The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Watching Black Panther
Full disclosure: I’ve seen Black Panther twice. I’m hopeful for a satisfying third. And after your second or third viewing of Black Panther, certain singularities become evident. Firstly, this: Black in America, you exit the theater heaving with some foreign, intoxicating sense of pride. Nigga, I can fly, you think to yourself. It is the same way you felt, as a boy, Saturdays in the late 80's, right after watching Voltron on Cartoon Network. Second: you realize you now have to auto-input the word Wakanda; the name T’Challa; and the fantastical chemical element Vibranuim into your laptop dictionary. Your fingers itch to blog some mad wisdom to your seven followers.
And so you do:
Wakanda (noun, a fantastic re-imagination of the most Black, most democratic, self-determining, eco-friendly, technologically-advanced African nation on the planet; sitting on the world’s largest (and only) mineral deposit of Vibranuim, governed by her modest and evenhanded sovereign, prince-turned-king, T’Challa.
Opening Night: you walk into that amphitheater. Heady. The foyer smelling of salty over-priced popcorn, roasting butter, dripping from convulsive spigots. That hygienic smell of carpet cleaners. The nerviness of a trio of Marvel nerds. Brothers, there mom crimson red follows behind. They swoosh past in flip-flops, and a haze of masks and capes. Behind them, another group en mass, enter the fragrance of Woke liberal intelligentsia (from an undergrad class of the Women & Black Studies program at the University). These ones are dressed in full woke gear. African prints. Ankh necklaces. Little Malcolm X pins. Brah. The queue outside is long. Desperate. Its opening weekend, and so it is predominantly black patrons. The frigid cold makes dragons of them.
Many others are dressed to the nines in mock-ups’ of all that jazzy, snazzy African indigenous outfits. Things they bought off Amazon Prime, conveyed to their doorsteps a week ago, in little boxes. Some attires are candidly beautiful, even magnificent.
You turn thirty-one next month [been there, done that, bought a t-shirt], so all that jazz irks you. Another thing that irks is PDA. Public Display of Affection. That shit makes you cringe these days. But you can appreciate the #BlackLove couple in the Basotho blanket posing for a selfie in front of cardboard cutouts of the Black Panther cast - reassuring their love on Snapchat.
In the corner, you see that girl who works at Ellis library. Skin, the dark of Dudu Osun soap. This confirms your hypothesis: you think she looks Yoruba. And indeed, she is transfixed in an ascending Gele headgear, fiddling with her phone. Snapchatting the Revolution with Black Panther filters. You see her friend, too. A #TeamNaturalHair girl. Light-skinned. Hair the curly wire of old rotary phones. Her friend is special, you admit. African American. Not simply African, and so you crushed on her at Walmart while she rung up your groceries [Trojan condoms, Xtra silky]. You winked at her. She wasn’t having it. She asked with that poker-faced geniality common to Walmart commandos, [“Will that be all for you today, sir?” ]— Sir? Sir!. You are a little offended. Twenty-something year olds now see you as old. On Tinder you have amended your age to 26. But, even then, Sistas avoid your plague. A nigga can hope. And shawty fine, when she ain’t in that blue and yellow apron. Your Ebonics is getting impressive, you think. You imagine her groomed locks smell like eucalyptus or cucumber or roasted coconuts. She is in the midst of a group of slay queens. All dressed in Wakandan V-necks. Ankara bracelets. The badassery complete with cowrie trinkets matching lava-stone neck chokers, and Fulani nose-rings. You know her type? — you imagine. The type to DIY her own shampoo and conditioner in vials underneath the bathroom sink. So that even if you tried your luck tonight, she would still be the type not to give you a moment’s notice, because — maybe — just maybe, you are too dark in skin, midnight black, shotgun nostril, and pleady immigrant eyes [in the way of fly-strewn, malnourished UNICEF poster-children]. You are in line, close enough to hear her earrings jingle, and the ticket price for the movie. Twelve dollars. In front of you, other movie patrons are dressed in slap-dash monstrosities — combining contrasting cultural attires [the top is east-African, for burials. The bottom, is Nigeria, for weddings] to make one: African. Or maybe, in this case, just Wakandan. Pedestrian. Unimaginative. Etcetera, you imagine.
