Please Stop Wishing Wakanda Was Real

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HOW MOST OF US MISS THE METAPHOR

 

by Hotep Anthony

With the release of Black Panther, this year’s Black History Month is guaranteed to go down in the books.

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For the first time in what may actually be the history of cinema, moviegoers of all ages and races were able to witness a predominantly black cast tell a predominantly black story that was engineered for the enjoyment of all audiences.

More importantly, however, what separates Black Panther from the Madea series or films of similar ilk is the focus on Black Excellence, not black struggle. In this film, black people are not depicted as drug addicts and prostitutes, but as kings and queens. Not as high school dropouts, but as generals and engineers.

What separates Black Panther from the Madea series or films of similar ilk is the focus on Black Excellence, not black struggle.

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but let me tell you: When society makes it painfully obvious that they see you as less than, a movie like Black Panther really does inspire.

In fact many viewers, especially those of color, left the theater wishing that Wakanda-- the fictional African utopia from which The Black Panther reigns-- was a real land that they could migrate to. And who can blame them? Wakanda is breathtaking with its seemingly endless beauty and bounty.

Wakanda is breathtaking with its seemingly endless beauty and bounty.

Wakanda is breathtaking with its seemingly endless beauty and bounty.

It’s a similar feeling, I imagine, that white people feel when they watch Westworld.

Unfortunately, however, If you found yourself to be one of those viewers I described, someone who longs for Wakanda to be real, then I’m afraid you've missed the point of the film.


Wakanda may be fictional, but that doesn't mean it’s not real. What does that mean? Well, simply put, Wakanda is a metaphor. A metaphor for black excellence. Excellence that, much like the fictional country, has been hidden from the knowledge of people on the outside for way to long. Wakanda represents black power, resourcefulness, intellect, and most importantly pride. Barack Obama is Wakanda. Martin Luther King Jr. is Wakanda. Malcolm X is Wakanda. Harriet Tubman is Wakanda. Beyonce is Wakanda. “The Cosby Show” is Wakanda. “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” is Wakanda. I am Wakanda. You are Wakanda. We shouldn’t be looking for some movie or fictional country to validate our existence, everything we need to prove our lives are magical already lies within us.

It’s a similar feeling, I imagine, that white people feel when they watch Westworld.

In light of what I stated above, I want to take a look at the movies central “villian” Erik Killmonger. For those of you who haven't seen the movie as of yet, I advise that you do, but, nonetheless, I will keep this article as spoiler-free as possible.

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In short, Erik Killmonger wants revenge on the citizens of Wakanda for not helping other non-wakandan black folk around the globe. He accuses the Wakandan leadership of turning their backs on those who truly needed their aid. This accusation rings even more true when speaking about Wakanda in the metaphorical sense. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to attain status or class within this society often look down on those who are still struggling. The excuse we give being “They had the same opportunities that I had” or “I worked hard to get to where I am, they are simply not my problem.” --and, to a degree, those are fair statements. It does take work to become successful, and, if you found yourself in a position of success, you have every right to be proud of where you are.

Barack Obama is Wakanda. Martin Luther King Jr. is Wakanda. Malcolm X is Wakanda. Harriet Tubman is Wakanda.

However, we must never overlook the blessings that we have received along the way. This is another metaphorical theme of Black Panther. See, while the people of Wakanda definitely worked diligently and intelligently in order to cultivate their great society, a major reason they were able to get to where they were was that a giant mass of Vibranium, a near-omnipotent alien metal, just-so-happened to fall from the sky and into their land. The metaphor there is sometimes you really need a blessing from someone else to jump-start your life. We should aim to be that blessing to others.

In truth, Black Panther is not a movie designed to make you long for a fictional reality in which people of color are the victors. No, it’s a movie that calls us to look inward, and praise the accomplishments of our peers and ancestors. It’s a call to action to share the riches of the metaphorical Wakanda with those who have yet to find their own excellence.

And most importantly it’s a reminder to be proud of who we are. We are Wakanda. Wakanda Forever.

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