When Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker said, “When I think about what’s going on in the world right now, the world is ready for a bulletproof Black man,” we were all collectively reminded of Luke Cage’s importantce and the severity of race relations in the United States today. Since Coker made his statement, race relations in this country have yet to improve, and Black people are still being carelessly murdered by those who have sworn to protect and serve all citizens of this country.

The debate on race has switched to the respectability of political protest as several athletes followed Colin Kaepernick’s lead, sitting or kneeling during the national anthem at televised games. Both conservatives and liberals alike feel that even if you have a gripe against the state of affairs in this country, you should still stand during the national anthem to demonstrate respect for the flag, our troops, and all that jazz. Some people, like un-American dumbass Tomi Lahren have even taken that logic a step further, suggesting, “If this country disgusts you so much — leave.”

How easily some forget that Black people did not willingly come to this country, and that subsequently, Black people have fought, toiled, and even died for this country and its many inconsiderate citizens. In fact, we wouldn’t be where we are today without the sacrifice of many Black people, which brings us to Netflix’s Luke Cage. Instead of highlighting the civil rights leaders that we all know of — like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks — the show instead uses a lesser known Black hero, Crispus Attucks, as an important piece of its story.

Luke Cage

At the beginning of Episode 2, Luke Cage delivers a speech to a young, Black man who is holding a gun to the back of Luke’s head. The kid calls him a “nigga.”

Young man, I’ve had a long day. I’m tired. But, I’m not tired enough to ever let nobody call me that word. You see a nigga standin’ in front of you? Across the street from a building named after one of our greatest heroes?

The building is named after Crispus Attucks, who is said to be the first American, and I repeat, American, to die in the Revolutionary War. As the relationship between Great Britain and its American colonies worsened, tensions rose between American colonists and British soldiers. Attucks was one of those people who was severely affected by the fighting, as seamen like him had to live under the threat of being forced into the British Navy or losing work to British soldiers. On March 2, 1770, those tensions reached a tipping point when British soldiers shot and killed five men following a confrontation outside a Boston bar. Attucks was one of those men killed in the fray, and his legend has only grown since that time as being the first to die in what’s known historically as the Boston Massacre.

The hero
Crispus Attucks

The irony of this whole situation is that the soldiers were brought to court for the massacre and were defended by future President of the United States, John Adams. And as usual, we would hope that the soldiers were sentenced for their crimes — for firing on and killing weaponless citizens. Nope! As we usually do with law enforcement officials, the men were acquitted of their crimes on the premise of self-defense. Go figure. That means that half of the people who defend law enforcement would probably have been on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War; they’re some regular Benedict Arnolds.

For some strange reason, people often view Black men as being like Luke Cage: big, strong metahumans who cannot be harmed. This is why a young boy like Tamir Rice can be easily shot by a grown man. But, this is real life and we are real people. We, unlike Luke Cage, are not bulletproof. Crispus Attucks, specifically, was not bulletproof.

Never forget that the American Revolution started because colonists thought that taxes were too high. So, if a war over taxes can be viewed as legitimate, why can’t protests over people dying in the street and gross mistreatment by the government be given the same respect? In making a very specific reference to Black American history, Luke Cage is pointing its viewers to something troubling, and necessary, right out the gate.

Photos via Vanityfair, Wikimedia, Coolnerdshow

Adrian is a writer born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. A recent Hamilton College graduate, he is a lover of all things philosophical, superhuman, and nerdy.