Captain America: Sam Wilson issues #11 and #12 make a blatant play at comics remaining vigilant about addressing the current, relevant issues that have been causing racial tensions to run high within the country. The most prevalent hot topic? Police Brutality. Nick Spencer isn’t pulling very many punches here as he puts our controversy hero, and wielder of Shield, Sam Wilson, between a rock and a hard place. Between social media campaigns for him to #GiveBackTheShield and decisions he’s made about what side he stands on in the Civil War, Captain America has hardly been finding it easy to stand as the stalwart symbol as the nation’s flag.
So the plot is simple, but no less interesting. The propagators? The Americops. The Americops are a Superhuman task force of “police” sanctioned by the federal government after Billionaire Keane, and Senator Tom Herald got a bill passed that forces local police to share resources with them. Radio talk show host Harry Hauser talked the whole thing up, and overnight the Americops are patrolling primarily black and brown neighborhoods en masse, targeting “criminals” for petty crimes or profiling based on race and brutalizing them before tossing them in jail. Quite like what happens everyday in black neighborhoods, locals are lined up against walls and searched with little to no pretense, and “suspicious activity” that can be based on nothing more than the color of their skin. Like I said, simple, but relevant to real life, and possibly any eye opener to those that had no idea this actually occurs. Yes, this is a comic book, and there are no superhuman cops in the real world, but aside from that, this is far from fiction.
The more tensions rise due to civil mistreating, the more likely the black and brown people in these neighborhoods are more likely to fight back, and thus incriminate themselves, replacing the title of “victim” with “criminal” which already equates with black people in American’s conditioned minds anyways. Black Super Human, Ex-Avenger/Ex-New Warrior, Rage, enters the scene, standing with his community. His name speaks volumes when it comes to his response to the racial profiling and targeting done by these new Superhuman cops, and being Superhuman himself, he believes it is his duty to do something about it.
Needless to say, Rage finds himself in an altercation with the Americops and Captain America has to swoop in, in attempt to de-escalate the situation. Of course with the media on scene, he is forced to protect himself without actually harming any of the police in effort to express his indifference to Rage’s harsh, whiling also keeping himself from looking like he’s running away scared.
To me, this situation presents the struggle of black people in America today dealing with the racial tensions against us. Rage represents the half that are fed up and ready to take action, even if that action means breaking the law. He represents the half that will fight back against the cops, even though that’s what they want us to do, so that we can be ”justifiably” labeled criminals. While wrong, this sentiment is understandable. You abuse something for so long, it’s only a matter of time before it fights back. Captain America represents the attempts at peaceful resolution, because, despite his anger at the situation, he understands that violence isn’t the right answer, nor will it be a means to fixing the problem. In fact, it will only dig a further hole for us. This is real life for people of color. This is what we have to think about everyday. Want an example of white privilege? How about not being faced with that among other forms of prejudice.
The issue ends with John Walker, a vigilante known as US Agent, entering the scene after being convinced by Keane that Sam is violating the use of the Shield by opposing lawful officers making a lawful arrest. In other words, Walker is the symbol that represents the corrupt system and its refusal to let black and brown people gain any real equality within it. Captain America represents the fight for equality. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for issue #13 to learn the outcome of that fight, but if history is anything to go by, even if John Walker is defeated, there will be another construct to replace him, and once try to oppress people of color.
SN: Nick Spencer didn’t just write this because he has a great and wondrous imagination. He wrote this because racial injustice is a real problem that plagues the country. And the system (sans US Agent) really exists. If it didn’t, he never would've addressed it to begin with.