"White privilege, like any social phenomenon, is complex. In a white supremacist culture, all white people have privilege, whether or not they are overtly racist themselves. There are general patterns, but such privilege plays out differently depending on context and other aspects of one's identity... I know I did not get where I am by merit alone. I benefited from, among other things, white privilege. That doesn't mean that I don't deserve my job or that if I weren't white I would never have gotten the job. It means simply that all through my life I have soaked up benefits for being white... Some white people have had it easier than me, probably because they came from wealthy families that gave them even more privilege. Some white people have had it tougher than me because they came from poorer families...but in the end, white people all have drawn on white privilege somewhere in their lives. Like anyone, I have overcome certain hardships in my life. I have worked hard to get where I am and I work hard to stay there...in addition to all that hard work, I got a significant boost from white privilege, which continues to protect me every day of my life from certain hardships... White privilege is not something I get to decide whether or not I want to keep. Every time I walk into a store at the same time as a black man and the security guard follows him and leaves me alone to shop, I am benefiting from white privilege. There is not space here to list all the ways in which white privilege plays out in our daily lives, but it is clear that I will carry this privilege with me until the day white supremacy is erased from this society... A first step for white people, I think, is to not be afraid to admit that we have benefited from white privilege. It doesn't mean we are frauds who have no claim to our success. It means we face a choice about what we do with our success."
—Professor Robert Jensen from the University of Texas in Austin's School of Journalism, The Baltimore Sun, July 19th, 1998
"Do you think Kal could act as Superman if he didn't come from the world he did or appear as he does? If he looked like J'onn J'onzz [a green-skinned man] or even Steel [a brown-skinned man]? The luxuries of his gender and his upbringing shape him as the ultimate creature of privilege, but Kal is a hero because he uses everything he's been given to make the world the best place it can be."
—Wonder Woman Number 170, Volume 2 (July 2001)
He is, quite simply, the greatest hero of all time.
In reality, he was a pivotal morale booster during World War II, and now, he's the most famous/popular character in Human history.
In fantasy, his legend spans entire universes.
In both, that iconic emblem worn by him is the ultimate symbol of hope, but what if things had been — slightly different...?
Saturday, October 26th, 1985
Over seventy thousand light years from Earth — near the Mutara Nebula — had been the wintry planet Krypton, which was considered one of the most advanced civilizations spanning the 28 known galaxies, but despite its mastery at manipulating/accelerating the development of crystals, it still dealt with societal dilemmas — such as isolationism replacing a desire to explore the stars and a disdain for evidence...
"Of all the anti-intellectual..." A dark-skinned scientist ranted and hastily scurried about a cluttered laboratory preparing a miniature starship for departure amidst the ominous trembling of his doomed homeworld. "...even after years of having proven that harvesting our core for energy was dangerous..."
Simultaneously, an equally ebony lady paced nervously while she held a wailing child and lamented, "Jor-El, there must be another way..."
Glancing at his spouse, this genius in physics and mechanics started to get frustrated, "sure there's another way, Lara: Kal-El could stay here with the rest of us and die," then he calmed himself somewhat, "look, you know as well as I do that a century of geothermal mining is causing Krypton to lose its cohesion and literally crumble into pieces!"
Desperately searching for reasons to remain with her only son, Lara remarked, "then how about another world? A far better world! In the name of Rao, don't send my baby someplace where the inhabitants are actually retarded enough to believe that hiding under a wooden table would shield one from a nuclear holocaust!"
Sighing and rolling his eyes, Jor-El retorted, "that's not fair. What you're referring to occurred decades ago. The Human race has vastly improved since then. Besides, Earth is the only other world I'm aware of where bipedal sapiens are dominant. Every other race is too — bizarre for Kryptonian children to be raised by...The Xu'Mox of Altair IV, for instance, would never tolerate — let alone care for — an orphan of simian descent. They couldn't even handle Kal with their tentacles, and in all likelihood, most of them would try to eat him."
"Improved, maybe, but vastly...?" A sneering Lara furiously used one hand/arm to scour her computer for historical references to bolster her argument while holding Kal-El with the other. "...the Humans are still psychotically obsessed with something as superficial as the pigmentation of their distant descendants! From what I gather, the darker you are, the more Earthlings will neglect, exploit or hurt you!"
"I'm aware of that," Jor-El's growl could barely be heard over the roar of planetary carnage and the increasingly piercing screams from the stampeding masses outside, "but we're out of time! If I had more time, I'd build a big enough 'life pod' for all three of us!"
Jor-El gestured for Lara to hand over their heir, and after she warily surrendered the child, he reassured, "it doesn't matter what those savages try to do — because Earth's gravity is so weak and its sun is so young, Kal will become empowered..."
Kal-El was placed in his crystalline escape capsule, which then ascended skyward and not a moment too soon since its faster-than-light drive barely permitted it to clear the blast radius of a cataclysmic global explosion.
While hurtling through the starry darkness of space, that Kryptonian infant was sustained and even taught to some extent by that craft's artificial intelligence. "Embedded in the crystals before you is the total accumulation of all literature and scientific fact from dozens of other worlds," as well as, "chief among these powers will be your strength and the ability to propel yourself at great speeds," were the sort of intermittent comments made.
