Batman is one of many beloved childhood heroes, and growing up, many can remember watching cartoons and movies depicting the fictional badass. The story of Bruce Wayne, the hero’s secret identity, is one that is known fairly well to the world: during a night out as a family, Wayne’s parents were murdered by a thug in a shady alley, leaving a devastated and psychologically haunted Bruce in their stead.
From Banner’s tears came a thirst for justice, and from his hatred, a demand for retribution was kindled within his cold, distanced soul. In Batman Begins, directed by Christopher Nolan, the audience witnesses Wayne’s growth into the pinnacle of humanity: Batman. It should not come as a shock that Wayne possesses no superhuman powers; rather, through a strict dieting regiment and intense physical training, Wayne pushed both his body and mind to the peak of human ability.
What sets Wayne apart from the “average Joes” in the world is his inexhaustible wealth and having descended from a line of extremely affluent family. In response to Barry Allen’s (aka The Flash) question to the brooding menace, “What are your superpowers, again?” Wayne replies,
The President of DC Comics, Diane Nelson, has stated that she believes that Wayne’s success as both a businessman and superhero can both be attributed to his “whiteness.” In a study, Nelson stated the following:
“Batman’s secret identity is Bruce Wayne, an American billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, and owner of Wayne Enterprises. He has a new car almost every week and no one is suspicious of how he made his money – because he is a well-dressed white man in a suit… If Bruce Wayne was from South Chicago, raised by a single mum with a dad in jail, there is no way he would be able to spend so much time apprehending militant super-villains through acrobatics and cool motor-vehicle stunts.”
Ironically, Marvel Comics’ Luke Cage is as different from Batman in every way imaginable. A black ex-convict from the inner city and “hero for hire,” Cage climbed his way into the Avengers, and has created one of the most recognizable aliases of all time: Power Man. Perhaps Nelson should reconsider her opinion that Wayne’s success as a hero stems from his possession of whiteness.
Yes, Batman is rich, and that trait is engrained in nearly 80 years of comics, movies, shows, and games. Nonetheless, non-rich, non-white men can also become prolific superheroes. The idea that “white privilege” is a universal trait shared by anyone who possesses a certain skin color is extremely collectivist, as it fails to account for cases when white individuals are discriminated against within peculiar structural contexts (see: Zimbabwe).
Batman’s parents are dead, but in a 2016 issue of Batman, it becomes evident that it was not his parents’ death that spurred him forward to pursue his insane lifestyle, but a suicide attempt at the age of 10. As James Whitbrook puts it,
“His recollection of the moment—cutting into his wrist with one of his own father’s razors as he tearfully apologized to his parents and prayed—is haunting, and devastating in its starkness. Delivered over another vivid spread from Janín, Petrus, and Chung of Batman clearing a path through a sea of Bane’s henchmen, the contrast between the machismo of the action and emotional vulnerability of someone who attempted suicide is palpable. You might expect it to segue into a story of hope, about how a little boy at the darkest period of his life chose to set himself on a path to upholding justice, but tragically Bruce doesn’t see his decision to live like that.“
As a suicide survivor and orphan at the age 10, it would be ludicrous to condemn Batman for his abuse of “white privilege.” If anything, the world has taken a shit on our beloved superhero, and the masked crusader has done all that is within his power to do to make the world a better place, to decrease the suffering experienced by others.
So get out of here with your white privilege.