Note: this article contains spoilers for the Captain America and Avengers films.
So, right before the Civil War of the MCU variety came out I—hold your breaths—got into a Facebook fight. I try hard to avoid getting into those because there’s no one who wins in a Facebook fight, but sometimes I can’t help myself. Anyways, I got into a Facebook fight with a friend of mine at the time over who would take the shield from Steve Rogers when he hopefully died at the end of it (Spoilers: He dies in the comic book version). It should be no surprise that I wholly supported Sam Wilson, the Falcon, taking the shield over once Steve was done with it. From a contextual point of view, it made sense. From a character behavior point of view, it made sense. My friend argued that it made more sense for Bucky to take it over because Bucky represented a continuation in “American values” (I don’t think that was exactly what she argued and I’m too lazy to go creep her profile to try and find it).
But I’ve been thinking about that argument with regards to everything that’s been going on lately: the murders of African American citizens in our country, the protest responses, and the privileged, White backlash that I’ve been seeing play out on my social media timelines.
Y’all, it is damn disgusting.
I was raised in a house that wholly embraced “American values”—and there were multiple times over my life that I saw what those looked like, in my own home, in regards to the African American community.
I watched my mother develop an amazing friendship with an African American woman and us with her children (Wherever you are, Velda and company, please know that I’ve never forgotten you and I hope you all are safe and happy), only to have them disappear from our lives when we knew my father was going to be coming home from whatever country he’d run off to to help us move to down to Florida. I sat through my father explaining why he “could never trust black people,” and I got to experience firsthand my father’s distaste for anything that wasn’t wholesome, White content when I started to bring hip-hop into the house.
And, in regards to the MCU, I suppose that in the follow-up to Civil War, Bucky did represent “American values”: he had been brainwashed into serving an organization that was meant to destabilize and take over the US (as we do, and historically have done, in many countries all over the world), he was a merciless terrorist who showed no remorse for the murders that he committed of innocent lives (Sorry, Tony. <3)—and he was in dire need of a course correction.
So, yeah, Bucky totes represented America.
The character of Captain America has always represented the idealistic view of America—or, at least, should always—and we see that time and again in the MCU. In The First Avenger, Steve Rogers takes the power given to him and uses it to end HYDRA before they’re able to strike their nuclear blow against the United States—spoilers: he does stop the nukes, but HYDRA, is well… HYDRA—and we all cheered, because HYDRA was evil and Steve personally sacrificed himself to save the millions of innocent lives that the nuclear attack would have ended.
We see it again, in The Winter Soldier, where Steve goes rogue against Project Insight, the S.H.I.E.L.D. response to what they felt was a clear lack in national security—Project Insight would have eventually killed 20,000,000 people because it deemed them to be threats. And we all cheered when those helicarriers went down. Because the murder of people who are not threats isn’t right—as Steve asks Director Fury, “Shouldn’t the punishment come after the crime?”
Civil War was, fittingly, the first time the MCU audience was pitted against itself—were you Team Stark or Team Rogers? The issue on the table was the depowering of the Avengers and the removal of their ability to act independently to address threats around the world—threats that local governments were generally too slow to respond to or had responses for that would have killed more innocent people than necessary.
Remember when the Security Council wanted to nuke New York, even when that meant killing millions of innocent people, and Tony nope’d that missile into space?
I ask you to think back to Civil War. Whose side did you start on? Did you end the movie on the same side? Did you support the proposed systemic oppression of people trying to protect the world from things that would destroy it or did you understand, as Steve said, “The safest hands are still our own.” Isn’t that an American feel—that when the system isn’t protecting the people who need it, we are obligated to do it ourselves?
It pains me to think about how many people out there were Team Rogers for Civil War who now can’t wrap their heads around why the world is crying out en masse against the injustice of people being wrongfully murdered by the very people who swore oaths to protect them—and you bet there are absolutely those people out there.
An image made its way across my timeline yesterday (6/4/2020) that commented on how many racist White people flock to the symbol of Captain America’s shield and pointed out who carries the shield, now, in the MCU. And while I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you damn well know who it is, but I’m going to take this moment to remind you:
As of the end of the Infinity War duology, Steve had passed his shield on to Sam—not Bucky, but Sam.
Sam, who noted in Civil War that, “…people who shoot at you usually wind up shooting at me, too,” and why do you think that is? ‘Cuz this pair of characters generally fall in the same space. So, you’d think that if one supported Steve, then one would have supported Sam because Sam is, at his base level (in the MCU), a continuation of Steve: both men were soldiers (and terrible spies), both men were given weapons that the average soldier did not have access to (Steve, his new… everything; Sam, his wings), and both men honor the code that all superheroes generally abide by: Protect the weak and the innocent, do the right thing. Obvis, the idea of right varies by superhero, but they all generally have good intentions, yeah?
Those police officers who murdered George Floyd? They weren’t doing the right thing, they weren’t protecting the weak and the innocent.
That former police officer who chased Ahmaud Aubrey and let his son murder an innocent man? He didn’t do the right thing, didn’t protect a weak and innocent man.
Those police officers who broke into Breonna Taylor’s apartment and shot her eight times while she was asleep? They didn’t do the right thing, they didn’t stop to consider the weak and innocent woman they were about the murder.
You know who has consistently done the right thing, according to our values as Americans? You know who helped Steve Rogers protect a man who was brainwashed into committing unspeakable things for an organization bent on destroying America? You know who stepped away from his peaceful life away from combat scenarios to serve and protect a world that needed it, even when it meant that he could die?
Sam fucking Wilson.
So, if you were incensed that it was Sam who Steve entrusted his shield to at the end of Infinity War; if you do not understand why, as a people, as a world, we are sick and fucking tired of governments that stand by and let innocent, actively oppressed people continue to be murdered simply for the color of their skin; if you cheered for Captain America and do not support the protests happening now; if you do not understand why America needs Sam Wilson to be Captain America…
You need to take that shield off.
Because you are not supporting Captain America.
Because you do not understand what America can be.
What America should be. | Catherine Bathe