“What movie are you seeing today, sir?” Your mumble. By the time you are done, the sistas are gone.
Opening weekend, 37 percent of North American movie goers will be African America. [Let’s just say, Black]. Before today, fifteen percent had never bothered to see a Marvel movie. Come rain, come shine. Why? Too white. A sprinkle of racism and white supremacy in ‘real-life’ makes fantasy punishingly preposterous.
“Black folks ain’t paying to underwrite and entertain their own systematic denigration.”
Still, another 35 percent will be unambiguously white. But who cares?
I am African [Nigerian-rowdy]. Dressed in a leather jacket. I like to play it cool, under the radar. Ethnically-ambiguous. Dressing up in an African attire to the movies, will be preposterous. It’s like laughing at your own joke. But by God, it pleases me something fierce to see the world pay particular attention to Black Panther, and for a moment, to Africa. There is that tired talk of the botched rapport between Africans in the red corner (allegorically, think of us as T’Challa) and African Americans in the blue corner (Killmonger). There is also that tired talk of the fatal rapport between Black and white Americans. Lets, not forget another important one: the war between Marvel and DC fanatics.
In some way, all those wars and little battles are happening on the silver screen, tonight. They are still happening post-colonization, post-slavery, post-exploitation, post-rape, post-Tuskegee, post-Captain America, post- it all [insert all the hyphens you can fit into a Fall semester Black Studies class].
All those social conundrums encapsulated in an about-time movie — Black Panther (2018). Anyways, as a Black movie goer [black in skin, and mindset, bear with me here], you pay your fare [discounted price, since you still present your grad student ID], you can’t help but feel as though, in any case, you are personally contributing to that burgeoning of American Black Enterprise [#BlackOwnedBusiness]. It is a prideful thing. A woke-ful thing. You finger that movie ticket stub, on your way to Hall 14, [on your left, can’t miss it], you follow the neon numbers, 11, 12, 13, uh uh, 14.
You find the best seat, the auditorium packed full [Oh my, white people too? Sweet Jesus]. You feel a little upset and happy, same breathe. The previews of coming-soon smash hits come to a rancorous end. Black Panther, the movie begins.
By first act, you are near tears. Tears of joy. You have been holding your breath. Your white accomplice asks if you are okay. Why yes. Why do you ask? Then you realize your knees are trembling, your fingers gripping the armrest. God! If these people only know how much history is being made tonight, this week? This year? Black Panther! Your heart is full.
Two hours and change go by, you are transported intact to the afro-fantastical, afro-futuristic world of Wakanda. You see yourself on the street haggling over some spicy beef kebabs. You hear a Nigerian pidgin-English lingo in there [Ah! Authenticity]. You recognize the tribute at the beginning of the movie. It is a tribute to the over 250+ girls kidnapped in 2014. From their boarding school bunkbeds in a little town of Chibok, Nigeria. Cradles robbed by Boko Haram terrorists— a deadly bouquet of sectarian cucarachas, currently viral in West Africa, [see #BringBackOurGirls].
Anyways, you see what looks like your mischievous cousin, Odinaka, in the background of a Wakandan market trying to get his large-domed head in the frame — by all means. You see your aunty. Aunty Lovina, trying on a Batik-themed dress in the background market. You know Wakanda is a scattershot fictional depiction of a Billion real African peoples and cultures. But you abide. They have done their homework. somewhat. Decorously representing the sepia-filtered Africa you know now, like the whorls on your fingertips.
You remember home. It’s smells. The rasping intensity of the Abuja sun. The red dust on your eyebrows and lips. The sweat turned salt on your ten-year-old forehead. Your odd elders and wild fruits. Your stolen first kiss that night on a football field [Come to think of it whatever happened to Elena, the pastor’s daughter?] You remember the Monkey Post football you kicked around as a child till the sunset was a ferocious orangey splendor in the skies, your mother threatening to do you bodily harm if you did not — with immediate effect — get your spindly left-legs back home. You remember the creases on your grandma’s hand.