"They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way," the scientist's disembodied voice elucidated, "for this reason above all — their capacity for good — I have sent them you: My only son."
Friday, July 24th, 1987
A pair of sterile farmers — Martha and Jonathan Kent — parked their pickup truck after a fiery streak descended from the heavens and crash landed in a cornfield adjacent to the Kansan interstate they were traveling along (Jor-El further ensured his son would be taken in by designing the navigation to hone in on Humans with either ovulatory disorders or diminished sperm). Understandably curious, the Kents opted to investigate the crater that unidentified flying object left in its wake, but neither were prepared for what was discovered.
Slowly approaching the smoldering hole while surprised by its mystifying design, Jonathan inadvertently activated that crystalline vehicle's elaborate operating system by merely coming in contact with it. "C'est Kal-El...Das ist Kal-El...Eh-tuht Kal-El..."
"What in the name of all that is holy and sacred...?" Martha stammered.
As this capsule comprised of crystals settled on a language to address those Earthlings with, its portal unlocked and revealed a giggling, chocolate-colored toddler. "Questo è Kal-El...Este es Kal-El...This is Kal-El of Krypton, our infant son, our last hope. Please protect him and deliver him from evil."
At that moment, on a subliminal level, the Kents were torn between believing in divine providence — since they recently learned neither of them could produce children — and an irrational, culturally-reinforced fear of the dark.
"Uh, maybe we should call the sheriff," Jonathan wondered, "I bet the mortgage this was some damn Big City prank: You know, put a baby in a rocket — see how far he'll go..."
"Really, Jonathan!" Martha barked. "Call the sheriff? With what? Two tin cans and a string? We're in the middle of nowhere and it just wouldn't be right to leave the little guy here while a phone is found! We found the boy, so we'll turn him in!"
After dragging Kal-El's capsule out of that ditch and loading it onto his Ford's flatbed, Jonathan joined Martha and started to head towards Wichita — the closest metropolis to the tiny town known as Smallville, Kansas — in search of an orphanage (or the authorities, whichever was discovered first)...
...and yet, as fate would have it, the Kents hadn't dealt with their latest mail, which still rested on the truck's front seat, so while Jonathan was behind the wheel — and Kal-El slept in Martha's lap — she casually handled bills/letters until... "If this ain't an omen, I don't know what is."
"Martha Clark Kent, whatever are you going on about now?" Jonathan genially needled his spouse.
Instead of answering orally, Martha simply held aloft a pamphlet — the most recent TV Digest — for Jonathan's inspection.
"'The hit sitcom, Webster, will switch from ABC to syndication this fall,'" Jonathan Kent dutifully read the headline aloud, "so what?"
"Oh, Jonathan, don't you see?" Martha implored, "Webster was about a black boy adopted by a white couple and I know you remember the show, Diff'rent Strokes..."
Jonathan grinned and paraphrased a familiar utterance in American culture: "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Martha?"
"...which was also about a black boy adopted by whites," Martha Kent continued unabated, "this is a sign from above; a test to see if we're too prejudiced to accept little 'Kal' here."
The farmers stared at this extraterrestrial with a charcoal complexion until they finally allowed themselves to see him as family — however, the more Herculean Kal-El became, the more their parenting steered towards the parochial...
Monday, September 10th, 2001
"Today's Republican Party is a stool that rests on three legs of fear: Fear of foreigners, fear of dark people and fear of sex...Fear of dark people is the impulse that's most denied. Overt racism is rare indeed. Though the spectacle of FOX News' John Gibson urging white people to have more babies — lest the lesser breeds outbreed us — came close."
—Larry Beinhart, author of Wag the Dog (the basis of the 1997 movie starring Hoffman and De Niro)
"As long as white women remained a racially pure source of production, the racist society could continue."
—Gloria Steinem, during her 2002 speech at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville
"Nothing upsets average American white folks more than to see a black man with a white woman. The blond, blue-eyed white lady has been projected on every level of the mass media. She has become the sexual symbol for America and black folks are Americans too... Can white America actually believe that sex objects used in advertising will tempt only the white segment of the intended market?"
—Dick Gregory, from his book, No More Lies: The Myth and Reality of American History
Between the rise of afrocentric consciousness (courtesy of Spike Lee and Public Enemy) and the unprecedented attention shined on aliens (courtesy of The X-Files and Independence Day) during this strange visitor's formative years, the Kents' insular parenting had been challenged on two fronts, hence the emphasis on pacifists such as Doctor Martin Luther King Junior (a large portrait of the reverend adorned the Kent den) as well as a very elusory colorblindness. Calling him Clark instead of Kal-El, for example, was more of an attempt at assimilation than any genuine acceptance of a son.
Another instance of the Kents surrendering to their fear of the dark and hindering Clark took the form of dream sublimation: Whenever the youngster dreamt of flight at night — and awoke floating in the morning — those farmers admonished him for coming across as pompous. "Now, now, Clark. Pride goeth before a fall," was an oft-heard phrase around the house, "angels from Heaven can fly, not people, so don't blaspheme."
Unfortunately, the dark-skinned Kryptonian internalized this encumbrance.
