Why Stan Lee Words About Racism 50 Years Ago Have Gone Viral
Stan Lee’s words about racism 50 years ago still reverberate today and have gone viral in the wake of his death as fans honor him.
After Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee’s death Nov. 12, a column he wrote in December 1968 after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy has gone viral.
Lee died in Los Angeles at the age of 95. As many fans know, Lee wasn’t just a business and creative genius in his field, he was also an advocate for social equality, which shows in his boundless catalog of work.
The former Marvel editor-in-chief, publisher and chairman co-created many of the company’s most recognizable superheroes, including the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Avengers, Spider-Man and Iron Man.
Lee and Marvel also became the first publisher to create a black superhero, T’Challa a.k.a. Black Panther, in 1966. The movie based on this character became a huge blockbuster in 2018. Its significance as a superhero movie featuring characters of African descent was still unprecedented now, more than 50 years later.
In 1975 Marvel would also go on to create the first black female superhero, Storm of the X-Men.
“It wasn’t a huge deal to me. It was a very normal natural thing,” Lee said. “A good many of our people here in America are not white. You’ve got to recognize that, and you’ve got to include them in whatever you do.”
“If my books and my stories can change that, can make people realize that everybody should be equal and treated that way, then I think it would be a better world,” he continued.
Lee is credited for shifting the tone of the superhero genre by infusing its characters with a sense of realism and disenfranchisement that was more relatable, featuring characters that were often on the fringes of society, such as the social outcasts, the X-Men.
From 1965-2001 Lee also wrote a column in Marvel’s “Bullpen Bulletins” called “Stan’s Soapbox” in which he commented on current events and occasionally needled his competition in the comic book world.
In the wake of his death, a column he wrote during the Civil Rights movement in 1968 has gone viral.
“Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today,” he wrote. “But, unlike, a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun.”
“The only way to destroy them is to expose them—to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are.”
“We’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another,” he wrote. “But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race—to despise an entire nation—to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits.”
Lee actually tweeted an image of this column in 2017 after a white supremacist killed a woman at the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. “[A]s true today as it was in 1968,” he captioned the image.