You wonder how Chadwick Boseman, (aka T’Challa) got his hair so lustrous, so mad wavy. You know on a street in Nigeria you’d be called out as an irredeemable idiot for spotting hair like that [a fool at thirty, don’t you have home training? some woman can scream from across the street]. You wonder about Vibranuim. Is that shit real? You wonder if T’Challa’s outfits will feature on Amazon Prime in a few days. Think of all the black pride that will be commercialized in the week to come. Those statement t-shirts? [By God, how you would rock those duds with some black pride — the t-shirt will say: “I’m African bitches. Deal”].
Anyways, the movie has hit a wordy lull. Your mind wanders, you remember your first racist slur in a Chicago Airport on your first day in America [“Koon,” said the black janitor. “Just another fucking Koon. Nigga please!”] You are too African, too fresh-off-the boat, to know how to respond to being called a damn Koon.
And because you are an equal-opportunity lover, you remember your first white lover. A Methodist girl from Kansas City whose grandma threatened to cut off if she did not loose the black boy. She drove you in her mud-caked four-wheeler to drag races and duck-hunting. You went rainbow trout fishing, and did other white people shit—enough shit to revoke your black card; [your blackness thrilled her, until the Valentine’s day she tried to surprise you by getting box braids. “You like?”]. Adios, nigga. She texted. Bye, bitch, you replied.
There was also Maritza, una Dominicana. Went out with you because, her self-esteem was shot to shit. Chica was darker than the Dominican average (dark than manila envelope), and because she had that greña hair that broke the teeth of combs, she made it a point of duty to say that she was originally — from Washington Heights, that Little Dominican Republic [In Spanish, her mother asks her, with a scowl, to cleanse the race. Marry white or light. Coño, cleanse the race]
In any case, you are feverish, now, with sweet homesickness. You’ve been in Missouri too long, you forget the details of a street in Olokoro. But Wakanda does more than cure said nostalgia. It validates it. It authenticates it. It arouses. It pacifies. It is catharsis in moving pixels. That is, until you are jolted to reality by an elbow. The hall erupts in laughter stirred by a witty zinger from T’Challa’s tech-wiz sister and newfangled Disney royalty [Princess Shuri]. M’baku also uses dead-pan sidesplitting mannerisms to give enjoyable life to his lines, you could have sworn that nigga was Nigerian.
Around you, several unblinking eyes are lit up with curiosity and wonder, their fingers pinching popcorn, finding open mouths. You realize the larger-than-life nature of what is happening here: African is being mainstreamed into the dark arteries of global pop culture [no more ignorant booty-scratcher jokes. No more ill-informed interrogations about Africa. “Do y’all have like cell phones and like real houses?” One can only hope, ignorance is like a gas leak].
By the third act, when wisdom is dropped, as the final show down is a battle waging on, knowing folks snap fingers in the air: the Applause of the Rightly Woke. The snaps are coming form the corner: the Women & Black Studies class. The action scenes curl your toes; Coogler would feel orgasmic watching you watch his masterpiece, if he wasn’t busy behind a microphone defending his veracity in the confederacy of blockbuster Hollywood movie directors.
At any rate, you do not see it coming. That bit in the second act, when the hero, T’Challa is beaten to a pulp like a Catholic schoolboy caught touching himself in a seminary cupboard. By the third act, the movie elevates you, then drops you from a melancholic Cloud Nine fugue. You laugh. You cry [on the inside]. You play it cool. These folks don’t know, you say, of the white people in the room. They could never fully know what Black Panther and the Nation of Wakanda means to you. Now you get it. All that fuss, in the lobby, all the get-up, the electrified anticipation, the hype. What a movie!