Only a handful in Smallville, Kansas questioned the presence of an ebony baby being raised by a pair of ivory farmers out of an understandable fear of appearing overly harsh — however, once his senses began to phenomenally heighten, Clark's ears heard nearly every narrow-minded remark made about him. Even across vast distances...
"I don't know how in the Hell a 9,400 four-wheel drive John Deere could end up an entire acre away from the Kent Farm — in pieces, no less — but I bet next month's rent that nig...I mean, boy had something to do with it."
—Jed McNally, owner of a tractor dealership
"Well, from what I gather, Martha insists on tutoring Clark herself instead of letting him go to school with everyone else — makes me wonder whether she's afraid he'll turn violent...Never can tell with his kind..."
—Barbara Hubler, waitress
"One time, I asked if he could spare some change and he just stared at me — like he was looking right through me — then he said, 'you already have more than enough for a six pack' and left. Who does he think he is, judging me? Black bastard!"
—Toothless Joe Bodine, unemployed alcoholic
...with his superhuman memory, he clearly recalled all of them and this passive/aggressive slander had an incremental effect, which reached its zenith on the sixteenth birthday of cheerleader, Lana Lang.
The Kents had been content to let Clark perform chores for their farm, but him attending functions — particularly parties where girls were certain to be present — alarmed them (What if a lover was literally pulverized during vigorous intercourse?), so he was always reminded of Samson from Biblical lore as a (not-so-)subtle warning against carnal relations, but such lessons are often lost on teens.
The strange visitor secretly admired the cheerleader's slender figure from afar for several years, and at long last, he gathered the courage to offer more than greetings-made-in-passing and actually reveal his feelings. While the Lang family entertained dozens of friends at Lana's celebration; as presents were opened and everyone's attention had been on the girl who turned Sweet Sixteen, Clark's voice cracked when he spoke, "c-can I t-talk to you f-for a m-minute...?"
Initially, Lana acknowledged Clark Kent with a nod, but it wasn't clear whether she'd separate herself from the surrounding horde of partygoers in order to privately converse. Then the young Kryptonian began to notice how flawless her porcelain skin was as well as how glorious those scarlet locks of hers were, and at that exact moment, a burning sensation consumed him. So much so, he couldn't contain it, and soon, his eyes visibly glistened a shade of red.
Hormone-motivated crimson beams emerged from Clark's eye sockets, and within an instant, burnt the party's birthday cake — ironically, right before its candles could be lit...Such an unexpected turn of events stunned those in attendance to the point where none even contemplated blaming someone (especially since everyone present was assumed to be Human), but because his powers were supposed to be kept top secret, he still felt a discreet exit was necessary — that is, until Lana Lang followed him..."If you're leaving because of the fire, it's already been put out, scaredy-cat."
Finally alone with Lana — albeit on the Langs' front lawn — this extraterrestrial expressed himself romantically for the very first time. "The only thing I'm scared of is you turning me down: Lana, we've been friends — or at least acquaintances — for the longest, but my heart," he laid a hand on his chest for effect, "my heart wants something more, a lot more, and if your heart would give mine a chance, I promise to be the best boyfriend ever."
A blushing Lana Lang almost chortled at that declaration of fidelity. "Awww, you've got a crush on me. That's so cute," she dismissively claimed.
"If this is just a crush," Clark's certainty was clearly heard, "I don't think I could take it if the real thing ever happened."
Realizing how serious this suitor of hers was, Lana blanched. "Uh, I can't go out with you. I mean, I don't have a problem with black people, but a couple of my relatives are — very conservative...You can respect that, can't you, Clark?"
Utterly humiliated and infuriated, Clark Kent went on a painful rant just as the sun began to set that fateful day. "Respect?! Respect must first be earned and you don't earn it by being a bigot or by being too cowardly to stand up to bigots, but go right ahead, Lana! Settle for less! Marry someone destined to pump gas for the rest of his life like Pete Ross or Whitney Fordham! My God, what a waste! You'll never know the kind of man you missed out on!" And with that, he instinctively bolted out of sight so fast, a swooning Lana assumed she was hallucinating.
Bursting in on his foster parents in the midst of their dinner, Clark tearfully reiterated what occurred at the birthday party, but the Kents frowned in disappointment afterwards. "You know the rule: Stay close to home unless you're with us. Besides, if you prayed your urges away like we told you to—"
"—you've got to be kidding me!" Clark Kent angrily interrupted. "Pray my urges away? I know you don't like rock, but there's a song from The Smiths that goes, 'I am Human and I need to be loved just like everybody else does!'"
Then Jonathan Kent ominously stood from where he had sat and said, "except you're not like 'everybody else,' Clark — follow me..."
Since Kansas is notorious for its tornadoes, storm cellars are common, and inside the Kents' subterrane had been the Kryptonian capsule a toddler called Kal-El escaped destruction in. "What the Hell is this...?" a disturbed Clark stammered.
"Language, young man," Jonathan reprimanded before answering, "this is how we found you, or rather, what we found you in. I took one of these crystals to a metallurgist at Kansas State, and believe it or not, she said whatever it was ain't even on the periodic table; according to her, it's out of this world. Literally."
