Luke Cage and Human Vulnerability

Why it’s still important to donate to RAINN

Netflix (in true Stile Netflixe) recently released thirteen episodes of Marvel’s newest series, Luke Cage. If you don’t know about Luke Cage, here’s the gist of his life: he’s an escaped Black convict. He wears a hoodie. He’s a badass. And he’s bulletproof.

He is a human representation of every stereotype we have been taught to fear, and at the same time beautifully unbreakable: Black life, the prison industrial system, fashion, strength, and weapons. He feels some degree of pain, but for the most part, he is invincible — bullets literally bounce off of his ribcage and titter to the ground. He’s one of the strongest people in the world; he punched through a goddamn wall to escape the prison laboratory where he gained his superpowers, and was attacked by his White warden. He fell into a coma once, and the nurse had to administer an adrenaline shot through his eyeballs, because that was the only part of his body that could be penetrated. And he survived, and came back again, still unbeatable.

But isn’t it strange that his eyes, of all places, were still susceptible to potential wounds? Not, for example, the roof of his mouth, or his tongue, or any of the other soft spots on a person. We use our eyes to cry. We use our eyes to understand. Our eyes are arguably a direct reflection of our intentions. His heart had essentially stopped. His eyes were the only part of him that could still feel pain. His eyes saved him.

I think that in that moment we all remembered that Luke Cage, who seemed like an impenetrable fortress, was in fact still a person. That as unbreakable as he was, he could still be hurt. And when he lost Pops, the only father figure he’d ever had, Luke sobbed over his dead body, and we realized something else. Not only could Cage be hurt, he was already hurt. Unbreakable Luke Cage was absolutely shattered.

Marvel has asked us again: what does it mean to be human? If an invincible man can still be hurt, is humanity defined by its vulnerability? If you can be literally bulletproof and still hurt like Luke Cage, how high can we really build our walls? How strong do we have to be? And, if you really think about it, why should we even bother?

The fact of the matter is, people hurt. Being alive hurts. Being present hurts — and never mind being an honest, open, socially capable person. Simply being just hurts. And oftentimes we don’t realize that we’re susceptible to that hurt; that as bulletproof as we are, we all have the soft spots, the eyes that present our hearts.

We can’t be invincible. We can’t be safe all the time. And oftentimes, we can’t help it when someone exploits our human vulnerability, and hits us where it hurts. The only thing we can do after a certain point is heal, and help each other heal.

Human beings — men, women, children, et al. — are vulnerable, and we can’t ask them to be otherwise, or else we risk taking away the most essential and defining part of existence. We can’t tell Luke Cage that his skin will protect him from everything. And we certainly can’t tell victims of abuse — people whose humanity has been twisted to the point of breaking — to snap out of it.

What we can do is help them.

On November 6th, 2016, a couple of friends and I will be running 13.1 miles through San Francisco to fundraise for an organization that does just that. RAINN — the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network — uses its resources to create programs that are specialized for the victims that seek help. Furthermore, the organization invests in data research and analysis. They focus not only on treatment, but on preventing these incidents through research and education. They put their faith in numbers; but more importantly, they put their faith in people’s ability to understand numbers, and what they mean.

Help someone realize that their vulnerability is not what makes them weak. Help them understand that vulnerability is what makes them — all of us — human.