Outside the amphitheater, the severe chill of February cuts your nostrils like invisible razors, waters your eyes, your feet don’t touch the ground. But you feel pride, vanity, even some arrogance in your veins and arteries [feelings the oppressed have been taught to resent so that now they feel sinful and strange to you, just like open love]. Interrupted — you see a little black girl do the Wakandan salute, her arms like an X on her chest. Ribbons in her tight braids. Green is her color. A weakness for Hello Kitty, too. You feel that giddy warmth and adoration that we mostly reserve these days for cat videos on YouTube and videos of autistic children doing un-autistic things. The little girl’s groggy mother skirmishes to encourage her into a tiny fleece coat, pink. Her cool big brother, taller by inches of pomposity, not to be infected by the uncool euphoria of it all, tries diplomatically to do the shoulder shrugs of the Warrior Falls, too. Then his stoic eyes catch yours. He shrugs it off, puts an end to it. You smile. He doesn’t. What a weirdo, he must think of you.
You float on airs to your Camry 2.0. You will never be the same again, you feel so good about yourself — Black by popular demand. You make a mental note to give that run-of-the-mill Camry a once-over at the Tiger Wash, tomorrow. Maybe do some laundry? Do the dishes. Change your photographs on Tinder. New Beginnings. Fresh starts. What else needs cleaning? Alone, you wait for the windows to de-fog.
You attempt the Jabari Ape Howl in the quiet of your car. The dainty white woman in the nearby Chevrolet has seen, has heard. She smirks. Her thin lips stretch into a respectful fakery, that American smile. Embarrassed. You don’t smile back. You wonder if she thinks all black people howl into rear-view mirrors.
At the traffic light, you wonder if it would be okay to do that howl at work next Monday, in the break room. You imagine yourself in the video played by HR to curb workplace aggression. The voice-over is of Morgan Freeman or Jeremy Irons, saying: “The Jabari Ape Howl can prove useful when faced with performances of passive and micro-aggressions in unnatural habitat.”
Speaking of micro-aggression, you remember Becky Saunders. You think of her chomping delicately on a baby carrot, her country-ass struggling to include her word of the week into every sentence: foie gras. Maybe you should try the Jabari Howl. And then scream in her face, “How do you like them apples, Becky!” Everyone but Becky knows she’s from the backwater boondocks of some small Missouri town. Population: 123.
Bad idea, you think. If you do that then you would really make an appearance in the HR video. That would be doing the most. Becky gets jumpy, and these days, Mr. Clancy from HR ain’t smiling, he reminds you there are internship-giddy undergrads waiting to do your job in exchange for a recommendation letter, and a back-pat.
Maybe you’d just do a timid tweet on Black Twitter. Ending it with #WakandaForever — in any case, you will never be the same again. You plan again, as is your Black duty to see Black Panther a second time. You do.
Night Two: The hall is a bit scanty.
You float down the slanty aisle in the auditorium, a bit anguished. The best seats are taken. And even worse, they are filled with naysayers: Marvel die-hards. Skeptics. The lot of them. These ones who, abstaining in the opening week, let the rowdy black folks do their thang.
These one dressed, mostly, in pajamas and fluffy shoes with jack rabbit ears. Their curiosity elevated to the level of wasps dreading the upwelling of a forest fire, but theoretically, they are vindictive. They have come to poke holes in the plot. The simple failings of the opening credits make their nostrils wrinkle. The loud sighs. The occasional hisses. The elusive derivational touches of Ryan Coogler’s directing, they will pick through with a fine-toothed comb.
“Aha! Did you see that fluke of cinematography? Minor. But an easy mistake to have avoided if they know the first thing about making Marvel-worthy movies.”
You want to punch out a fool.
Does it matter that the movie’s Director of Photography, Rachel Morrison, is the first woman to bag an Oscar for same? You want to ask. But you try not to sound like one of those NPR-wielding liberals, two inches from a full-blown propaganda-hating meltdown.
Earlier that day on Twitter, some kids were calling it the ‘Nigga version of Pink Panther,’ and this ruined your day; [also you really dig Pink Panther!] You are warier of haters now. Myth-busting, popcorn-chomping, they are here to prove each other right. “A 97 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes? That’s just ridiculous,” you hear someone say. A record-shattering $150 million debut on President’s Day weekend? “Dude, stop making shit up.” “Bye, Felipe.” They will never get it. And there you are in the midst of these trivialities, hating the vitriolic taste of your popcorn. The smell of wet rug afoot. You want to punch a sucker in the throat for Two Counts of Petty Misdemeanor: talking while watching and — and — and — daring to speak sinful of this — this — this magnum opus, while white.
