Washington, DC – As Marvel’s “Black Panther” is smashing box office records weekend after weekend, the one’s who are having the last laugh are the racists. In this era of political correctness, it appears that Hollywood has not lost its sense of humor or it’s ability to continue to perpetuate racial stereotypes all under the guise of celebrating “blackness.”
For those of you who haven’t yet seen “Black Panther,” the movie tells the story of a fictitious (and rightly so) advanced African nation called Wakanda, hidden in plain sight (if only) from the outside world. Wakanda is rich, prosperous and technologically advanced thanks to a fictitious metal (allegedly the strongest metal in the world) called “vibranium.” The irony has not been lost on the producers of “Black Panther” – where the only source of wealth that exists in Africa today is dependent on what comes out of the ground as opposed to what is standing on top of it. From advanced flying hovercrafts, to energy weapons, Wakanda has it all. A rich African society, where different tribes live in harmony in a technologically advanced black paradise. Except that Wakanda does not stay a paradise and the inherent racism of Hollywood is never far beneath the surface of “Black Panther.”
1. Wakanda is No Democracy
The storyline in “Black Panther” reflects real life in Africa today. The former absolute monarch of Wakanda has been assassinated, by a cousin of the crown prince T’Challa, who is also the Black Panther. The transition of power between the deceased king to the young prince can only be classified as barbaric and savage. No council of elders or democratic institutions here. Instead, T’Challa defends his birthright to the throne by offering the other tribes of Wakanda an opportunity to offer up their strongest fighters to challenge T’Challa (stripped of his powers as Black Panther) in mortal combat, a fight to the death to take the throne. Now imagine Hillary Clinton engaged in mortal combat with Donald Trump and you get an idea of how ludicrous the proposition is.
In “Black Panther,” art it seems, imitates life. Today, African transition of powers are not very different from those of Wakanda. Instead of ritual mortal combat, African dictators depose former African dictators in bloody civil wars, that have ravaged the pristine lands of Africa and left the continent in a trail of blood and tears. That Marvel would seek that level of authenticity in their depiction of the African continent just shows how little the black African nation has come. Democratic institutions today in Africa are nothing more than an elaborately staged show intended for brutal dictators to milk their feckless citizens of what little they have.
If even Wakanda – that black utopia – cannot achieve democracy, nor the smooth and non-violent transition of power, what hope do real black Africans have on a continent which is far from the fiction of Wakanda?
2. Wakanda Doesn’t Welcome Immigrants
Although Wakanda is portrayed as technologically advanced nation with seemingly limitless amounts of wealth and prosperity, it too does not want to take in immigrants. In a seminal scene, W’Kabi, who is T’Challa’s second in command remarks that immigrants “bring their problems with them.” Now if even Wakanda, that beacon of all that is the potential of Africa without the alleged ills of colonization, won’t take in immigrants from its own continent, what chances do Africans seeking refuge outside the continent have?
Today black African immigrants are seeking refuge all over the world from war, disease and famine and finding that the rest of the world is giving them the same sort of welcome that Wakanda gives immigrants, a well-defended border and closed doors. Sometimes it’s best to keep African prosperity under wraps, for fear that it’ll attract the neighbors.
So Wakanda is not the social utopia willing to share its limitless supply of vibranium (the fictitious metal that powers Wakanda’s wealth and technology) with the rest of Africa, let alone with the rest of the world. Africa is a land of natural resources, but those resources remain very much stuck in the ground because its people who stand atop the ground can’t agree on who owns what. Now that truly is Africa.
3. Blacks are Portrayed as Wild Gorillas
Of all the racist depictions of blacks in “Black Panther,” arguably none is more racist than the portrayal of Mbaku, who strangely enough bears more than a passing resemblance to B.A. Baracus of the A-Team, otherwise known as “Mr. T.” Mbaku comes to challenge T’Challa for the throne of Wakanda, but far from communicating as a normal human being, Mbaku is depicted as a sort of ape-man, perhaps closer to the missing link than one would care to admit.
Instead of interjecting in a civilized manner to put his point forward, Mbaku and his posse grunt like gorillas and beat their chests as if they just stepped out of the jungles of Wakanda, although in the movie their natural habitat is the snow-covered peaks outside the city. Mbaku then is reflective of how Hollywood deep-down still views blacks – as nothing more than a curiosity – a member of the travelling circus. Mbaku fits that stereotype to a “T” (no pun intended) with his gorilla-style grunting and chest-beating, it looks like you can take an ape out of Africa, but not the Africa out of the ape.
4. Purple Drank Powers the Black Panther
One of the more subtle but no less racist elements of “Black Panther” must no doubt be the use of purple drank in the movie. In the movie, the “Black Panther” gains his superpowers by downing a purple liquid made from a purple flower referred to in the movie as a “heart-shaped” herb. Wakanda’s very own purple drank. Of all the different colors that the herb and the potion could have been, the producers no doubt tipped their hat to purple drank.
Purple drank is a slang term for a concoction which includes an excessively large quantity of prescription-strength cough syrup used as a recreational drug. The mixture became popular in the black hip hop community and originated in Houston.
The cough syrup used in purple drank contains codeine and promethazine. The cough syrup, used in doses much higher than medically recommended, is typically mixed with ingredients such as Sprite or Mountain Dew and optionally a Jolly Rancher hard fruit candy thrown in for extra sweetness. Purple drank is also known as “sizzurp,” “lean,” “syrup,” “drank,” “barre,” “purple jelly,” “Texas tea,” “dirty Sprite,” and “Tsikuni,” but in Wakanda, it’s known as the stuff that powers up and powers down the Black Panther.
It is these subtle racist jibes that truly let “Black Panther” come into its own as an all-rounded racist movie.
5. Civil War is the African Way
Finally, when it comes time for T’Challa to claim his birthright to the throne and challenge his usurping cousin Killmonger, all of Wakanda descends into civil war. Wakanda may be “out of Africa” but it’s still very much a part of Africa in its transitions of power. Even today, smooth transitions of power in Africa are not an acceptable norm, but rather an exception to the norm, bloody conflicts and civil war are seen as a way of life and for one generation to “cleanse” the next.
For all its talk of being a black movie for black people, “Black Panther” stands out as nothing more than a racist caricature of life in Africa – at times violent, primitive, tribal and brutal. Wakanda is no different from the real Africa of today except for the generous computer graphics animation and visual effects. Make no mistake about it, “Black Panther” is nothing more than a con job and the ones who have been had are the very blacks taking their payday loans to watch this movie and washing down their overpriced popcorn with grape soda.