Listening to Racial Issues in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier"

**Spoilers for “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”**

Disney+ released the finale of the six-episode Marvel TV series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (TFAWS) on Friday, April 23rd. The show follows Sam Wilson, "The Falcon", and Bucky Barnes, "The Winter Soldier", as they team up to fight a group called the Flag Smashers. The group is trying to return the Earth to a world without borders, which they lived in during the Blip when half the universe faded out of existence. 

TFAWS includes many relevant themes of racism and social justice issues throughout the series. Sam is a black man who was given the symbol of Captain America, his shield, by the former Captain America so he could carry on the mantle of that title. But Sam shows reservations as he knows society would not accept a black man as the face of America as they did Steve, a white man. He struggles with the idea of being Captain America until he sees another white man abuse the authority and taint the title, prompting him to step up to the title he once denied.

TFAWS also brings in Isaiah Bradley from the MCU comics, a black man who was among 300 black soldiers who were experimentally tested on with the super-soldier serum. Isaiah was the only one who survived, then was used to fight in the Korean War. After he served the country, he was then imprisoned for 30 years. This was inspired by the horrific actions of the CDC who tested black men to see the long-term effects of syphilis by infecting them with the disease without their consent. They were not treated for syphilis either, and most participants died or passed the disease along to their wives who bore children with the disease.

close up of a typewriter with stories matter Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

These issues are not portrayed as subtle in the show, most cases being prominent and spoken by the main characters. I was surprised when I saw that many fans, primarily white, of the MCU and the show weren’t talking about these themes. They seemed to be willfully ignoring any issues of race. The character John Walker, who was named Captain America by the U.S. Government, was the epitome of white privilege and toxic masculinity. This wasn’t talked about much either. I wondered if other white people just didn’t care about the themes, or if they were being ignorant because it made them uncomfortable. Despite the reasoning, this topic is important and a necessary discussion that needs to be had.

It is important for us to pay attention when our media shows themes that are relevant to our society today. White people don’t experience these systemic issues and some may only be exposed to them through media. The writers and directors put in these issues because they matter, and we should give respect to them and take the time to listen and digest what they are showing us. 

Watch all episodes of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Disney+.