But you remember like you, they paid their tickets too. And this is goddamn America! Which means micro-aggression and the First Amendment stay God-given rights. There’s that little voice that says: ‘you catch more flies with honey’ [a dastardly cliché, but workable].
Nevertheless, you recall you are here for the gradations of hard-hitting messages put in a nutshell: deconstructed, renovated, scrutinized and repackaged into what is supposed to be a nonconforming MCU flick — a deviation from the norm. That’s why you are watching a second time. To digest. Look at us, you think. How we’ve grown from the cliché trope: bad guys dishing a beating, right before the lead hero swoops in for the girl, in the end, planting an uncalled-for kiss on her trembling lips, the moon making silhouettes of them.
Like some, you are here for the culture. For duty. You realize you are also now, deviously, thinking as a writer. Eavesdropping is your failing. It is how you survive the odium of socializing, of people, and taxes, and problems. And so, you do it. Taking mental notes, as writers are cursed to do. It can be argued that you are a hobby blogger, no critical race theorist; and that your next blog post will be fire. Even though, in reality it will be rife with that cringe-worthy nascent bravado common to millennial observers. Still it will feel, to you, as though you are standing on the broad shoulders of the current neo-liberal precarity, upsetting the patriarchy— like a cold drink finding nerve-endings of a rotten tooth. Fuck, Donald Trump. You think of this as a title. Instead, you tone it down. After all, you are still a bloody, deportable immigrant, ma nigga. New title: What to expect — you start — when expecting to see Black Panther.
This is a hands-down compilation of what that blog post might read like:
These commentaries were eavesdropped from stuff whispered during the movie. (Numbered, but not ranked; here are some paraphrased shades [aka put downs, aka methodological critiques] from the innocuously uninformed and for the calculatingly hateful, mostly white pipu, seated one row behind me.)
1. “Getty Images, really? They could do better for a high budget movie?” — said one frat-kid, mommy’s-boy, comic nerd, outchea for the special effects. The subtle technicalities.
Frankly, what he is unwittingly trying to say after a lifetime staple of movies from the Marvel comic Universe (MCU) is that he is here for the status quo, the comforting congruence of the movie with the comic book, and more importantly, to measure the cinematographic practicality in handing over a 200-million dollar movie budget to an embryonic black director. [Too woke?]
Who cares. You are now channeling that Malcolm X shit.
Key Myth: “Black films don’t travel.” A typical black cast, black storyline, and black directed movie will not do well. The forecast by film execs and Box office pundits are average. One can only hope this pavement critic has studied up on hit-making, trendsetting black movies like Blade, Dead Presidents, Moonlight, Brown Sugar, Boyz in the Hood, Hidden Figures, Straight Outta Compton, Creed, Bad Boys, etc. MCU, in any case, has singlehandedly bankrolled and constructed a hegemonic narrative such that a generation of millennials has inaccurately grown up on a staple of only white heroes and black or darkly-clad villains. There could also be nothing more discomfiting that have a black director at the helm.
 By the time of publishing, MCU’s Black Panther has set new records: now the highest-rated superhero film ever on Rotten Tomatoes, the biggest opening for any black director ever, and the highest-grossing first week MCU movie earning over $704 million worldwide.
2. “How’s that dude talking with that mouth thing? What’s up with them neck extending things? Wicked!” — said by some chap whose felonious knees behind my chair kept me re-imagining How to Get Away with Murder. I could get up, put down my popcorn and go for a roundhouse kick, or a Bruce Lee signature move. And while he whimpers, wheezing for air. While the other nice white folks gasp and grab their chests at this display of black brutishness, I would lean in and whisper this in his ears. “I bet that was you on Twitter?”
