The White Symbol Behind Captain America’s Shield



“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The new Marvel show “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” that debuted on Disney+ discusses a lot of issues surrounding racism and race like where the symbol behind Captain America’s shield intersects with what those stars and stripes may mean to a Black man in America compared to a White man in America. 

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” follows Bucky Barnes/ Winter Soldier (played by Sebastian Stan) and Sam Wilson/Falcon (played by Anthony Mackie) recovering from the aftermath of “Avengers: Endgame.” Captain America passed his shield onto the Falcon so he decided to team up with Bucky trying to uncover what this means for himself and everyone around him. Testing the limits of their rocky friendship and diving further into what those stars and stripes mean to him than it would for Bucky. 

Captain America is the Marvel superhero, the very first Avenger, that is the face of America. He represents justice and freedom for all in a country that always fights for what they believe is right. A symbol that is supposed to fight against hate and never back down. Captain America’s shield is a symbol all on its own where its stars and stripes represent this resilience of whatever is thrown at it; it will always rise up and survive.

The symbol of the stripes and red, white, and blue stars’ supposed meaning is not what most Black Americans feel when they see them in comparison to White Americans. America may represent freedom and justice for all where civil liberties for everyone is the top priority, but how can Black Americans believe that when since slavery times they were seen as less than human. Even in today’s society, there is still a big presence of racism and prejudice against Black Americans for simply looking different than anyone else. Seeing more of the Black community face injustices and death every day, most of which barely get news coverage. 

Throughout the six episodes from season one, you see that the Falcon and Bucky do not see eye-to-eye on things. Having their playful back-and-forth banter on most subjects, but the main rift between them is why the Falcon is so reluctant to take on the shield Captain America has bestowed upon him before his death. You see in episode five, “Truth,” where the Falcon is hassled by the cops because Bucky and he were talking in the street. The two White police officers stopped the Falcon because he was Black they thought he was bothering Bucky. The police are being aggressive with the Falcon, trying to force him to show them his I.D. and he keeps refusing because he was not doing anything wrong. Then when Bucky told them to back off because they didn’t know who they were speaking to, making them realize he is the Falcon and finally back off apologizing.  Only when he realized he was a Marvel superhero, but if he was any other Black man things would have escalated much more.

Bucky does not seem to understand Falcon’s reluctance before explaining it to him on a serious level about why he was reluctant in the first place. Before the Falcon really had a chance to decide if he wanted to take the shield or not he talked with the very first Black Captain America, Isaiah Bradley (played by Carl Lumbly). The very first Black Captain America that not many knew or even heard about at least not as much as the Steve Rogers Captain America. He left the Falcon with an emotional, yet, very powerful line in “Truth.” “You think things are different? You think times are different? … They will never let a Black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting Black man would ever wanna be.” Making him think that he can be the change in this country when holding up those stars and stripes. In the finale, the Falcon stated, “Every time I pick this thing up I know there are millions of people out there that are going to hate me for it … No super serum. No blond hair or blue eyes. The only power I have is that I believe we can do better,” Falcon stated when introducing himself as the new Captain America.

In accordance with the Huffington Post, the director, Kari Skogland talked about the new Marvel show intentions. Skogland stated, “It was always the show’s intention to investigate “what it means for a Black man to pick up such an iconic historically white symbol…We wanted Sam to engage in both public and private conversation of what it means for a Black man to pick up such an iconic historically white symbol.” Skogland wanted to bring this topic into a discussion to force people to think about what this means to this character and how one goes about accepting such a role. A role where, as a Black man, you are protecting a country that seemed it never wanted to protect you. 

In light of the George Floyd verdict and the Black Lives Matter movement seeing a Black Captain America is the perfect timing. The time for change and for everyone to truly feel like they have freedom in this country is now. Even if that something is a little like seeing someone with the skin tone as you on TV. Representing America despite everything America has done over the years, matters.