It must be white guilt week for network television shows as the fall season gets underway. Even in the world of superheroes, the white characters are taken to task for not being woke enough for their black counterparts. The struggle is real.
In the episode of The CW’s Supergirl titled “Blind Spots,” which aired on September 21, the newest superhero, Guardian, realizes it is time to step up and protect victims who “look like” her. Kelly Olsen (Azie Tesfai) is overwhelmed when a low-income housing development suffers from an explosion and collapses to the ground. Many residents suffer injuries and breathing difficulties from the dust and debris, including a young boy she has taken under her wing.
Kelly finds it difficult to get Supergirl and the others interested in her fight on behalf of the residents as they are hospitalized. The white city councilwoman who represents the housing project is also injured at the scene but she is able to use extortion to obtain a very expensive experimental drug to heal quickly. She threatens to pull the grants the hospital is in line to receive if she isn’t given the drug. She’s an evil character as she considers the building collapse to be a gift. Now she doesn’t have to be bothered by low-income housing and she can provide high-tech companies with more office space when the area is rebuilt. She is gentrifying the neighborhood.
Kelly confronts her superhero friends and they quickly apologize for their lack of awareness of the plight of black Americans. She tells them that Councilwoman Rankin is the problem.
Kelly: Rankin is the problem. She’s a source of the 5th dimensional energy, and I don’t know how or why. There was a fight at the hospital and I couldn’t stop her.
J’onn J’onzz: Kelly managed to grab some of Rankin’s hair.
Kelly: I needed your help. I told you the people in the Heights needed your help and you didn’t see them. You don’t see me.
Alex: Kelly, I see—
Kara: We’re gonna stop the person who did this.
Kelly: I know! I know that you’re all trying to stop Nyxly. I know. But do you hear me? Do you see what is happening? People are gonna die! And I feel like I am yelling into a void! We’re supposed to fight for everyone, together. And yet, I am looking at people suffer, people that look like me and everyone here is just too busy. Where is the outrage that people are gonna die without help? Without hope? Maybe you could spare a second for them.
J’onn J’onzz (David Harewood) talks to Kelly after that blow-up to calm her down. Unfortunately, he sounds as unhinged as she is, just using a quieter voice. He tells her that as a Martian, he chooses to wear a black man’s face and be seen as a black man even though it makes him feel more alien on earth than being a Martian does.
There is also a scene with Kelly and Brainiac. As he works with her on a new design for her helmet, she asks him if racism and discrimination are a thing of the past by the 31st century. Nope. Brainiac says humans still haven’t evolved enough for that to happen. There are too many generational scars for the end of those problems.
Kelly: Brainy, I need your help with that. The helmet needs some work. The sight-lines aren’t great, and more importantly, I have some other visibility ideas.
Brainiac: I have been waiting for this moment a very long time.
Brainiac: I’ve been working on yours for quite a while. I have a few 31st century ideas I think you’ll like.
Kelly: Brainy, I have a question.
Brainiac: Fire away.
Kelly: In the 31st century… Are we any better? Have we figured out any of this? Ending discrimination, racism? Please tell me we do.
Brainiac: I want to tell you it’s all in the past and that we have evolved past it all. Even in the 31st century, we haven’t. It is better in so many ways, but there are generational scars. And honestly, a lot of work still to be done. You know what you have here, in this time, that we never had?
Brainiac: You. As the Guardian. There is still time to make a big difference. I believe in you, Kelly Olsen. I always have. Now… Tell me. What do you think about something flashy?
Not very inspiring for the young people who watch this show, right? Non-white people will always be victims is the message.
At the end of the show, there is a scene where Kelly is relaxing at home after her very long day fighting racial injustice. She is wearing a t-shirt with the text “Say her name” on the front. On the back is the word “Justice”. This is something that Black Lives Matter activists say at rallies. On her coffee table are two books. One is Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” and the other is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me”.
Supergirl has a long liberal history. With each season the stories have become more so. The addition of Guardian, a black lesbian female superhero, is the latest character in charge of virtual-signaling the audience. She is coming on strong this season.