In Earth years, Clark had reached the age of eighteen, and since Kryptonians also considered that to be a sign of adulthood, this alien vessel automatically telecast a hologram of Jor-El once he was close enough to (nervously) caress its crystalline surface so his astonished mind could determine how genuine it had been...As soon as an ebony, venerable man in a waxen gown shimmered into existence, these words were heard: "My son. You do not remember me. I am Jor-El. I am your father. By now you will have reached your eighteenth year, as it is measured on Earth. By that reckoning, I will have been dead for many thousands of your years. The knowledge that I have, of matters physical and historic, I have given you fully on your voyage to your new home. These are important matters, to be sure, but still matters of mere fact. There are questions to be asked and we shall try to find the answers together. So, my son. Speak."
"You put me in this damn thing and sent me off into space?" Clark grumbled. "What the Hell for? What kind of sick bastard are you?"
This representation of a wise and deceased scientist visibly winced at its son's impious choice of phrasing as much as Jonathan Kent did, but it responded nonetheless. "For generations, Krypton had mined its molten core for energy, but this caused it to become dangerously irradiated — so much so, our homeworld exploded from within...Your mother, Lara, and I had no choice. We would've accompanied you, but there wasn't enough time to construct a larger starship."
For nearly an hour, Clark challenged that simulacrum of Jor-El with a series of piercing queries (such as, why his family emblem resembles the letter S) until Jonathan felt threatened and mentioned in a defensive fashion, "don't you see? It doesn't matter if you're black or white because you're from another planet, which is why you have to be so very careful; to keep to yourself as much as possible. I'm sorry, Clark, but you're an alien."
"A black alien, that is," Clark corrected, "as Professor Cornel West said in his book, Race Matters, 'without the presence of black people in America, European-Americans would not be white, they would be Irish, Italians, Poles, Welsh,' and so on."
Jonathan Kent frowned out of a concern that had been far more anal than parental. "Professor Cornel West? Clark, that ain't one of those black radicals, is it?"
After narrowing his eyes and glaring, Clark snarled, "as a matter of fact... It's funny: Just as slaves on the plantation were forbidden to read — or be with white women — the same is the case with me; all y'all let me do is fix fences and bale hay and chop and stack wood and I'm constantly told to stay away from anything 'radical'...Not because you're worried about me being a guinea pig in some government experiment, not because you're worried about me being on display in a carnival freak show, but because you're afraid of losing your best work horse!"
"That's n-not true!" Jonathan denied what he inwardly knew.
"Yes, it is," the alien insisted and then confessed, "according to everything I've been secretly reading, you're also afraid of me becoming a revolutionary! Well, it's too late for that! If the Kryptonians were dark-skinned and this powerful, that only goes to show whites ain't even remotely close to being as superior as they've made themselves out to be and it's about time the world learned that."
Before the farmer could offer a retort, Martha burst into the cellar and declared, "there's a burning cross out front!"
In an attempt to calm Clark, Jonathan reminded him to, "turn the other cheek, son. You know not everyone in Kansas is enlightened," and consolingly laid a hand on his shoulder.
"After years of hearing them from afar, I'm all too familiar with how unenlightened Kansans are," a contemptuous Clark recoiled from his misguided foster father's grasp, "the Nation of Islam is a fascistic cult, but Malcolm X made some sense when he said, 'I don't even call it violence when it's self-defense, I call it intelligence.'"
"Clark...!" The Kents simultaneously summoned the orphan they raised, but to no avail: He immediately stormed towards the enormous cruciate set alight by a handful of cowled individuals sniveling under a harvest moon.
"This'll teach ya ta leave our women alone," yelled one such individual, "stick with your own kind!"
Almost amused by this regurgitated ignorance, Clark muttered, "my 'own kind,' eh? If you only knew..." Remembering the birthday party earlier and envisioning that giant incandescent as a simple candle, the Kryptonian impulsively pursed his lips so he could blow a cold wind in the segregationists' direction.
Clark's ironic antic was also reckless since it caused the two-meter-tall flaming cross to topple onto Ervin Perdue, Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and that burnt this bigot to the point of bereavement; searing his alabaster epidermis, cauterizing arteries and devouring internal organs within seconds until he finally died.
Silence reigned the entire Kent residence for the longest. Then..."We always knew there was something demonic about that boy of yours, Jonathan!" Those supporters of apartheid ignored Clark — more out of fear than swagger — and hastily departed in their four by four..."Now we're going to tell the whole world what he's done!"
After glowering over Ervin Perdue's charred corpse, Clark quickly stacked books into a backpack, returned to the cellar and emerged holding the whole capsule under a single, muscular arm as one would a very large spare tire. "Where are you taking that?" an unnerved Martha inquired — still reeling from the killing of an evildoer...
"Y'all always told me only angels are able to fly and that it'd be arrogant of me to think I can," a thoroughly irked Clark explained, "well, I may not be capable of flight, but I am going to prove I'm angelic and not 'demonic,' like that inbred retard said." Prior to the arrival of the sheriff, this Kryptonian raised by Caucasians bent his knees and leaped like a caricatural kangaroo into the distant horizon — never to be seen by the Kents again...
