I know. It’s hard to rebuke something you really enjoy, like Fantastic Beasts, a story that reimagined Harlem, NY as minority Black in the 1920s. But it’s not really causing harm, right?
Tell that to Bass Reeves. (Or, you know, his ghost).
Bass Reeves was an Oklahoma lawman in The Old West. Born into slavery, he grew up into a legendary American hero, like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.
Except, oh wait, unless you’re an avid watcher of Drunk History, he’s probably not anywhere near the household name Boone and Crockett are.
There is controversy over whether Reeves was the true inspiration for The Lone Ranger. The Lone Ranger, they argue, was always imagined as a white man. Of course he was! That doesn’t change the fact that historically, if you look at all the Old West lawmen, the one who comes closest to the fictional Lone Ranger is Bass Reeves. It doesn’t matter that the Lone Ranger was created as a white character with no nod to Reeves – The Lone Ranger is effectively erasure.
And it’s not just something backward ‘50s people did. The 2013 Lone Ranger movie did it, too.
But wait, you say – if The Lone Ranger was always white in popular media, it’s not whitewashing to portray him white like in the traditional stories!
Except it is. Here’s why.
When popular media decides that the greatest lawman of the Old West was a white man when, in reality, the man closest to the fictional hero was Black, it amounts to historical revisionism. Especially since Bass Reeves himself isn’t as well known as Crockett, Boone, or even Paddy Garrett.
Think about how different things would be if the Lone Ranger had been Black from the start. It’s historically accurate, after all, it’s not “political correctness.” Kids going back to the early 20th Century looking up to a Black Old West hero? It’s unimaginable, but it would have been based more in reality.
Instead, kids were given the illusion of an all-white “good guys” Old West. Not just white kids, Black kids were told that, too.