The Black Panther Problem

I’ll be honest here.

I didn’t want to go and see Captain America: Civil War. I don’t why I didn’t, I just didn’t.

And also, I was concerned about Black Panther.

I was concerned that they were going to do him wrong. Because sometimes Hollywood can really fuck up representing other cultures, especially ones that are often considered to be a subject of controversy in American culture: e.g a black man.

Because sometimes in movies, a black man is just there to be a black man just a skin color added into the background so that brownie points (no pun intended) can be appointed to the movie. And these characters, they have no struggles, no thoughts, no evolution of self. Sometimes they will come with a singular character attribute, but rarely are they more than just some skin pigmentation that might say a few lines every now and then.

I walked into that cinema thinking that I was going to leave with the same political rage that I usually do. But I didn’t.

Because he was amazing. The Black Panther was amazing, and more than that, he was a character. And I was so ready for him to just be a cardboard cut out with a tape-recorder strapped to his cardboard lips. And he wasn’t and it was great; realizing that he was being treated as a legitimate, recognizable character with hopes and dreams and flaws and struggles.

And racism isn’t gone just because Black Panther wasn’t fucked up, and he’s going to get his own movie, of course it’s not. But at least there is progress being made. At least there is something to show that even though it’s slow going and takes time, there something is happening.

And it just might be something good.

And, because I loved him so much in the movie, I looked him up on Tumblr. A rookie mistake. Because most of the posts were dominated by things like this:Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 10.45.22 pm.png

And I worry about things like this; I worry about it a lot. More than I worried about Civil War, I worry about this. Because on one hand it’s a classic case of ‘we saw him first’, but unfortunately it’s a lot more serious than that because it involves centuries of abuse and discrimination. And posts like this were everywhere, an attempted defense. And on one level, I can understand it. Here is this one black character that it’s anyone’s goddamn sidekick, or love interest, or a villain. Here is a character that looks like me, and he is kicking goddamn butt. And I think if I had been deprived of that all my life I would be protective of it also.

But I’m white.

And I really, really wanna talk about T’challa because he’s a great character and I want to talk about him. But I don’t want to talk about him because he’s black. And in some ways, these posts make that the most important thing about him. And that’s just degrading.

And I wanna know whether it’s okay to call them on it, because it happens. People who have been treated so badly that they believe it is their right to treat others badly. Because I don’t know whether it is.

Because I don’t think that vengeance should be a thing and I don’t think that generalizations should be a thing, and I don’t think that attacking people or telling them they can’t talk about something because of their skin color should be a thing.

But I’m white.

So I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to tell anyone.

I’ve thought a lot about those men who go onto twitter and attack feminists and say ‘Not all men’ and I hate that because that’s not the freaking point… but they are technically right. Not all men. Not all white people.

Not all of anything really.

Because when referring to any large group of humans, there’s always going to be people who you are insulting, even when they are on your side.

And I feel like we should work on that.