On -isms: Fear & Courage
But that's not courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is not the opposite of fear. Courage is having the inner strength to do something IN SPITE OF fear. In order to be courageous, you need to be first be fearful of something so that you can overcome that fear.
You can still be heroic without being courageous, mind you. Superman is very heroic. He goes around saving people all the time. But it's not courageous for him to stand in front of a bank robber's gun since he knows that his skin is hard enough to deflect every one of the bullets without so much as leaving a bruise. Heroism ≠ courage.
And this is relevant to our ongoing -isms discussion because fear is what lies at the heart of most -isms. Often fear of the unfamiliar. Fear of what's different.
"I don't really know any gay people. Their culture includes things I don't understand. I don't know what to say or how to act when they display those cultural touchstones that are unfamiliar to me."
"I don't really know any Black people. Their culture seems different than mine, and I do not want to risk theirs superceding mine. I'm very comfortable with my own culture, and not comfortable with theirs."
That's essentially what -isms boil down to: a mechansim for justifying treating someone poorly because they look/act/sound a little different than what you're used to. They're reacting out of fear. They're reacting fearfully because they have no courage. They fear what they don't know or understand, and don't even have the courage to try to learn about it. They don't have the courage to say, "Just because it's different doesn't mean it's wrong." They don't have the courage to say, "Just because it's different, it doesn't invalidate my preferences."
And perhaps that's part of the problem in comics. There are so many out there that talk about heroism, but don't touch on courage. Spider-Man doesn't fear going against the Green Goblin. Batman doesn't fear confronting the Joker. Archie Andrews didn't even fear taking a bullet for Kevin Keller. Those characters are/were absolutely acting heroically, but not courageously.
I can't help but wonder, then, if we would see fewer instances of -isms in the comics community if the stories were less focused on heroism, and more focused on courage.