fourth place and access to the Champions League, it’s up to Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool FC. The latter two met last Sunday in an emotional, stressfull match which saw Liverpool win 3-2, setting a giant step forwards to winning the title. For Liverpool fans and many neutrals it would be wonderful for Liverpool to win it now, because it’s been twentyfour years since their last one, because of Steve Gerrard who, a single childhood slipup aside, has always been loyal to Liverpool and won everything but the title with them, but mostly because it’s been exactly twentyfive years since the Hillsborough Disaster and just weeks after a new inquest into the disaster and the coverup has started.



It all started as a normal FA Cup between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, but after only six minutes the game was abandoned as the Liverpool fans in the away end climbed over the crush barrier onto the fields. At first it was thought to be just another example of fans misbehaving but it soon became clear something monstrous was happening, as shown in BBC’s Match of the Day that night.



Ninetysix people died that day and the disaster hit the city of Liverpool hard, not just because of the deaths, but also because of the coverup by the police that followed the disaster, as recounted in a BBC Panorama investigation from last year. Though initial reports into the disaster had laid the blame for it on the shoulders of the South Yorkshire police for inadequacies in handling the crowd that day, much of the particulars of what exactly had happened remained unknown, while the police and the media started blaming the Liverpool supporters themselves for what happened, most notably in the Sun, still being boycotted in Liverpool to this day.



Football supporters in the late eighties were largely seen as scum, hooligans and criminals and the Heysel disaster — in which Liverpool supporters had attacked Juventus fans during the 1985 Europa Cup Final, resulting in the death of thirtynine supporters when a wall collapsed — was fresh in people’s memories. The narrative therefore that Hillsborough was another Heysel was easy to believe. Yet in Liverpool and amongst the survivors and relatives of those that had died in Hillsborough there was a need for justice that never abated, organising to both keep the memory of those who had died alive and to seek justice for their deaths.




It all came to a head at the 20th anniversary of the disaster, as the speech of the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, MP Andy Burnham was interrupted by shouts of justice for the 96; four days later the government decided to open up police files about the disaster, leading to the setting up of the Hillsborough Independent Panel reinvestigating the disaster and its aftermath, two years ago reaching the conclusion that there was indeed a coverup.



Now, twentyfive years after the disaster a new, proper inquest has started at the same time as both of the city’s football clubs are doing the best in the League they’ve done for years, Everton in the race for fourth place, Liverpool chasing their first title in twentyfour years. Is it any wonder both fans and players, Steve Gerrard especially, who lost a cousin at Hillsborough, get a little emotional?



What being privileged is like

One fine evening, journalist Jamelle Bouie decides to sell his old tv to a friend and sets out to bring it over to them there and then, when considers what this would look like:

As I was getting ready to go, it occurred to me that this would be a terrible idea. Not because I would have been carrying a TV at 10pm down a quiet city street—I actually feel pretty safe doing that. But because I would have been a black dude—in a hoodie, no less!—carrying a nice-looking TV down a quiet city street at 10pm.

Had he been white, would he have thought about this? Jamelle himself thinks not, and I think he’s right. For myself, while I do occassionally wonder when doing something that could look dodgy, I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been stopped by police because what I was doing looked suspicious. In fact, police officers here and abroad have always been respectful and polite to me, whenever I had to interact with them. The same really goes for any sort of interaction with authority; I’ve always been treated respectfully even when in the wrong, have more often than not been believed on my word when there was no real reason to do so, always gotten the benefit of the doubt when I needed it. In short, I’ve never had to worry about people judging me negatively just of how I look.

That’s something that’s incredibly powerful, in which I’m very lucky as I’ve done nothing to earn this respect, but which from the inside feels like the normal way the world should work; it doesn’t feel like I’m priviledged. This dichotomy, where it’s easier for those without these privileges to see how privileged those with them truly are, is I think responsible for much of the heat around internet debates about privilege.

On the one hand, people like me who enjoy these privileges need to make an effort to see them for what they are, while on the other hand they have never or rarely experienced the sort of harassement people without them encounter regularly. It makes it hard for us to believe them, even when everybody is arguing in good faith and it’s even harder to transform this intellectual understanding in an emotional one, to understand what it is really like to live without this privilege we take for granted.

That’s why simple, to the point and most importantly, unjudgmental post like Jamelle Bouie’s one here are so important, as they provide a way in which we can understand something of how other people live.

We Can Stop It



What I like about Scottish anti-rape campaign is that it approaches it in the way a drunk driving campaign would. So whereas with traditional campaigns the mephasis is always on rape prevention by the victim, this campaign is talking directly to potential perpetrators, using the same sort of techniques that helped make drink driving from something you bragged about to something you do furtively, if at all.

