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Sam Wilson, Where Did You Go?

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Inside the studio: there is some upbeat modern hip hop music playing. The song ends and another, more instrumental guitar music starts and fades. MARGOT and RIKKI speak over this music.

MARGOT

Good morning, New York! RIKKI and I are back, and before we get into the daily superhero update, we just wanted to say a few things about the response we received after yesterday's segment on Sam Wilson, former Captain America.

RIKKI

MARGOT and I were floored when we came in this morning! We've been following our social channels, and we saw the conversations happening; but we received literally hundreds of emails, direct messages, voicemails and even letters and post-it notes dropped off at the studio.

MARGOT

I can't believe we got letters.

RIKKI

I thought that the Postal Service only delivered pizza coupons and Amazon Prime boxes.

MARGOT

Wrong! They also deliver fanmail.

RIKKI

May the wonders never cease.

MARGOT

In the wake of all this, we've decided to spend some more time talking about Sam Wilson.

RIKKI

I'm just happy that people seem as passionate about this as we are.

MARGOT

Let's wrap up some other superhero news before we jump back into this topic.

First, local girl Ms. Marvel and her Young Avengers teammate, Nova, were spotted in downtown Jersey City yesterday, enjoying some paletas on top of the Hoboken High School. No sign of Spider Man, but the paletero said that he sold the young super-heroine five different flavors.

The West Coast Avengers have announced a new community service initiative, and will be helping evacuate blaze refugees in Washington and upper California.

RIKKI

A new Central-American Inhuman academy has been announced by the Mexican government, and will be the first completely pan-latin school that will offer fully funded tuition to any citizen of Central America, from Mexico to Panama who is found to carry the Inhuman gene.

The Inhuman Queen, Medusa, is going to go through twenty six major and crossroad cities in order to identify and offer aid to any Inhumans who might want to enroll.

MARGOT

Now. Some housekeeping before we talk about Sam Wilson.

RIKKI

You may know this, but we have an amazing producer named Sage who does a lot of the behind-the-scenes work while we're in here. She screens callers, makes sure all our tech is working, and in general makes sure that we stay live during our whole show.

MARGOT

Sage has compiled and selected most of the responses we'll be airing today, but there were a lot of responses she has elected to keep out entirely, and we need to address that.

RIKKI

We welcome a lot of opinions on this show. It's actually pretty important to us that we air different points of view. But there's one kind of opinion that we won't promote.

MARGOT

Cutting to the chase, we got a lot of racist responses. Stuff along the lines of "glad he's gone," "he was never my cap," and many other messages using vocabulary you should all be ashamed of.

RIKKI

You're overestimating the average American racist's capacity for shame.

MARGOT

I wish I could say I was disappointed.

The point we want to make is that while these people may have been a factor in Sam Wilson's decision to resign, we don't want to give them a platform, attention, or any more power.

We simply want to let it be known that we know that these people are out there, we know what their opinions are, and as we, as a team, have elected not to share them. If the issue of racists come up, it will be through our lens, and their opinions will not be treated as valid. Hatred is powerful, but it is not powerful here.

RIKKI

So thanks Sage! We appreciate it.

MARGOT

Also, before we start today, RIKKI and I wanted to clear a few things up about where we stand on this issue. Since we are friends, we actually talked about this after we turned the mics off!

RIKKI

So here are the facts we agree on: Sam Wilson was a great superhero. He deserved to be Captain America, and we are both disappointed and upset by his resignation.

MARGOT

Our differences stem from our positions on the role of superheroes in our society. RIKKI believes that we often treat them as above the law, and she sees them as vigilantes--she also says that Superheroes are given too much social power and influence. A lot of her issues come from the fact that society is flawed in the way that it treats superheroes.

RIKKI

Which is a very idealistic point of view. I want us to improve, and I judge superheroes based on that.

MARGOT

Now, I'm a little more practical. I'm more interested in how society is treating and adapting to superheroes, in the present, and how superheroes adapt and treat society. I want to examine that interplay and I think that RIKKI wants to divide it.

RIKKI

That's the heart of it, for sure. I just wish we treated them more like people and less like heroes.

MARGOT

(almost teasing)

But they are heroes, RIKKI.

RIKKI

But they're also people, MARGOT.

MARGOT

Let's get a third opinion.

RIKKI

Sage has gven us a stack of emails, this one is from Ebele. She writes:

"To MARGOT and RIKKI, I saw first-hand some of the good that Sam Wilson did in my neighborhood. No matter what you think about his resignation, he deserves to be remembered as a hero and a good man."

