I was fortunate enough to see the latest blockbuster movie from the Marvel franchise, Black Panther”. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I wanted to be someone who saw the movie for two reasons. First, to support my former neighbor and high school competitor “Chad” Boseman. I actually despise the movie theater experience, but since Chad was the star, I wanted to show him some support. (The only other reason I’ll attend a theater is for “Star Wars.”) Secondly, I wanted to see what it’s like to have a black superhero on the big screen without other headliners taking the spotlight. I’m glad I took the time to watch this movie. Seriously.
No, I’m not going to write a review of the movie. There are other more qualified writers who have already done that. I am going to discuss what I saw and what I felt while experiencing “Black Panther”.
No, I will not give spoilers. I’ll try not to, at least. Yes, I will discuss race and some of my own racial observations. So here goes. . .
The movie “Black Panther” is loosely based off the comic book series. I’ll be honest with you, I knew nothing about this series. I didn’t read comic books as a child. I saw them in stores or in the hands of other children, but I never had the desire to read comic books. I NEVER saw a Black Panther comic book or picture of him when I was a child. But I did see Superman, Batman, Captain America and Iron Man. Yes, I am quite aware that Superman and Batman are not of the same franchise, but I’m just explaining what I saw growing up. Thinking back, many of the kids in my neighborhood aspired to be the likes of Superman or Captain America. Never did I hear someone say Black Panther as their hero of choice. Some may find it hard to believe, but I grew up in predominantly black neighborhoods. The topic of fictional heroes came up when asked if we could have superpowers as a child. So, of course, the mainstream superheroes would be mentioned. Not Black Panther.
Why is that? What made Black Panther less marketable back in the 1980s versus now?
I watched the movie thinking to myself, “There’s finally a black superhero all over the screen that today’s black children can look up to. Better yet, pretend they are Black Panther while playing games in the ‘hood.” The Black Panther exemplifies the love for family, community and country. All three. We are lucky if we can find people in our society who have love and compassion for people beyond their immediate family. We even find people throwing their country of residence under the bus. Anyway, watching “Black Panther” on the screen fight off the bad guys was awesome, but the core values of this hero really stuck with me. He worked to lead his family and nation to be the best they could be and eventually lead them into spreading love and knowledge around the world. My eyes teared.
Unifying the nation?
When I went to the theater, there were so many people there. I expected this.
What was awesome was that there were just as many blacks in attendance as whites. I don’t know the motives of the attendees, but I can assume people wanted to see the flick because they’re avid moviegoers, Marvel fans wanted to show support for the black superhero. Speaking as a black man, it was pretty spectacular to see large groups of other blacks together to enjoy the movie. It wasn’t just a date, it was an event. I saw several fraternity and sorority groups in attendance, as well. All posing in front of the Black Panther marquee for photos. Capturing the moment in time for life-long memories of this historic event. It made my eyes tear up again. Black people. Together. In a crowded theater. Not yelling at each other about something someone said on Facebook. Not laughing at someone else because their sneakers didn’t match their outfit. Just there to enjoy the event.
Then I saw whites and black conversing together. TOGETHER! Some discussing their hopes for the movie, others discussing how great they thought the movie was. No discomfort sharing these thoughts with people that didn’t look like them. Everyone was really happy to be there and in good spirits about it all.
I’m going to upset some people now
Why can’t we have that experience all day, every day, everywhere? There’s always some sort of racial divide. Blacks against whites, whites against blacks, whites against Hispanics, blacks against Hispanics. There’s always a conflict or a grudge. Why? Do we need to have “Black Panther” playing on kiosks strategically placed around the cities of the USA? Will that help? (Rhetorical question, yes.)
Many will argue there’s a racial divide because, at its core, this country known as the “United” States of America is built on inequality and racial strife. Sure the so-called “founding fathers” wanted to flee the locked down religious beliefs of Europe, but in the process of “establishing” the US, those “founding fathers” swiftly picked up men and women from other nations to work as slaves. Not to mention the fact that the native residents of where this country now exists were pretty much flushed out with lethal force. Since this type of behavior has been at the core of the country for hundreds of years, some may think the behavior will never change.