Not that rape is anywhere near as accepted as drunk driving once was of course, but rather that the way most of us, especially blokes, think about rape is about the stereotypical man in a dark alley physically overpowering a random woman. What this campaign instead is saying that actually, there are quite a few situations in which no physical force is used that are still rape or sexual assault, that consent is always required with sex and that decent, normal men know when it can and cannot be given.

What it does in short is to denormalise all these situations in which you can fool yourself that you’re not actually doing wrong in forcing somebody to have sex with you, by explicitely stating that no, having sex with a woman too drunk to stand up of her own accord is wrong. And it does it largely without putting the hackles up of its target audience, young men, who can get very defensive when talking about rape, for obvious reasons.

Ian Tomlinson killer walks off scotch free, has previous form



It took two years to to even get him before a judge, so it’s no great surprise that Ian Tomlinson’s killer has been acquited:

A policeman has been acquitted of killing Ian Tomlinson during G20 protests in London by striking the 47-year-old bystander with a baton and pushing him to the ground as he walked away from police lines.

The jury at Southwark crown court on Thursday cleared PC Simon Harwood, 45, a member of the Metropolitan police’s elite public order unit, the Territorial Support Group, of manslaughter following one of the most high-profile cases of alleged police misconduct in recent years.

Harwood told the court that while in retrospect he “got it wrong” in seeing Tomlinson as a potentially threatening obstruction as police cleared a pedestrian passageway in the City on the evening of 1 April 2009, his actions were justifiable within the context of the widespread disorder of that day.

Speaking outside the court, the Tomlinson family said: “It’s not the end, we are not giving up for justice for Ian.” They said they would now pursue a civil case.

It remains hard to convict a copper of anything, especially things done “in the line of duty”, even when said copper has previous form:

The jury at Southwark crown court, who took four days to clear PC Simon Harwood of manslaughter on a majority verdict, was not told that the officer had been investigated a number of other times for alleged violence and misconduct.

Harwood quit the Metropolitan police on health grounds in 2001, shortly before a planned disciplinary hearing into claims that while off-duty he illegally tried to arrest a man in a road rage incident, altering notes retrospectively to justify his actions.

He was nonetheless able to join another force, Surrey, returning to the Met in 2005. In a string of other alleged incidents Harwood was accused of having punched, throttled, kneed or threatened other suspects while in uniform, although only one complaint was upheld.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission described the chain of events around Harwood’s rejoining his old force before becoming part of its elite Territorial Support Group as “simply staggering”.

Emphasis mine. You wonder if the verdict had been the same if the jury had known Harwood had been investigated for assault previously, and was allowed to escape prosecution for it. But of course they were not allowed to know this:

The Metropolitan police attempted to keep the disciplinary record of PC Simon Harwood secret from the family of Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper seller he struck with a baton and pushed to the ground at G20 protests, it can now be reported.

Lawyers for the force tried and failed to argue that disclosing the litany of complaints about Harwood’s conduct would have breached his privacy, saying the officer’s disciplinary history did not have “any relevance” to Tomlinson’s death.

Harwood, 45, who was found not guilty of Tomlinson’s manslaughter on Thursday, had repeatedly been accused of using excessive force during his career, including claims he punched, throttled, kneed and unlawfully arrested people.

The jury in the trial were not told about the history of complaints, despite a submission from the Crown Prosecution Service, which argued that in two of the disciplinary matters he was accused of using heavy-handed tactics against the public “when they presented no threat”.

The application was rejected by the judge, Mr Justice Fulford, who said: “The jury, in effect, would have to conduct three trials.”

The establishment takes care of its own. If this had been an ordinary murder and the suspect had previous form, wouldn’t that have been admitted to court as relevant information? You would think so. Then again, a civilian who had been accused of assault and abuse would not have been allowed to escape prosecution in the first place…

Dutch police use minors to spy for them

According to an article in De Pers, Dutch police intelligence services attempt to recruit minors to serve as informers. In at least some cases, this was even done without their parents knowing. A lawyer quoted in the article spoke of “stasi-like methods”, which sounds about right to me.

In the Netherlands only the socalled CIE or Criminal Intelligence Unit is allowed to use informers, with information gathered through their use not legal to use in criminal prosecutions, though some lawyers do complain that such information does end up in public prosecutor files and is hard to check up on. Rules about the use of minors are non-existent, so the situation seems rife for abuse. Certainly any such approach of a minor should be done with the permission of their parents. Sneaking around behind their backs is just wrong.