MARGOT

See, everyone loves Sam Wilson.

RIKKI

You know I once placed a bid on a well known internet auction site for a shirt that he was rumored to have touched.

MARGOT

You are a desperate woman.

RIKKI

I wanted that tee-shirt!

MARGOT

Thank you for your letter Ebele! We have another email from Jason.

"Hey RIKKI and MARGOT! Love your show, but I have to say that the way we treat superheroes is messed up! RIKKI's got a point, he's just another guy in spandex throwing the shield. Does it matter if it's Sam or Steve or Bucky or Isaiah? Who cares about Captain America anyway? There are plenty of other superheroes out there."

RIKKI

Spandex is a generous term for what these guys wear.

MARGOT

Okay, well. I'm going to ignore the point about how we treat superheroes, and go right to why Sam Wilson matters.

Long story short, he's a black superhero in a world with few black superheroes. Not only that, he went from an arguable sidekick to a full-fledged superhero. Just thinking about it, the only other black stand-alone, non-ensemble superhero I can think of, who could match Sam Wilson's reputation is King T'Challa. Sam Wilson is also really representative of African-Americans and Black culture in general. He's been put into the spotlight as an exemplary role model, and that matters. Like it's honestly that simple for me.

RIKKI

Spandex, though.

MARGOT

I am trying to have a serious conversation with Jason!

RIKKI

Look, Jason, I agree with you. Sometimes we just have to sit back and try not to overanalyze what superheroes do. And if one more superhero decides to leave the vigilante life behind, well, that's fine with me.

MARGOT

Vigilante is to Sam Wilson as spandex is to the shield.

RIKKI

Let's move on. We have another email from Ahron, who says:

"It doesn't matter if Sam Wilson did this in protest, or because of protests, the fact that he did this at all gives the bigots, racists, and right-wing extremists power. Even if he did it for his own reasons, he has given these people validity and, in the same move, vilified himself. He's turned himself into another feather in the cap of the alt-right "crusade" to destroy minorities in America. A true protest would have been if he had continued to serve as Captain America.

I'm sad, upset, disappointed, and really, really angry. His resignation is going to be cut up for sound bites to support bigotry and will only embolden racists. He has hurt the African-America community so much by resigning that it can only be seen as selfish, short-sighted move. I hope he comes back, and I hope he can make up for this."

MARGOT

While...dramatic, I think that Ahron has a point. Wilson has hurt the community he intended to serve.

RIKKI

Even though in his resignation he said, himself, that he was putting down the shield as a form of protest, as Steve Rogers did before him?

MARGOT

Steve Rogers was wanted! Nobody was telling Steve Rogers to give back the shield, nobody was telling Steve Rogers that he was unworthy of the title. It's two totally different situations, and to compare them is inappropriate and unfair.

I sort of mentioned this in yesterday's segment, but the reason Steve could protest and have it mean something, is because people wanted him to be Captain America, and fight for them. When he said 'no, I won't fight for this' it was an act of resistance. When Sam says 'I won't do this' it's an admission of defeat. The power isn't there. Steve is a white war hero who reminds everyone of their father. Sam is a black superhero. Race isn't the biggest reason why his resignation doesn't work, but the public's opinion makes Steve look like a badass and Sam look like a quitter. That's a huge difference. You cannot resign in protest when people are demanding your resignation, and have been since started. It just doesn't work like that.

RIKKI

So are we giving power to the people, or Sam Wilson?

MARGOT

We cannot deny that public opinion will often drown out a single voice. He's given power to those who wished him ill from the start.

RIKKI

I still think a lot of our problems come from the fact that we revere superheroes so much.

MARGOT

Look, I get that's an issue, but right now, we can't focus on big picture problems. Right now, we need to focus on the way things are. And my opinion is that if you continue to argue your opinions with your ideals instead of the realities of the world, you will find yourself saddled with obligatory stances rather than allowing yourself the chance to form your own opinion. You deny yourself the ability to think in exceptions to the rule.

RIKKI

Are you saying that because I believe one thing it negates my other opinions?

MARGOT

I'm saying that in this case you are not treating this problem as an problem in and of itself. You're looking at the forest and ignoring this very large tree.

RIKKI

My issues with superheroes informs how I address this problem. I see this as a larger issue, and in order to fix this individual problem, or at the very least, make sense of it, I have to frame it in the context of my larger values.

