Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Part II: Destroying Yourself From The Inside

[I decided to do a four-part series for Black History Month on each Friday of this month. Part I explores how far African-Americans have come, Part II explores the New Racism, Part III looks at things holding African-Americans back, and Part IV looks at heroes (with a weird twist). I make no apologies if this offends anyone; it is my opinion, and I refuse to apologize if someone feels I have stepped on toes when I haven't...]

The problem with the fight with Civil Rights is that it's been won. Unfortunately, the black community still needs something to fight.

Note that I'm not saying that the fight is completely over; however, the war itself is over. There will always be racism, but now it's an aberration not the norm. Opportunities abound, and the internet allows anyone to pursue their dreams. However, the black community is now eating itself.

The biggest jerk statement I'm going to make in this entry is this: Rodney King is the worst example of a police beating ever. If Rodney King had been white, the tape would have made the police chase shows, and that's it: A white guy that exceeded the design specs of his vehicle and then decided to take on the LAPD while on as much PCP as King was wouldn't have made a splash any other way. But because he was black, the drugs in his system and murder on his mind were forgiven; all that mattered was that he was black.

The riots afterward make no sense in any other context; only that blacks have had an adversial relationship with police allows any context at all. Admittedly, as enforcers of segregation, defenders of society in the days of protest, and with the occasional racist episode, police have deserved that antagonism. However, if the black community is to flourish it needs to start supporting the police. Police are there to stabilize society, which is why the antagonism exists in the first place. As both groups have a number of goals in common (elimination of crime, safe places to walk even at night, and making the neighborhood thrive), they need to work together in order to better serve the community.

The black community also needs to start looking for opportunities, not trying to destroy them. It needs to be realized that the black leaders do their communities a major disservice when they look for “institutionalized racism”; the problem is that kids are dissuaded from pursuing a further education, and in today's world, where education determines everything, that's a major liability. The surest sign that education isn't being pursued is that less than 1/3 of scholarships and grants available to students of color are claimed each year. Wouldn't it be great to see all of that money used up?

The word “nigger” definitely needs to be used up. Even though it remains as a racial epithet, it's also taken on a more familial tone: A black person can use it in any way he pleases without it being an issue. If any other person from any other race use the word, however,and the fight is on. This makes the word inherently racist; it segregates communities just as effectively as a brick wall. If segregation is to be destroyed once and for all, that word needs to fade into history.

The gangster attitude is another thing that needs to fade. Some rebellion is fine; when that rebellion affects the opportunities that a person can take advantage of, then it needs to be debated. It's fine to walk around with an attitude, but when that attitude doesn't allow you to back down or forces you into something that you would rather not deal with, then that attitude needs to be left at the curb with the other trash.

I appreciate that it's a refinement of the warrior code that any teen-age male holds as an ideal, especially with alcohol and women attached, but it's easily forgotten that warrior does what he does for the community, not himself; a warrior defends the community, not tells it what it to do. Also, respect is gained, not taken; a gangster takes his respect by demolishing his enemies, rather than gained by doing all that he can in defense of his community. A gangster is ultimately nothing but a bully, regardless of how it's spelled.

The need for conflict definitely needs to changed into one of compromise. Too many black people don't back down, even when backing down would gain them respect. It makes sense giving the fight for civil rights, but that need to fight and hang on no matter what can be a problem; it can make you hold on even when it could be hazardous to your health. It needs to be realized that that attitude, whereas once a good thing, is now going to be potentially hazardous to the black community. Conflict needs to be replaced by compromise if the community is going to survive.

I think that this sums up the changes that need to happen if the black community is going to survive. However, the community still needs ways to pull together and financial wherewithal in order to succeed. How and where will these come from? See the next section...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Here's to the little people!

Any movie production has extras. The same should apply to comics as well. Wait....It does!

Extras have a very basic use in comics: They not only act as window dressing, but they fill things out. Extras are those characters that do nothing, yet are all around. Those characters in the background haggling or just walking around? Those are extras. The guys ordering beer that we'll never see again? Extras. The geeks being slapped in the foreground that we have no reason to care? Extras!

Extras are characters that can be used for humorous purposes, or to establish that world is populated by more than the main characters. If you want to slip a joke in, or a subtle bit of exposition, your extras come in really handy. They can also be useful to establish that your world is busy as the real world is, or to show how extravagant a party is. Admittedly, they aren't a writer's issue, but the writer should bring them up to artist.

Also, bear in mind that there several advanced types of extras. The first type is the “mook”. You know those characters that all the heroes wade through on the way to the main action? Those are mooks. Mooks are the ultimate window dressing for the bad guys; they do all of the common tasks that the main bad guys have neither the time nor inclination to do, such as balancing checkbooks or kidnapping sidekicks. The palace guards, or any other character that is just window dressing and usually appear en masse are also mooks.

There's also insignificant characters, which are just modified extras. They may have a use, but they are usually just background characters. “Nurse Joy” from the Pokemon series, for example: She may be a running joke (every town has one!), but she has no real effect on the plot, and her capabilities (outside of medical and causing Brock's heart to race) are not well-developed. As such, she's basically still just an extra. The local barkeep is another example, as his staff. They may give the tavern a certain stability, but they are only useful as far as the tavern is concerned; they are useless (plot-wise) outside of it.

Oh, and let's not forget “fonts” (short for “font of information”). These are characters, like snitches, sages, and the occasional barkeep, whose sole reason for being is to dole out information and get quests started. Cliché, but very useful.

By applying these characters liberally, you can create a world that is more detailed than one that just holds the characters. It's neat to have powerful well-developed characters, but you need more than that in order to really have fun with the comic!