Key Myth: Africa = Weird. The copper or brass neck ring known as “Indzila” seen around the neck of General Okoye (Danai Gurira) and her Wakanda Royal Guard, the Dora Milaje [pronounced “DOR-ah muh-LAH-jay”] derives mostly from the Ndebele tribes of South Africa and Zimbabwe. If you search well enough, you can also find metal-based chokers with other tribes in Myanmar. An integral part of their culture, they symbolize wealth, eminence, mystical potency, and matrimonial loyalty. Don’t quote me. However, if you prod well enough, for long enough, you could get me started on the severe appropriation of Indigenous Fashion to cringe-worthy levels by fashion houses in the West, by Coachella kids [tryna get me a lil’ culture] and American blacks [trying for some Africanness, to be woke and rightly trendy], and Matt Damon saving Asia from itself in that 2016 Hollywood-Chinese co-production of The Great Wall.
Also, (I want to say to the wheezing young man) how you like me now, sucker?
3. “Rated the entire movie a 2 of 10 soon as I heard that line: “What are thoooose?” By some dude with popcorn crumbs still in his beard. Part 1.
Key Myth: Westernization Sucks, Mostly! I agree with this commenter, but only to the extent, our understanding of that meme-fueled line is the same. Most regions of Africa suffer [and benefit] from epidemical levels of western influences in spheres of their social lives. With keen eyes, we see this also creep into the Wakandan culture. For example, in the modified [read: westernized] handshakes between Shuri (Letitia Wright) and T’Challa. In one glorious scene, Shuri flips T’Challa the bird [a very western thing to do, much less to one older than you are]. Shuri’s norm-defying nifty outfits too are tinged with innovation from western influences [a deliberate addition to the movie]. We also see this mal-phenomenon made evident when M’baku (Winston Duke) the badass Jabari Liege, points out the outrageousness of having a young’n defy age-old, cultural rigidity [aka patriarchy] and mores by interrupting the crowning ceremony of her older brother, King T’Challa. This she does with a snickering jest at how boring the ceremony was getting.
4. “Dayum. Those Jabari dudes are big AF.” — Same dude with popcorn crumbs still in his beard. Part 2.
Key Myth: Black Brutes. Keep Your Hands Where I Can See Them. We see this when M’Baku and his mountain-tribe cronies — by a play of camera angles — are made to look like fire-breathing, goliath-looking seven footers. This cinematically-perfect depiction of savagery is further corroborated by their royal insignia — The Silverback Ape. The animalistic arranging of blacks is age-old. In 1900, a slave owner, Charles Carroll wrote a seminal book: ‘The Negro a Beast’. In it, he uses a theological analogy from the Christian Bible to posit that blacks are more akin to apes than to human beings, born to do grunt work as they are technically, unevolved, uncivilized miscreation [my summary]. Today, black men are still considered brutish, savage, red in claw and tooth, and animalistic. This tracks to the slavers believe in efficiently sturdy and yet compliant Africans better-suited for slavery. It tracks back to the exquisite white woman, Ms. Galloway, who clutches her purse in the elevator, to the father who spits and disowns his negro-loving daughter on video, to today’s anti-black police brutality and over-killing of black and brown men by the hour, it also tracks to a University of Virginia study presenting scandalous fractions of white medical students and nurses who still believe that black people are resistant to pain [“have thicker skin and have blood the coagulates quicker”]. Even now, a brotha removes the bass from his voice, speaking softly, slowly, rocking that fake smile. A brotha trades in the hoody for something less threatening. Again, the whiteness of our imagination is guaranteed.
5. “Where can I get me some of that scarf thing?” — Lady waiting with friends by the restroom for that one friend who drank too much soda pop.
Key Myth: Cultural Appropriation? Who Dis? Firstly, fashion is exceedingly political. This includes the colors, the hairstyles, the choice of jewelry, the pattern prints, the amount of flesh exposed or concealed, the factory in Holland in which a boubou is printed, and so on. With much respect to Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler (Production designer), costumes in the movie were decidedly “techno-funky” and heavily and correctly inspired by contemporary African tribes such as the uber-fashionable Zulu, Maasai, Tuareg, and Himba tribes [Google them], and fashion designers like Oswald Boateng. Ring a bell? Cultural appropriation is disrespectful. It is perhaps the vilest vestige of oppression — its like taking candy from a baby and daring the baby to cry, louder. When indigenous groups practice and display these cultures, it irks the average onlooker. When appropriate by a dominant ethnicity or race, we celebrate innovation and daring [think cornrows on Kylie Jenner]. Imitation is not always the highest form of flattery. And respect is reciprocal.