MARGOT

Maybe you're looking at this from the wrong paradigm. This is first and foremost, an issue of representation, and how African Americans are represented as heroes, and people.

RIKKI

Is that really the biggest issue here? Or are superheroes the bigger issue?

MARGOT

How about we get a few more opinions. Sage has selected a few voicemails for us to play, and this first one is from ULI:

ULI

I want to say that Sam Wilson never seemed to catch a break. No matter what he did good there was always something right around the corner waiting to knock him down. He got the shield and then Steve came back; when he tried to save Joaquin, he ended up disfiguring him; he tried to do right in the community and then the Americops came. That Senator died, Rage died, everyone seemed to always have a negative for everything good he did. Maybe in the end he wasn't the right guy for this. Maybe this was just too much pressure.

MARGOT

I think in response to that, I would say that Sam's faults were not more than the faults of other superheroes, they were just emphasized and critiqued more widely. People were looking for failures of any kind and when they found them, the public immediately blamed Wilson, whether or not it was actually his fault.

RIKKI

I would agree. I remember when the Senator died; I firmly believe that Sam did everything in his power to prevent that death, but he was still blamed for not being able to save the senator, and many even suggested that he wanted and allowed the murder to happen.

MARGOT

I will also say that Black people and People of Color, are, in general, are expected to be better than their peers. When they are shown or appear to be something else, they are critiqued twice as hard.

RIKKI

What's the quote from Scandal?

MARGOT

"You have to be twice as good to get half as much."

RIKKI

Do we want to petition Shonda Rhimes to make a docu-series about Sam Wilson?

MARGOT

I would gladly sell my soul for that.

RIKKI

So you'd become the next Ghost Rider in exchange for a Sam Wilson Netflix drama.

MARGOT

...Yes

RIKKI

I really admire your convictions, MARGOT.

MARGOT

One last thing about ULI's comment: Sam Wilson has been a superhero for a long time. He's been 'Captain America' for close to a decade, and he started working with Steve Rogers as the Falcon in the nineties. It's only now that he's outside of Avengers, A-force, or SHIELD supervision that he's had this sort of scrutiny. The pressures of the job weren't the problem, public opinion was.

RIKKI

I think there's another voicemail about that...Sage, can you please play the voicemail from SADIE?

SADIE

Hi there! I wanted to just sort of talk about the idea of Sam inheriting the mantle of Captain America. It just...it really sucks that he was expected to suddenly be someone else because he was given a shield. Sam Wilson has always been a superhero! Falcon may have started off as a sidekick, but it wasn't long before he was really his own superhero, his own mantle.

When he was given the shield, we expected him to be a version of someone else, a version of another superhero, and that's not fair. The public should have let Sam Wilson be Sam Wilson, regardless of what kind of outfit he's wearing.

In a way, it takes away from Sam's power, because he can't define himself. He's forced into someone else's definition of what 'Captain America' should be. Regardless of whether or not he's worthy of the title, it's just not fair to saddle him with previous expectations.

MARGOT

That really does help sum it up. SADIE might not have mentioned race, but it's impossible to ignore in this situation. On the other hand, I think that it's precisely because people care so much about who's carrying the shield that gave Sam so much power as Captain America.

Yes--those expectation and concerns were used against him, but it's also important to note the significance of a black man acting as the one-and-only Captain America.

RIKKI

It's really interesting that definitions mean so much. The power comes from someone being able to describe themselves and define themselves, and as soon as other people make attempts to invalidate or dismiss those definitions, that's when the conflict happens.

MARGOT

Right, when you don't fit into the right box, or your identity isn't immediately apparent, it makes people upset.

A pause, and then RIKKI sighs.

RIKKI

I think I'm coming around.

MARGOT

Oh my god.

RIKKI

(quickly)

I still think our societal obsession with superheroes is dangerous and reductive!

MARGOT

Say it.

RIKKI

And I think that most superheroes operate in an unregulated minefield of vigilante justice without consequence and with no source of oversight whatsoever!

MARGOT

Say. It.

RIKKI

And! I think that we should critically examine the idol-worship and power we give superheroes who often live and exist on the margins of the society that they claim to serve!

MARGOT

But...

RIKKI

But, I think that maybe, in this case, Sam Wilson should have have stayed in his position as Captain America.

MARGOT

Oh my god.

RIKKI

Holy shit, are you crying?

MARGOT

You just admitted you were wrong, live, on public radio. This is one of the happiest days of my life.

