So I’m pretty sure by now we’ve all seen (or at the very least, were swept up in the mega-hype of) Black Panther. And while it is has certainly solidified its place in history, I’m still left to ponder just how significant this movie is in terms of helping people find or embrace their identity. Leading up to and after the release of the movie, I read articles, social media comments, posts, heard it spoken by so many in media about how this movie has, in a sense, hit the refresh button on African and African-American identity.
Don’t get me wrong, representation certainly matters. Seeing characters experience and voice all too familiar frustrations us blacks experience also matters. And while it excites me and so many others to see a movie boasting powerful, vulnerable, relatable black characters, I still wonder, “Does it really take a movie (and a Marvel superhero movie at that) for people my color to fully recognize their beauty, worth, and strength?” Is identity so elusive that some look for it in fictional characters on a screen? Is that what society has reduced black people’s understanding of identity to?
The power of the media is undeniable. And interestingly, I’ve also read posts by fellow African-Americans who believe that tying one’s identity to a film is “stupid” because at the end of the day “it’s still just a regular superhero movie”. As opinions are rarely asked for but always given, here’s my two cents: There are some who really do need to see someone who looks exactly like them portrayed in media as fierce, powerful, loyal, beautiful, worthy, valued…even if the character is a fictional one. Even if it is just another superhero movie, it’s awesome to see black folk so highly esteemed, who hold such confidence in their abilities and who they are and what they stand for, without needing a white savior to come through.
So often we see ourselves portrayed as villains, drug addicts, always incarcerated, illiterate, violent, and ever dependent on white pity. I can see why this film hits home with so many, and why it resonates so deeply. I guess it all comes down to knowing individually what we need to feel like our truest selves. Some need visual affirmation. Some need words of affirmation. Others look to the One who created the race of man free of racial boundaries. Whether by influence of Black Panther or not, it is a given that we and our culture, are Unapologetically, Beautifully, Black.