6. The irksome laughter from some black folks in the audience on hearing this line. “My name is T’Challa, son of T’Chaka.”
Key Myth: Black Names Be Foolish AF. African names, like most Black names, are unique. Having a transcendental meaning that ascribes eminence to a numinous savior or ancestry. My first name, Chuka, etymologically sourced from Chukwuka, means “God Almighty is Great.” Most black names are linked to a sense of African Pride, demanding a familiarity with enunciating every alphabet and diphthongs, while correspondingly provoking — you guessed it — White Ridicule. And while we now feel comfortable pronouncing and memorizing problematic European and Anglicized names even when they sound materially problematic to pronounce [think Dostoyevsky, think Rachmaninoff] it is noteworthy that by the 17th century, slaves began to invent or revise their names as satisfying acts of resistance to the fundamentally ludicrous names given by their slavers [sometimes even ironical names like Caesar, and Kitt for the handyman]. To be reasonable, Caucasians and [even Africans] often express elitist and racist derision at creative African American names [a push from European names began in the 60’s], most of which are considered black sounding, usually spelled with an eccentric transmutations of consonants — DeNosius, Tyrascius, Bombquisha, Latavious, Champagne, Mercedes, Devonte, Tayshaun, Deontay, Taraje, Kizzy, Jermajesty, Kereaun, and Lashawn. Paradoxically, a black blogger [whose website has been taken down] posted a denunciation of “stupid” names in this uber-plagiarized quote: “classifying African American names into “Swahili Bastardizations” (Shaquan), “Luxury Latch-ons” (Prada), “Megalomaniacal Descriptors” (Heaven) and “The Unfathomably Ridiculous” (Anfernee)”. So next time, the sensible thing to do would be not to laugh when you hear it: My name is T’Challa, son of T’Chaka, or in this case, My name is Chuka, son of Obinwa.
7. “I counted just two light skinned chicks in there.” — says the heavily-bronzed girl. Half an hour every day she lounges under the lid of a Planet Fitness tan bed.
Key Myth: One Word. Colorism. I am tempted to ask you to Google the noun Colorism. This is what you would find: Pulitzer Prize winner, author, and activist, Alice Walker coined the term in 1983 in her book ‘In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens’. The term is a prejudiced manifestation of internalized racism taking the form of discrimination against people with darker skin, by members of the same race. Colorism is, in fact, a nuanced subject matter. Vastly too extensive for this class. Because, where do we begin? The fact that according to WHO, to realize whitened, ‘more beautiful’ skin, 77 percent of women in Nigeria use skin-lightening products, in a process known as bleaching, to foster a legacy of colonization–the world’s largest market? The fact that these numbers are just as stark in the West Indies, India (61%) and in East and Southeast Asia? The fact that the disparities in shades of blackness [#Teamlightskin vs. #Teamdarkskin] stem from distinctions of self-hate among diasporic Blacks, including Afro-Latinx with darker skins [habitually raped into existence by their blonde, blue-eyed colonizers, and slavers]? There are eco-friendly experiments in eugenics to make folks whiter. Apartheid in South Africa was a fine mix of colorism and racism [where 35 percent of women use skin lightening creams to stay politically correct]. Do we also have time to talk about the caste system in India? Of the multibillion-dollar skin-lightening industry, abetting the fashion industry’s appetite for fair maidens? I’d take a wild guess here: unlike a majority of typical black roles in Hollywood movies cast by lighter skinned blacks, the Black Panther casting director may have subconsciously, defiantly cast a gorgeously dark-skinned cast. Juno Diaz reminds: “Even among us, the oppressed, whiteness in our imagination is guaranteed.” It’s in the little ways we strive to be mediocrely anything but some kind of white. The Chicagoan blues singer, Big Bill Broonzy, once referred to be “tar black” among other striking other physical attributes, said it best in his protest song Black, Brown and White Blues — ,
“They say if you’s white, should be all right,
If you’s brown, stick around,
But if you’s black, well, brothers, get back, get back, get back.”