RIKKI

I take it back.

MARGOT

No take backs!

RIKKI

I regret this already...

MARGOT

Friends, listeners, potential future superheroes of the world, On this day Rebecca Barnes has admitted that she is wrong.

RIKKI

MARGOT, please.

MARGOT

I need a moment.

RIKKI

Alright, while you recover, let's play a few more opinions. Sage, let the tape roll on Alisha, Daryl, Lee-Ming, and Olive.

ALISHA

I'm not angry at Sam Wilson for what he did. It's not his job to educate white people. I'm angry that so many people were so against him for so long that he felt like he had to resign! That it was the last straw for him, that leaving was the last thing he could do to really make an impact.

It just doesn't seem fair that he got all this shit thrown at him for just doing his job, and for being good at it! He's bearing the brunt of a lot of hatred that's all concentrated and condensed and focused, and we can only dismiss the actions of racists for so long.

When are we going to start demanding accountability for the actions of the public? When are we going to eliminate racism? When will we get another man willing to fight it for so long and so publicly. When will we get another Sam Wilson!?

DARYL

Hi girls, I just have to say that while I respect Sam Wilson, I don't think he should have been Captain America. Stands to rights that Steve Rogers is Captain America, first and forever. Nor for any reason like...he served and Sam Wilson didn't. Just...he was Captain America. I feel the same way about the Spider Men and Iron Men running around. Stick to your beat, you know?

Even more than that..I think RIKKI's right, that superheroes need to listen to the public. We've gone too long with these superpowered people making decisions for all of us, and they need to be held accountable.

I think Mr. Wilson did the right thing. I think that by listening to and respecting the people, he's done the most heroic thing possible.

LEE-MING

I feel real bad for Sam, he seemed to always go one step forward and then get pushed two steps back, you know? Maybe he's better off without the stress?

But look, here's the thing, when are we going to get a chinese superhero? There are only about a billion of us! Maybe next time Steve Rogers gives Amadeus Cho a shot at carrying the shield?

OLIVE

What am I going to tell my son? He's been asking me when Captain America's coming back, and he's been dressing like Sam Wilson for the entire school year. Every. Damn. Day. He's got costume fatigues, that goofy red and white costume, a green leotard, the Captain America uniform. Sam Wilson was his hero. His. Hero.

How do I tell my son that his hero quit? What do I say to him?

There's a final click, and then silence. Eventually MARGOT takes a deep breath and speaks.

MARGOT

I don't think we need to comment on any of that.

RIKKI

Thank you so much to everyone who called in, emailed, texted, and even wrote us letters. We have to get going, but if you liked today's show, please tell us.

MARGOT

This is MARGOT Dalton and RIKKI Barnes, reporting for SP-NYC, The Breakout Hour, and we will be back after these messages.

Music rises, and then fades. More reactions are being aired over the music.

GEORGIA

Sam Wilson, you will be missed.

HENRY

I'm just so sorry

KENDALL

God, it was just so good to see a black man in that uniform again

MASON

He never got a chance to prove those dumbass reporters wrong. To really show up.

DELLA

He should have ignored the racist assholes. He treated them with ten times the respect they gave him.

GEORGIA

He tried so hard...I called the hotline, you know? He picked up. He answered me.

HENRY

I feel so bad...he didn't deserve the stuff I said about him.

DELLA

He gave in to peer pressure.

KENDALL

You're so right. Sam Wilson is important. He'll always be important.

MASON

I wonder what he'll do next.

KENDALL

Can he come back from this? What kind of respect will he get?

GEORGIA

Where will he go?

DELLA

He abandoned us.

HENRY

I wish I could take it all back.

GEORGIA

Sam Wilson...we need you.

A final click, and the music rises again, and then fades for the last time.


This show was written by Linda Codega for the Sam Wilson Birthday Bang.

Full transcripts can be found on Archive of our Own. Sam Wilson, and Steve Rogers are property of Marvel INC, used here for the purpose of parody and transformation.

Our Cast is Linda Codega as Rikki Barnes and August Brown as Margot Dalton. Special thanks to Cat as Uli, Sadie as Sadie and tumblr user: imjusthereforthecandy as Alisha, Harry L Hatcher II as Daryl, pearwaldorf as Lee-Ming, and Valerie T. G. as Olive. The voices at the end of the podcast are Mira, Kayla Hembre, Chris Haigh, Keimos, and J. Foster (lady-thor-foster).

Full music and production credits can be found on the Archive.