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‘Luke Cage’ showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker says it’s as dangerous as it ever was

His new show is about a bulletproof black man

Later this fall, Netflix will start streaming its new series Luke Cage — a Marvel Comics character who was wrongly imprisoned, and later gains superhuman strength that prevents his skin from breaking. A bullet can’t penetrate him. And he’s a black man. Cheo Hodari Coker, a former journalist turned TV showrunner, is helming the series, and considering the horrifying frequent headlines of black men being killed for being black men, the timeliness of Coker’s new show isn’t lost on anyone. Least of all, himself.

This is a great era for a bulletproof black man to exist. It’s hard because there is so much progress. There is … a black president. There is an African-American attorney general, the second in a row. These are things that civil rights leaders and civil rights movements of the ’50s and ’60s, this is what they dreamed about. All of that has come to fruition. They talked about black politicians, black lawmakers, and yet, and still, it’s just as dangerous in some ways [as] it was back in the day. The only difference, honestly, is technology — the fact that this is being captured.

The one thing that I learned when I was writing for Southland … and as a hip-hop journalist and as a black man living in the 21st century, is what the fear is as a black man, being pulled over. Whether it’s a stoplight or anything, you know what’s it’s like. As soon as it goes off, there’s a fear like, Have I done something wrong? What’s going to happen? When I was [working] Southland — we talked to so many officers, and this sounds crazy: There’s equal fear when they pull somebody over, from their perspective. Because they don’t know what they are going to encounter.

The only difference, honestly, is technology — the fact that this is being captured.

And so … you’ve got these poorly trained officers who … are going into situations and they overreact to everything. It’s lethal no matter what you do. And so what happens is that — particularly when you look at what happened in Minnesota — where by doing the right thing, [Philando Castile] lost his life. It’s a Catch-22. Because if he didn’t say anything, and it was discovered, the situation escalates. By admitting that he had [a gun] and was perfectly following the law … the situation with the officer escalated. You’re left to ask yourself, ‘What else can I do?’ I’m a father of two black sons. They’re only 10 … but we’re already starting to drill of, ‘What do you do when you’re stopped by an officer? You have no attitude, tell them your name. Be polite no matter how they’re acting. You need to be polite and be quote-unquote upstanding as possible. Any time there’s a discrepancy, get to the station to clear it up. Don’t give any kind of attitude … be completely compliant.’

Cheo Hodari Coker, showrunner for the upcoming Luke Cage. It debuts Sept. 30 on Netflix.

Kelley L. Carter is a senior entertainment reporter and the host of Another Act at Andscape. She can act out every episode of the U.S. version of The Office, she can and will sing the Michigan State University fight song on command and she is very much immune to Hollywood hotness.