The decision to abandon the Kents was a long time coming, and since that Kryptonian teen memorized an entire library worth of material (covertly, no less), his hubris assumed there'd be no need for academia, so he meandered just as those who're homeless do. Exposing the existence of extraterrestrial life, namely himself, to unite the planet; to render the differences between social classes meaningless became a primary ambition. Only the most imbecilic (or suspect) denied the evidence presented whenever that starship — and those superpowers — appeared on camera. Unfortunately, the events of September 11th, 2001 occurred shortly after that determinative birthday party, and as a result, the historic news of an alien among us was usurped. Almost censored.
Aristocratic segments of the populace obsessed (some say psychotically) over warring on terrorists or that which was considered subversive. However, at least half of the Human race embraced the appearances of a certain dark-skinned defender of the downtrodden and even emulated him as much as the law (of physics) permitted. Slowly but surely, a superior consciousness arose amidst the masses.
Adorned only in denim jeans, Doc Martens and a tight, turquoise t-shirt with the crest of his house on it, Kal-El ("Clark Kent is my slave name!") leapt into societal battles with relative impunity. If a mob promised to harm a Muslim, if a homosexual had been vulnerable to assault or if a woman threatened with violation had nowhere to turn, he intervened and prevented said deed.
According to authorities, the Last Son of Krypton was "a person of interest wanted for questioning" because of the callous-yet-accidental demise of Ervin Perdue, but overt bigots aren't often pitied, and the alien teen hadn't slain anyone since then, so though token attempts to imprison him were made, he remained free.
Even if life as a fugitive didn't actually limit him, it still frustrated the so-called "man of steel," which is why he decided to aid Haiti — the poorest and darkest country in the Western Hemisphere — by personally delivering a multiplicity of medical supplies during the aftermath of 2004's Hurricane Jeanne. Since Haiti's first legitimately elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was forced out of office, the preempting regime incompetently dealt with that disaster, so as Kal-El said to the press, "this is a job for...For those who care enough to share — if not your money, then at least your time, which is also a precious resource...It's a damn shame history's first successful revolutionary government can't get its act together...There's only one of me, and believe it or not, I can only do so much. Hell, it's hard swimming fourteen hundred miles at fifty knots while lifting two-ton crates of First Aid day after day, but what I'm hoping is my example will inspire others to help me. In fact, contrary to what all too many have claimed, this is not the letter S — among my people, it's a symbol of hope..."
While a black and blue blur whirled around the Haitian countryside at an unearthly velocity (re)building residences alongside Habitat for Humanity, Kal-El halted his mercurial repairs after a little girl in tatters almost fell into a slum's well. Airlifting her to safety before she reached its watery bottom, this innocent question was asked with a thick accent: "You said on the news that means 'hope' to your people, right?"
The Last Son of Krypton nodded in order to indicate that the child had understood.
"Then I want to be a Kryptonian too," the Haitian groaned mournfully, "I'm tired of living like this."
Silently returning the girl to her indigent parents — and the ramshackle dwelling that's insultingly called a household — Kal-El lowered his head in complete shame for already inwardly devising excuses insofar as why he won't (not can't) interfere in their lives any further...
Father's Day Weekend, 2015
"[Nelson Mandela was] an African lawyer who used every tool available to him — legal when he could, illegal when he must — to resist a system that crushed African lives like peanut shells."
—Mumia Abu-Jamal, December 21st, 2013
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
—President John F. Kennedy, March 13th, 1962
It wasn't often that an American woman — especially one as beauteous as journalist, Lois Lane — wandered around labyrinthine African jungles, but the Pulitzer Prize-winner had been determined to interview the "benevolent dictator" who conquered the Congo.
Lois Lane wasn't alone, but she might as well have been — for all the good her photographer, Jimmy Olsen, was... "Jesus, Ms. Lane! I'm sweating more than Dick Cheney on Judgment Day out here!"
The award-winning reporter smirked at her subordinate. "Can't speak truth to power if you never leave the safety of the hotel bar like the rest of these so-called foreign correspondents, Jimmy."
Simultaneously assaulted by the heat, assorted insects and the prospect of a beast eating them, the pair of Americans ventured further into the African undergrowth — desperately searching for the border separating Cameroon from the much vaunted "New Krypton."
However, several Nigerian-born soldiers — most of them no older than teenagers — emerged from the wilderness and abruptly halted their search. "A couple of white spies, my brothers," the oldest soldier spoke in a local dialect, "Boko Haram will pay a lot for them."
Though Lois and Jimmy remained motionless, and silent, after gingerly raising their empty arms skyward, this sign of compliance wasn't sufficient for the angst-ridden younger soldiers. "Why bother marching them all the way back? Let's kill them — right here, right now...!"
Lois Lane instinctively squinted when those soldiers opened fire, and chose blindness even as the sound of deflected bullets was curiously heard, but the moment she opened her eyes, a muscular Kal-El unconsciously posed in a glorious manner after every rifle was disassembled by him — his barrel chest still smoldering from where he had been fired upon..."Find some toys to play with for a change!" With a brisk kick, the Nigerian-speaking Kryptonian dispersed pieces of ordnance across this rainforest's grass.
