Bitter Root

Dated Nov 20, 2022; last modified on Sun, 19 Nov 2023

Bitter Root. David F. Walker; Chuck Brown; Sanford Greene. . .


[Dr. Sylvester] I am not the devil. It was the devil that made me what I have become, and the devil I am here to destroy. Look around you, Enoch Sangerye. You’ve seen this before – cities and towns burned to the ground. It always starts with their hate and fear. And it always ends with our deaths. You saw the hell unleashed in the summer of 1919.

[Adro] We have come to bring you peace. [Father] Ain’t no peace here! [Mother] Our boy been murdered. [Adro] Peace through retribution. Just give us your pain, and we will deliver you from all this suffering.

[Doctor Sylvester] Some things… Some things are beyond our control. [Father] Ain’t that what prayer is for? To help with the things we can’t control? My boy was swingin' from a tree, and I prayed and prayed and prayed. I just wanted my son back. But this ain’t him.

[Berg] Alas, if I could tarry long enough to elucidate… But said elucidation is not necessary given the immediate exigency. [Nora] Immediate exigency? [Ford] Must mean, “trouble is here."

[Enoch] Don’t start with that again, child. This is just the way things are. [Blink] The way things are? Two years ago, women couldn’t vote. Ma Etta was a slave when she was a girl. Don’t you ever talk to me about the way things are, unless you’re willing to talk to me about how things can be.

Though the Inzondo are born out of terrible sorrow, they are the result of pain that does not heal. Sadness that does not heal turns to anger, anger turns to hate, and a terrible monster is set free. But some have learned to tame the monster within in spite of their outward appearance. Evolving into something else.

[Ma Etta] Young man, I’ve been fightin' the devil with these roots for longer’n I can remember. But there’s more jinoo now than ever. More people turnin' into devils. You hear about that man in Germany and his new book? Folks say it ain’t nothin' but hate. Maybe we’ve never really cured anything.

[Master Wu] Enoch, if there were a way to shield this realm, we would have done it by now. But there is no potion. No spell or incantation. [Sanjay] And there is no technology either. Master Wu speaks the truth that you refuse to accept. [Enoch] I refuse to accept it because the alternative is unthinkable, Sanjay. This realm – the realm of human beings – is not the feeding trough for the abominations from Barzakh.

Charlie Sangerye and his older brother Enoch seldom saw eye to eye. Charlie saw the world as being full of problems in need of solutions, while Enoch saw the world as filled with questions in need of answers. Neither man could recognize any similarities in what or how the Sangerye brothers thought.

No one everasked Cullen Sangerye what he wanted to do with his life. The men in his family trained him in the art of combat, while the women taught him about the herbs and roots used to purify infected souls. Cullen didn’t hate the jinoo because of the evil they wrought upon the world. He hated the creatures for keeping him from the life he wanted for himself.

[Enoch] No, the answer is not in any one of these books, but it is in all of them. Amid this collected wisdom of science and faith and magic, there are bits and pieces of knowledge that all say the same thing, only with different words, draped in different ideologies. Imagine the first half of the most profound statement or idea is written in one book, but the second half of the statement is in another book. Now, imagine the two books are in different languages, steeped in different beliefs, explaining the same thing, which can only be understood if read as a whole. I’ve spent years chasing after the second half of an idea… And I believe I have finally found it.

[Charles] I was trapped in another realm where time as you know it doesn’t exist – so never talk to me about hopeless. [Berg] Indubitably. Lack of hope is endemic of an inability to conceive of possibility.

[Ma Etta] Let me tell you something about myself – when I was just a girl, not more than five, I was sold away from my family. Not really sold. I was traded for a cow and two pigs. It made me doubt who I was and what I could be.

[Dr. Sylvester] If you are a person of science, you must consider searching in the world of faith, just as a person of faith must be open to the possibilities of science. And you must, at some point, stand before the gods you worship or the facts by which you live, and you must say, “There is more to all of this – to who I am and what I believe – and I want to know what it is.


In following the comic book tradition Bitter Root uses American history as a basis for its fantastical world. The nuance in what Bitter Root is doing is that the [Tulsa Race Massacre] has not yet disseminated fully into popular culture.

HBO’s 2019 series Watchmen, adapted from the original comic but remixed with new characters, also featured the Tulsa Race Massacre. Its effect on popular culture is greater than Bitter Root. Watchmen was my first experience of the Tulsa Race Massacre in popular fiction.

It is the artist’s duty to “disturb the peace,” that is to shake up the entrenched notions and seemingly natural understandings of the status quo that can often breed complacency and a sense of resignation to the so-called way of things. Pointedly, it is incumbent on the artist to render the invisible, visible… Walker, Green, and Brown […] invite readers into a complex conversation regarding the persistent presence and functions of race and belonging, as well as the dehumanizing nature of radicalized hatred and trauma.

What Superman, Spiderman, and the X-Men’s power fantasies have in common is their service to a multicultural society founded on democratic principles that is dominated by white people who want to be better out of a sense of civility, fairness, and inclusivity. Racism undercuts these ideals. Fighting racism redeems the system but fully realizing the humanity of racial and ethnic others. After all, you can have civility, fairness, and inclusivity in a world that still diminishes the souls of marginalized people by looking upon them with “amused contempt and pity.” […] And therein lies the value of a Black power fantasy, of flipping the script, of crafting a world that looks at white people who flirt with racism with “amused contempt and pity.”


  1. Bitter Root #5. David F. Walker; Chuck Brown. . 2018.
  2. Bitter Root. Red Summer Special. Chuck Brown; David F. Walker. . 2020.
  3. Bitter Root #6. David F. Walker; Chuck Brown. . 2020.
  4. Bitter Root #8. David F. Walker; Chuck Brown; Sanford Greene. . 2020.
  5. Bitter Root #9. David F. Walker; Chuck Brown; Sanford Greene. . Jul 8, 2020.
  6. Bitter Root: Dragging Up America's Darkest Days. Dexter Nelson II. 2020.
  7. Watchmen (TV series). . Accessed Nov 20, 2022.
  8. To the Griot in Times of Terror. Michael Norton Dando. 2020.
  9. Among the Blackest of Power Fantasies. Stanford Carpenter. 2020.
  10. Bitter Root #11. David F. Walker; Chuck Brown; Sanford Greene. . Mar 24, 2021.
  11. Bitter Root #12. David F. Walker; Chuck Brown; Sanford Greene. . Apr 28, 2021.
  12. Bitter Root #13. David F. Walker; Chuck Brown; Sanford Greene. . May 26, 2021.
  13. Bitter Root #14. David F. Walker; Chuck Brown; Sanford Greene. . Jun 23, 2021.