Wakanda Forever. For ever ever?

My experience with world history is that we learn that one thing happened in the world, which lead to another, which lead us to... and so on. One thing at a time, in a miraculously linear fashion, limited to one geography (typically Europe), one event (typically war), with very little context to inform it, except for what happened in that very geography with those very people in the years before and after. 

For example, in 1905, a patent office clerk in Switzerland submitted a paper to a physics journal, inquiring about whether the inertia of a body is dependent upon its energy content. That same year, an African prophet in what is today known as Tanzania claimed to know the secret to a sacred liquid that could repel German bullets. Unrelated events? Hardly.

But what gets deemed worthy of "World History"? Einstein's scientific breakthrough equation, e=mc²? Or the most significant example of interethnic cooperation in the battle against colonial control, the Maji Maji Uprising? I'm not disputing that major scientific revelations should be studied, but surely the context of what was happening in other cultures matters. Surely what was going down in Africa to remove the very colonizers that would later seek to exterminate Einstein is relevant to the story.

Seeing Black Panther last week reminded me how entire histories have happened that have nothing to do with white Americans and yet, we are so accustomed to seeing our story reflected back at us, that we are surprised when we're not there. Black Panther presented a fictional vision of a world that has very little, if not nothing, to do with white folks. Thereby giving rise to the best pun of the year.

Shuri, the princess of Wakanda, is hands down the best character in this movie. Or maybe M'Baku.

Shuri, the princess of Wakanda, is hands down the best character in this movie. Or maybe M'Baku.


After the movie, my wife and I were talking about which side we would have taken in the big battle at the end...to protect Wakanda and keep it pristine, or offer resources to liberate all black people?...and then we were like, "Oh. It wouldn't be up to us what side we chose, we'd be drowned out if we tried to speak (Jabari-style) and maaaaaybe we could fly the hologram jets with Shuri's permission. Under direct instructions." And then I had feelings about how that hit me. And then I was like, "We missed the point of the whole damn movie, this isn't about us." And thank goodness for that.

Do I want old straight white cisgender men to go see Wonder Woman? You're damn right.  Are they the primary heroes in it? No, and that's the point.  It's still an important piece of media to show - not just young girls, but all of us - that women are powerful and have rich, dynamic, badass stories to tell.

And yet, knowing this on an intellectual level - that DUH, representation matters... I can't deny that had a feeling about the realization that it's not about me. A friend was kind enough to put James Baldwin's work, "The Fire Next Time" back into my consciousness. This particular quote leapt out at me:

The danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity. Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shining and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of the order of nature….the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, an immovable pillar; and as he moves out his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.
— James Baldwin

Hurrah and ONWARDS for media that tells black stories and shake up heaven and earth.