One recurring phrase that dominates much of the discussion surrounding the recently released Black Panther film, is it’s function to grant black children an opportunity to “see themselves as super heroes.” This assertion is cringeworthy, in part because the movie is birthed from the mind of a racist, and in the overlooked reality that the film comes from a stance that super heroes do not in fact exist.
Black Panther presents viewers with a leader who succeeds his father’s throne, rights a persistent wrong, and loves a black woman who possesses an independent commitment to justice. The true hero of the film is Erik Killmonger. Unlike T’Challa he is not given anything, but has seized all that was owed to him. Whichever side you fall on, both men are fictional. The black hero or heroine, however is not.
So my issue with claiming that the film shows us black superheroes, is the implication that life, or the black narrative, has not shown us such heroes. The black trajectory has graced the black collective with countless heroes. Though the tearing of Africans from the womb of Africa, has separated blacks from their pre-enslavement majesty, even the tyranny of enslavement brought us heroes like Nat Turner. Turner, as a name we know, symbolizes the countless other ancestors that were sick and tired, but whose names were too courageous for “his” story. Though nameless, their deeds remain central in a portrait of heroism. Harriet Tubman was a hero. Harriet Tubman is a hero. Ida B. Wells, E. Franklin Fraiser, W.E.B. Dubois, Fanny Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Assata Shakur, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Bobby Hutton, Elaine Brown—the countless black educators and community members who launched and maintain grass root initiatives to advance the black community, are all heroes.
No their clothes are not fancy in the conventional sense, and many of them are far too prodigious to be contained in history books. They do however have superpowers, namely the understated power of courage. They strove not to do the best with what was made available, but to create availability for their people to think outside the permitters of those who thrive in their oppression. They are heroes and sheroes because they opted to color outside the lines of white supremacy for their collective. In relishing in the white man’s adaptation of the black hero, the black child is engulfed by white fantasy. The black child is violently nurtured to align a Stan Lee creation with “black panther,” not Huey P. Newton, or Bobby Seale. For this reason, the film functions like the beauty industry to the black woman—fictively “providing” the black collective with what they have naturally in a twisted and long-running joke of white supremacy.
A white man’s creation has dominated black history month, as an act of terror enabled in the use of the word “his story.” Have you every wondered why the SuperBowl, the NBA-All-star game, the grammy’s, The Olympics, and President’s Day all dominate so called black history month? It is because “his” story will always centralize whiteness. Moreover, blacks are inevitably “foot notes” in “his” or the white man’s story— a fact perhaps most evident this year when a white man’s creation, made the shortest month of the year even shorter for those of the black collective.
Despite the magnitude of Malcolm X’s contribution to the black collective, and this month supposedly being “black history month” Malcolm X was not trending once on February 21st—the 53rd anniversary of his assassination. if you needed any more proof, the media is NOT our friend and has not improved… there it is.
More people have seen Marvel’s Black Panther in its first three days, than last year’s I am Not Your Negro, a documentary on the late James Baldwin his relationship to the black revolutionary movement of the 50s and 60s. James Baldwin is a hero. His pen was a weapon. His words have saved many, including myself from the ledge of loneliness festered in an anti-black society.
My mentor, a beautiful black queen who educated through scholarship and art, is a shero. She breathed life into the novice ambitions of a diffident young girl, who encouraged me to advance my studies when everyone around me urged me to succumb to mediocrity.
Our heroes are those in our individual and collective communities that do not frequent are wallpapers, or conversations about heroism— illustrating that their is still much work to do in seizing our narrative and self perception, seizing “our” story from “his” tory. Until then, both our factual and fictive portrayals are but a painting within a painting of white fantasy.
Black Power ❤