"It's him...!" The frightened weaponized children then ran into the tangled jungle, and one by one, vanished in ninja fashion.
For a fleeting moment, there was some semblance of romantic chemistry — as if the Last Son of Krypton and this news correspondent were destined to be together forever — until Olsen ruined it. "Jesus, Ms. Lane! It's Kal-El! He saved us!"
"I can see that," Lois sighed and then turned her carnal/professional attention to the alien she inwardly considered a fine specimen, but responded with banter instead of honesty, "well, well, well, if it isn't the most benevolent 'benevolent dictator' in all of Africa!"
Kal-El smiled, albeit faintly. "Thanks, I think — although, you might want to wait until after your tour and interview before becoming as biased as FOX News..."
To economize time, Jimmy and Lois were unceremoniously carried by Kal-El, who cleared the border in a single bound and the contrast they had seen was most stunning: On one side were the desperately impoverished huddled in decrepit shelters — and on the other...
...rare flowers that would impress any botanist bloomed and dotted the grassy landscape while floral scents wafted like perfume for all to smell. Depending on where one looked, bloated hippos rolled in mud, spindly monkeys danced comedically across treetops and proud peacocks emerged to unfurl their colorful feathers, so as a photographer, Olsen was absolutely ecstatic.
Once the ebony alien landed on New Kryptonian ground from having jumped a mile with an American under each of his burly arms, it beseemed him to make a recommendation to Jimmy, "if anything, you should take pictures of this..."
Across this idyllic countryside was a vast metropolis of solar powered houses, offices and businesses surrounded by fields of industrial hemp. "Hard to believe that, only a decade ago, millions of people were slaughtered by rival militias trying to dominate mines with tantalum, which of course is a key component in everything from cell phones to computer chips," Kal-El smiled, "but once I personally ensured the miners were finally in a sufficient position to insist that the corporate elite give them what it's worth — well, let's just say a lot can be paid for with its revenue...Originally, I was going to establish a base of operations in Haiti, but Central Africa is where most of the planet's tantalum is and you can't share the wealth without first having wealth to share. The Cubans, for instance, can only send doctors to disaster areas so long as those cigars and that sugar cane of theirs sell and sell well."
Utopian as that landscape (and these policies) appeared, a skeptical Lois Lane still needled the man of steel. "I hope all those smiles aren't for our benefit."
Feeling bedeviled, Kal-El flagged a woman completely at random and gestured for her to come hither. "Ma'am, we've never met, right?"
"N-No, but I've always wanted to meet the man who saved us...!" Was this citizen's honest response. "I'm F-Fanny Mukwege."
"Okay, F-Fanny," Lois callously disparaged the stranger's nervous stutter, "does ol' Kal-El here censor, torture or murder his enemies?"
Fanny momentarily glanced at the alien, who silently shrugged his rugged shoulders. "Not that I'm aware of. Even an evil organization like Boko Haram is allowed a voice in New Krypton."
"A voice," Kal-El highlighted, "and a pacifist voice at that. Non-violent freedom of expression is one thing..." He then turned the journalists' attention to a distant-but-prominent poster of him made to seem demonic simply for permitting homosexual marriages and promoting the empowerment of women. "...but Boko's activities are obviously unacceptable."
"If you refuse to kill your enemies, then what do you do with them?" A coy Lois Lane challenged. "Russia's greatest author, Fyodor Dostoevsky, once said, 'the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,' so let's see how civilized New Krypton is, shall we?"
"Let me introduce you to some of them," Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen were then shown several vagrants nearby wearing filthy military fatigues with vapid, even insipid facial expressions as they lounged about on the ground, "I bet you assumed they were homeless, huh? This is Bahati. We tried exile, but he kept coming back to beat more gays to death, and I can only punch a villain in the chin so often, so Iboga, the organic equivalent of L.S.D., was given to him. Now his days consist of drooling and babbling about nothing."
"You've got to be kidding me," Jimmy's camera lens honed in on Bahati's drooling lips, "you're supposed to be a positive role model! How can you—"
"—believe me, a hallucinogen is far more than any of these monsters deserve," the strange visitor cut the photographer off, "this is only rarely done, in the most extreme of cases and it's far cheaper than building cages or hiring guards. Besides, if they ever went long enough without Iboga, it would flush out of their systems, but New Krypton can easily keep them addicted. On a related note, New Kryptonian police — because even I can't be everywhere — are limited by law to an all-natural version of etorphine, which is what's injected into wild animals, but without any side effects or risk of overdose. It's the same tranquilizer our — I mean, their ancestors put on the darts they blew through blowguns."
"That's what gets me: Our people... Your people... You're not black. I mean, you are, but you're not. You know what I mean?" Unfamiliar as she was with affairs of color, Lois floundered, "I mean, you're from another planet — and speaking of, can we see that flying saucer you came to Earth in...?"
After the reporters were escorted to a private apartment no larger than those owned by his neighbors, Kal-El unveiled the crystal capsule considered by the world (or at least, the well read) to be evidence of the existence of extraterrestrials. While Olsen lavished a whole roll of film chronicling the vessel at several angles, Lois Lane and the Last Son of Krypton conversed further (or started to argue).