8. “Black folks can do the most, how does this bro expect us to see through that hairdo?” — As heard in the dark from folks groggily making their way out of the theatre.
Key Myth: Black–Esteem and Afro-Eccentricity. Black folks have a complicated history with the concept of joy, mirth and happiness, post-slavery and post-colonization, and now with an America, for the first time, struggling to adjust to diverse liberties for one and all. We are taught how sinful, maybe even extravagant it can be to nourish black-esteem, to pamper ourselves: to indulge the easy pleasures of hiking a national park while black, or wearing your locks in ways considered untidy and unprofessional, or going for a run too early in the morning or too late at night. We are collectively incorporated into variations of sardonic happiness and melancholy as measured by Happiness Indices [ironically, not a few predominantly black and developing countries are considered to have relatively happier people. In 2001 of over 157 countries ranked by happiness, Nigerians ranked 6th happiest people in Africa and 95th happiest in the world. Last year, Nigeria ranked 103th, the USA placed 13th]. We have been taught to be content with modesty, with good behavior, to look over our shoulders as we measure ourselves against the correctness of the room, the street, the county, the state. The radiations of white supremacy make it okay for white folks to feel and manifest righteous angst when people of other races and cultures engage with simple stuffs like say, God forbid: speak their indigenous languages at an airport lounge [this is America, we speak English], or wear a hair-do in public spaces [how dare they?], or eat their smelly food on a Greyhound bus, anything that makes them the other, anything that displays defiance, or a fervently significant filiation to an original ethos. W. Hart remarks: “Afro-eccentricity is a critical pun and trope, [a burlesque of the Afrocentric idea] that mimics, underscores, and reminds us of the difference within the same, the manifold within of American black people.” Black eccentricity has been put on a pedestal, handed a mic and asked to defend itself constantly. To critics, cultural acceptance seems a needless proposition, bandied by the radically Woke or namby-pamby neo-liberal folks in their little book clubs and coffee dates– I imagine, this would constitute a racist’s internal soliloquy. I also imagine this proverbial racist, is mightily concerned by the hashtags: #BlackBoyJoy and #BlackGirlMagic.
Meanwhile, there are classic exceptions and omissions to the positions held above. So that discussing them here would be like having that proverbial argument with the village madman and resident drunk, who makes it a point of duty to point out to you, a fellow sane observer, those others who are, indeed, miserably, and seriously mad. Are people of color immune from racialized stereotyping describing how laughable, even outlandish wypipo do some white people stuff? Yes, of course. We could not be further from that la di da perfection. Indeed, the indication of a racial utopia is an excruciating escapade. Critical race theorists and scholars have pushed to do away with the utopia that is color-blindness or distinctions by color [no such thing as “I don’t see color.”] The same group have also discarded anti-Black movements that uphold only affirmative action and not the pragmatics of merit, intersectionality and political determinants of racial distinctions [or levels of whiteness]. But there is the kicker, sooner or later, you pick a side. You don’t try to, you just do. Either by ethnicities. Either by broad swatches of races. White. Black. Brown. African. Native American. Asian. Latinx. Multiracial. Undecided [Here, notice those the writer has failed to mention]. Those who exhibit phenotypically as one race, but ideologically identify with another color will also persist. In the movie theatre, busy watching Black Panther, it can be construed that a predominating race consciousness with something as simple as yet another MCU movie, is how we help perpetuate racism in the first place, even where the intention was once noble, even by a PoC writer making a mountain of a molehill. It can also be argued that it is even more worrying, to have a generation of millennials make such broad, uninformed generalizations about fundamental facets of a foreign culture, downplaying the omnipotent leftovers of racism and colonization. Imagine a world were the social discrepancies are based on other mundanities, and not on race, class, religion, and politics. A world where we all just get along. What a drab existence. What will we have left to fight about? Monday morning, in the break room, an anxious Becky, giddy as a schoolgirl would ask what you think of Black Panther. “The movie,” she corrects. [She saw the movie over the weekend. Thinking of you all along. “Speak freely,” she encourages, asking with that glint in her eyes. A ruse has been set.