But it’s not behavioral. It’s cultural at this point. As much as it pains me to say this, I believe there will always be racial inequality here. Even if I as a black man walked around as the Black Panther fighting crime, I’ll still be looked at as less of a man because of the color of my skin in a lot of places here in the USA. What is it going to take to eradicate racial inequality in this nation? A black President definitely didn’t help make a difference. That was a whimsical joke shared by minorities I knew during the Obama administration. I digress.
I continued to watch the movie as the conflict happens within the storyline. Another black man is hell-bent on getting revenge on the fictional African country, Wakanda. This was a black-on-black battle. Justified? I’ll say “maybe,” no spoilers, though. There are so many black-on-black incidents today it’s mind-boggling. And why? Drug deals, envy or even just because the gang said to do so?
With regards to black-on-black violence, it makes me wonder just how many Caucasians are out fighting each other. Fighting for those reasons I mentioned previously. Who knows? Is the rate of white-on-white battles may be just as high as the black-on-black rate, but not getting reported as often? If it’s not reported? Why not?
In “Black Panther” there was a battle for supremacy to rule of the nation. This battle was pretty ugly and almost to the death. Eventually, these same combatants became partners. Partners for the sake of the community and the nation. It was beautiful. It wasn’t the black-on-black I see and hear about every single day.
The Wakanda people were strong black people with pride and awesome intellect. The fictional nation was a world leader when it came to technology. What’s even more awesome, was the fact that the top mind of technology in the movie was a woman. A BLACK woman! Where’s that going to happen in today’s society?
The big tech leaders of the world such as Google, Amazon and Apple have all had some form of controversy when it comes to gender equality. Sadly, this goes for the entire US. So many qualified women are paid much less than their male counterparts. I’m not one to say that everyone should be paid equally for all career paths, but I will say that equal qualifications should bring equal salaries. Senior VP candidate Ant Pruitt should not be paid more than candidate Anna Pruitt who possess the same qualifications and experience. And of course, a qualified person of color shouldn’t be subjected to lower salary rates because of their race. It’s just wrong, America.
Is there a Wakanda out there?
Maybe? I don’t know. I know it’s not the US. Right now, there’s too much hate here. There’s too much greed here. There’s not enough love here. Open up Facebook and I can almost guarantee the first thing you’ll see is an argument of some sort wishing ill on another. We have so many mass shootings where innocent people die. So many blacks calling each other “nigger”. Oh, wait – excuse me. I’ve been told blacks aren’t saying “nigger” to each other, but it’s “nigga.” Either way, why say that to each other when so many whites have used that word against us with malice and hate beyond recognition throughout history? Is there a place people can migrate to and live with freedom from racial or gender inequality? Wishful thinking, I’m sure.
Throughout the movie, I felt my eyes tear up so many times as all of these items crossed my mind and heart. It’s a shame the country I live in that’s supposed to be the “land of the free” makes so many of its citizens feel trapped or second rate. Even the Commander In Chief doesn’t feel like a leader of a nation, but more like a human that just speaks loudly with broad, piercing words. He doesn’t come off as a leader of a nation filled with multiple races and religious beliefs. He comes off as the owner of a business that just throws his or her weight around to prove that they’re the boss. That’s not leadership. That’s not what’s needed here in the US.
We need to look at ourselves in the mirror and start working on our own flaws as a community and people. Whites need to get along with blacks. Blacks need to get along with whites. Blacks need to get along with blacks! Let’s come together as a community and stop prejudging others. Let’s not depend on leadership to make the change for our country. Let’s be the change. I’m not necessarily asking for a Wakanda country. I’m asking for our country to be better socially and morally than what it has been for the last several hundred years.