"For the record, Ms. Lane, you are what you look like," the alien schooled the bewildered journalist, "I am in fact black simply because I 'fit the description,' as America's police were notorious for saying — that is, until First Contact lessened that sort of nonsense..."
Not one to be undone, the Pulitzer Prize-winner countered, "well, while you were only helping black people, the rest of us could've really used the assistance of someone who's more powerful than a freight train and can leap over tall buildings. First Contact? Honey, you're not the only Close Encounter of the Third Kind we've had: Jimmy and I worked for The Daily Planet until something called Brainiac shrank — that's right, shrank — the entire downtown district and took off with it to outer space! That robot or whatever it was is the reason why we now work for The Gotham Gazette. It also abducted a quarter of a million people in the process, but so long as they're Americans, it doesn't matter, right?" Lois raised an otherwise exquisite voice since this was personal for her. "A crime lord calling himself the Toyman runs what's left of the city, what wasn't shrank, and some mutant called the Atomic Skull goes on these murderous rampages from time to time, but so long as the victims are Americans, it doesn't matter, right?"
Jimmy became uncomfortable while he listened to Kal-El lambaste his boss. "You live in Gotham City? Where was this mysterious 'Batman' when Jamal Jenkins Junior was beaten within an inch of his life? I'll tell you where 'the dark knight' was: Acting as a bodyguard for Bruce Wayne, one of the richest men in America!" The Kryptonian continued to point out hypocrisies and lost opportunities. "You speak of a robot that can shrink cities? What about Lex Luthor? Another multi-billionaire who's also the world's greatest scientific genius! Maybe if his bald ass would stop building death rays, giant robots and those olive-and-lavender suits of armor for himself, he could be your hero."
Longing for the alien to make a revelatory confessional, Lois Lane delved, "so is racism the reason you went from Skullville—"
"Wherever in Kansas it was to the middle of Africa?" Lois resented being corrected. "What exactly happened?"
A crestfallen Kal-El lamented, "well, this is supposed to be an in depth interview and it is New Krypton's tenth anniversary, so..."
At that moment, Jimmy Olsen had been given hint after hint suggesting he ought to depart in order for a more private conversation to occur. "Think I'll get some shots of those bio-whatzit cars that smell like French fries."
Once alone, Kal-El told Lois the tale of Lana Lang's racist cowardice — painful as it was for him to recall...
"So that's it? You take over the whole Congo because your heart was broken?" A callous Lois sounded most dismissive. "That would be like my father dropping a bomb on my prom date because he got caught cheating on me!"
Vulnerable after having revealed something traumatic, Kal-El angrily snarled, "white women have always underestimated their role in black history. Paul Robeson was a super genius renaissance man who knew a dozen languages and was the greatest college football player of all time. However, before Robeson was a singer and a movie star, he almost became a lawyer, but his white female secretary wouldn't take dictation from him. My point is, who knows how history would've been different if she had."
Unreasonably feeling like Kal-El blamed her for every atrocity committed by white supremacy in Human history, Lois Lane sounded defensive: "Fine, but if she had taken dictation from him, he would've ended up just another lawyer and that's the last thing the world needs! If anything, his career as an entertainer was entirely due to her! Didn't Frederick Douglass say, no struggle, no progress? Whatever doesn't break you, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera..."
"By your so-called logic, you might as well expect Steven Spielberg to share the Oscar he won for Schindler's List with the handful of Nazis left on the planet since, if it wasn't for them, there obviously wouldn't have been any movie!" Kal-El declared with finality.
"Ooooh, you are so aggravating..." Their arguing further stirred an already-intense romantic chemistry, which almost consumed them — if it had lasted for another fraction of a second, something magical might have happened...
...however, he tore himself from this scant chance at romance once his enhanced hearing discerned a distant disturbance. "There's something going on."
"You're telling me," Lois sneered, but in a charming manner.
"I'm serious..." Kal-El hastily left his sparse apartment and noticed that dozens of New Krypton's citizens began to run for their very lives. Then came the elephantine footsteps which made one wonder whether the dinosaurs had returned.
Photographing what was approaching with a reckless pluckiness, Jimmy exclaimed, "it's like a tank that's on two legs and a lot of steroids!"
A mechanical monstrosity, which shimmered an eerie shade of emerald, lumbered forth and wrecked havoc with utter impunity. Police sworn to defend aside, several brave civilians — influenced enough by life under Kal-El's gentle rule to emulate him — dared to stand against this motorized adversary. Five died. Four were seriously injured.
It dwarfed the six foot, 200 pound Kryptonian in both girth and stature while clearly harboring a glaring desire for warfare..."Meet Metallo, Kal-El!" a familiar grumble emanated from this ominous machine in the form of an image on a monitor embedded onto its torso. "It's gonna bring freedom and democracy to that anti-American regime of yours!"
"Sam Lane," Kal-El recalled the general who symbolized the military-industrial complex more than any other invader of New Krypton, "no matter how much your corporate masters miss blacks literally killing themselves trying to provide tantalum for the cheapest possible price, I won't go out like Jacobo Árbenz or Salvador Allende and you will pay for what you've done!"
