So for those who don’t know Arlong and Jimbei are characters in One Piece. They’re Fish Men so men who have the form of various sea animals. They’re like mermaids but more varied.
In the universe of One Piece Fish Men are looked down on because of their outward very different appearance. The fact that the One Piece universe is made up of islands and life at sea they should be the most powerful race in One Piece but they’re not. Why? Because the very corrupt government keeps them down and oppresses them.
The point is made that inside they have the same blood as humans, they have feelings and goals and dreams, they are not mindless animals.
Now Arlong and Jimbei are tied together as they grew up together and because of Fisher Tiger. Fisher Tiger liberated the slaves at Mary Geoise and became a pirate fighting for the rights of Fish Men. He’s hailed as a hero by most Fish Men. He believed that one should not harm humans but still he fought for the freedom of others especially slaves.
In fact it is revealed later on that he was a slave too but he managed to escape and liberate others. His pirate crew, the Sun Pirates, all got tattoos of the sun to match Fisher Tiger as his sun tattoo covered up the slave brand that he got.
So what’s the difference between Arlong and Jimbei? Arlong hates humans and Jimbei doesn’t, or rather he decided to try and gain freedom for Fish Men without harming humans like Fisher Tiger.
Arlong because of what he saw happen to Fisher Tiger has strong hatred in his heart. Fisher gets injured when they get betrayed by humans when they were trying to help a slave girl find freedom and Fisher’s life could have been saved but he refused a blood transfusion from a human because he hated humans so much he didn’t even want to exchange blood with them. Even though he was trying to bridge the gap and preached love instead of hate, because of what he experienced during slavery, his hatred for humans existed deep in his heart.
Arlong also had hatred because of what he experienced growing up. His island is directly underneath Sabaody Archipelago but they’re not allowed to go there because of the slave trade that is based there. If they go there and are caught, they’ll be sold into slavery. But there’s this park there, Sabaody Park, and Arlong wished he could enjoy the park freely like humans.
So because of his life experiences when he leaves the sun pirates and makes his own pirate crew he terrorises humans. He has no mercy towards them and honestly he only cares about his people. He’s a terror and he’s the first big villain the whole crew has to fight. And when we first meet him we don’t know all that backstory, we just know he’s terrorising this village just because they’re human and he can.
When I learnt his backstory I found it really hard not to sympathise with him. If you experience discrimination and hatred all your life for something superficial like outward appearance it is very hard not to hate the people hurting you.
Even Nami, whose village was his main victim when we first met him, ends up forgiving him because a) she’s a strong person and b) when she hears his back story and sees Sabaody Park she understands his hatred and how he became the person that she met and suffered under.
Then there’s Jimbei, he experienced all that Arlong experienced but when he was a warlord did he terrorise an island of humans too? No. He focused on protecting his people and their island as he wanted to carry on Fisher Tiger’s will and because their people needed that protection.
He could easily hate humans just as much as Arlong but he chooses not to. He sees that as many bad humans there are there are good ones. For example White Beard who protected their island as long as he was alive and the main characters in One Piece the Strawhat crew.
He tries to work with the good humans to bring about equality and peace.
So which is the better method? It would be Jimbei’s looking at it objectively. The island that Arlong terrorised had done nothing wrong to his people so really he did to them what had been done to him and I don’t agree with that. They were truly innocent.
However it’s very easy to say Arlong was wrong but the reality is it takes a strong person to not let the hate take root. The more the world kills black people, makes fun of us, calls us ugly just because of our beautiful brown skin, treats us like we’re not human… the more the world does that the harder it is for me to fight the hate and anger in my heart.
And I read the arc about the Fish Men ages ago and I was angry then. It resonated with me then. Imagine how I feel now. The world seems to be getting worse or rather the atrocities that happen to black are getting filmed and it’s relentless. There doesn’t seem to be a place on earth that is safe for us except from Africa. When I lived in Africa I didn’t think about my blackness, I was just Gift. Now I think about it every day. (And even Africa has problems with colourism left over by the colonisers).
But I don’t want to be filled with hate, I want to fight that hatred and win. I want to have love in my heart.
However that does not mean that I will stop fighting for our rights and for our voices to be heard. I will never stop talking about black people and what we go through. I will never stop being honest.
I will never stop lifting us up. I will never stop until every black person on earth knows we’re the shit. We’re amazing and they will not end us.
I am angry.
I am very angry and every day Arlong more makes sense.
But I’m trying to be like Jimbei.
If you read until the end thank you.