Those of us who were readers of Marvel Comics anytime between the mid-1960s and the early aughts are familiar with Stan’s Soapbox, a short-and-sweet monthly column written by Stan Lee for decades. With the loss of the Marvel Comics master earlier today at the age of 95, people have taken to social media sharing some of his most poignant words. When we came across the below Stan Lee essay from 1968, we felt it was more than appropriate for a re-share.
This Stan Lee essay, which is all about the “insidious evils” of bigotry and racism, was written at the peak of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the year Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee. Also the year the Civil Rights Act was signed.
Readers of X-Men comics in particular — one of many superhero teams created by Stan Lee and largely considered the most progressive of all comics titles — are well familiar with the franchise’s theme of fighting discrimination, hatred and fear while being ‘othered’ by society.
People have long compared the struggle of the X-Men’s “mutants” with the LGBTQ civil rights movement, as there’s a clear line connecting the two. In the early ’90s, the X-Men faced a deadly disease called the Legacy Virus that draws comparisons to the HIV epidemic.
Here’s the 1968 Stan Lee essay that ran as one of his monthly Stan’s Soapbox columns:
Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun.
The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater — one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately.
If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen — people he’s never known — with equal intensity — with equal venom.
Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race — to despise an entire nation — to vilify an entire religion.
Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill out hearts with tolerance.
For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God — a God who calls us ALL — His children.
Pax et Justitia,