Suddenly stricken with nausea, dizziness and a splitting migraine, the Last Son of Krypton almost knelt in front of the oncoming automaton, exhausted as he was by the proximity of an abnormal mineral. "Well, what do you know: Luthor was right, after all; those green diamonds we found in Smallville are radioactive to you!" Then General Lane — sexist as he was — imitated a feminine tone to denote the humiliation of the fallen. "The jewelry looks nice on Metallo, don't you think, Kal? Bwah-hah-hah...!"
Righteous rage couldn't quite override the debilitating sickness Kal-El felt whenever irradiated shards of his homeworld were at their nearest, but it did provide some semblance of stamina that permitted him to fight at least a depleted battle.
As far as the residents of New Krypton were concerned, each punch produced a sonic boom and every slam to the ground felt like a quake. In terms of sheer brute force, both opponents were evenly matched, but only because of the toxicity of Metallo's crystals. "This is just like playing a video game!" an arrogant general gloated over the robot's stereo. "Better even!"
As Lois stepped outside and saw this raucous chaos for herself, she was astonished to recognize utterances from the reactionary officer who raised her. "Dad...?"
"Lo-Lo?!" General Lane transiently halted that remote controlled assault after a wayward daughter appeared — during this brief reprieve, Kal-El crawled until he could stand again..."What the Hell are you doing in New Krypton?"
"My job!" the journalist blared and flayed her arms at the bloodied bodies littering the streets of New Krypton. "And no, you're not doing yours either! Look around you! At least a handful of civilians are dead! That thing won't be greeted as a liberator; it won't win any hearts and minds!"
"Lois..." An almost humbled Kal-El lurched forward. "...get back."
Though he had to delve deep into his inner reserves, an adrenaline-driven Kryptonian somehow managed to rustle up the intestinal fortitude necessary to unleash a flurry of blows upon the seven foot/five hundred pound automaton. Unprepared for such a desperate onslaught, it was caught off guard momentarily and this gave him an opportunity to literally knock its metal head clean off...
...as a result, a wild bolt; a stray ray of energy — stemming from the minerals that empowered Metallo — fired into the air and accidentally (or karmically) crippled the drone-controlling plane the general piloted. "Lo-Lo, are you still there? I think I'm in big trouble!"
After returning from where she had steered clear of the carnage for safety's sake, and peering over the remnants of that robot, Lois joked: "Mom always thought so — it's why she left you..."
"Seriously, Lois," General Lane sounded genuinely frightened, "that last shot took out our main engine. I don't know how long I can stay airborne before..." And with that, Metallo's communications went down.
With tears in her eyes, Lois Lane turned to a weakened-by-radiation Kryptonian out of desperation. "You have to save him!"
"I should have known...How many Lanes are there, right...?" While Kal-El slowly but surely regained his legendary strength after distancing himself from Metallo's remains, he groggily harangued the foreign correspondent. "If I knew...you're his daughter...I would've addicted you to Iboga...How do I know you didn't lead him here?"
"In the name of all that is holy and sacred, I swear to you I didn't!" the journalist insisted with every ounce of sincerity she could muster. "Please save my dad!"
"After all the atrocities he's guilty of committing, why should I help him?" New Krypton's sovereign wondered and then ranted, "your father is a genocidal imperialist! Look at the people he just killed with his remote controlled toy! That one taught school, that one installed solar power panels, that one turned industrial hemp into paper, and ironically, that one's the artist who drew that offensive poster I showed you earlier! Their lives matter!"
An utterly hysterical Lois pleaded with Kal-El and appealed to his nobility, albeit silently — because of her fear that offering condolences would only worsen the situation, she simply trembled or wept...
"Oh, for the love of..." Scanning the African skies with his enhanced senses, the Last Son of Krypton groaned. "...whatever the general's flying is as fast as Air Force One — 700 miles per hour at a height of 45,000 feet — and contrary to popular opinion, I can't fly: It just seems like I can; I can only jump really high."
"Try to fly, Kal-El. Lord knows you have every other superpower there is, so maybe you can," an exacerbated Lois Lane encouraged, "please."
Ultimately, Kal-El listened to his conscience, and after an unheard of hurtle — beginning with a running start along the slope of Mount Kilimanjaro itself — the fuel-leaking hole on General Lane's plane that Metallo's blast caused was sealed with superstrength and a bit of heat vision.
Since the general's life was saved, New Krypton had been given a reprieve from the American Empire in the form of a United Nations-approved non-aggression covenant signed on national television. Covering the venerable event for The Gotham Gazette, Lois was present when a certain Kryptonian revealed the following: "I've never been so scared in my life. I mean, I couldn't see anything at first and I didn't have any control. I know it could've been the wind, but all of a sudden, I was moving towards the plane and it felt like I was willing myself to do it. It felt like I was flying."
Then, in front of the United Nations one sunny afternoon, Kal-El lifted off from its assembly's central plaza and actually flew under his own power.
"A negro is a negro. Only under certain conditions does he become a slave."
—Karl Marx, Wage Labour and Capital (1847)
"A hero(ine) is no braver than an ordinary man/woman, but he/she is brave for a few minutes longer."
—a paraphrased quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)