65 Reviews. 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. You know? Last year I was praying that Marvel wouldn’t lose its Mojo for just one more movie. Just one. All it had to do was be better than, say, “Ant Man”, which I enjoyed. Just that much. And I’d be happy. This is way above that minimum. It’s like “Star Wars” times “Roots”. I have a hard time imagining what it would be like to be 10 years old and see this happening. No one in the “Liberals damaged black people more than slavery” crowd could have the slightest idea what this is, they are too deeply in denial.
Why is Black Panther hitting so hard?
I’ve listened to plenty of Conservative talk radio. And one of the themes is that the essence of a people is “borders, language, and culture.” The ESSENCE. Consider that for a moment. IF that is true, then what does that say about what was taken from Africans? Names, land, history, mythology, agency, religion, language. Slavery in the U.S. mutated from a simple theft of labor into a theft of ESSENCE. It was turning wolves into dogs. Wiping the hard drive and installing “Slave 1.0” then pretending that was the Original Manufacturer Specifications. The damage is so phenomenal that the men and women who did it engaged in a (mostly unconscious and emergent) multi-generational cover-up, trying to control the image systems (the major CINEMATIC image of black people was D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” and “Gone With the Wind” throughout the entire 20th Century.) That delusion didn’t even BEGIN to break down until “Roots”, but that was television, where the images are smaller than you. Ever notice that “Jurassic Park” feels different on a small screen than a large screen? That when the tyrannosaurs are big enough to eat the audience the experience is different from when you could pick one up and shake it with one hand?
Yeah, me too.
“Django Unchained” and “Twelve Years a Slave” were the first real cracks in that armor, the “CSA”,what I call “The Current Southern Apologia”, the attempt to absolve slavers from responsibility for rape, torture, murder, and kidnapping. The sad thing is that some of their descendants and allies continue to defend the actions. The “Liberals damaged black people more than slavery” people are like arsonists standing over the smoldering ashes claiming that fire-axes did most of the damage. It is an insanity nearly rising to the level of Flat Earthers. Certainly the level of Birthers.
They are asleep, or snakes. At best.
If, specifically, you steal the “essence” of a people, then program them to be servile by killing the aggressive ones and breaking the rest, then after 250 years you set them kinda free…but follow that with 150 years of Jim Crow and Segregation, you have created something truly damaged. And you have to either disown that damage…or defend it, pretend it didn’t happen, or that it was, for instance, no worse than voluntary immigration. More insanity. Let’s see…Europeans, Asians, and even Africans left their homes, fought and sometimes died to come to America, and wrote letters home urging their families to follow them.
And in what universe does that voluntary immigration equate to the situation where people risked life and limb to ESCAPE? Does it really not occur to people that those two states (voluntary immigration and kidnap) are not equivalent? By any chance are these the same people who don’t know the difference between sex, even “bad” sex, and rape?
I never saw Obama coming. Black President? Unlikely. With an African name? Fuggetaboutit. But…in retrospect, it makes sense. He had something no black kid grew up with had. No black person I had ever known until I was in my 30’s. Late 20’s at least.
He knew who he was. Who his ancestors were. The village his father came from in “the mother country”. He knew his name, his history. Wasn’t crippled by the same cultural slaughter. This was precisely why “Roots” was such a sensation, and why Haley was attacked: he was just about the first black America to undo a critical thread of that damage. He actually managed to connect with his ancestors.
What about colonialization? Clearly, it damages the colonized. Yes. But colonialization doesn’t destroy EVERYTHING. Vietnamese, Zulus, Irish still have their names and history even though they are dominated and controlled. And I suggest to you that it isn’t an accident that Barack Obama ascended as he did. He didn’t come from a history defined by his oppressors, didn’t have a name given to him by his grandmother’s rapist. That what you were seeing there was a more natural human being. He wasn’t born standing in a hole.
“What about `Blade’? `Steel’? `Meteor Man’? What about `Falcon’? `War Machine’? Don’t they count?”
In some ways, yes. I was delighted to see them when they came out. (Well, “Blade” anyway.) But not only was he suffering from the same theft of “essence” I speak of, but he was alone in a world of white people. Not to mention a eunuch in a world of sexualized vampires. And when Wes complained, they promised him that Blade would have a love interest in the third movie…until they had his name on the contract. At which point they reneged. And Wes flipped a bit, leading to the problems we’ve all heard about, for which he was blamed. Of course he was. The idea that he was supposed to be happy handing Massa his balls in exchange for a pile of money was so deeply engrained that people never even asked if there might be a REASON that he was angry.
Blade, Falcon, War Machine, Black Lightning…all those black Superheroes lack “essence” in the way I’m using the term. Every one of their ancestors were owned, stripped of everything those Conservative radio commentators consider central to identity.
Why is Black Panther hitting so hard? Because T’Challa has exactly, precisely what was stolen. Name. Language. Culture. Agency. Religion. History. PRECISELY.
Remember what women watching the “No Man’s Land” sequence from “Wonder Woman” were saying? “I didn’t even know I needed to see this.” Female animals are pretty much as dangerous as the males. In a sense humans made a “deal” maybe 30k years ago that the women would focus on the “softness” while males focused on the “hardness”. Both sides get advantage from this, and both sides suffer. And due to the Trifecta of Birth Control, Machine Technology and Peak Population we are entering a new era in history where we are re-negotiating this contract, and it will be to the benefit of all…but those addicted to the past will fight it like crazy. They will lose. But there will be damage in the process. Oh well.
Black people are looking at BP and having that same reaction. Only stronger, IMO. Why? Because men and women aren’t just symbiotic, they are two halves of the same organism. Almost every men and woman has men and women that they know intimately and love deeply. You can’t sink half a boat.
On the other hand, tribes really can hate and exterminate each other. Happens all the time. Slaughter. Exterminate. Genocide. Or…cultural genocide. The theft of “essence.” The nature of the conflict is not “we will organize thusly to produce the maximum grandchildren” but rather “we will either exterminate you or program you into sub-humans, and then pretend that was your natural state. And insist you should be happy.”
And after generations, the survivors accept that programming. And the former masters and their allies can breathe a sigh of relief. They actually got away with that shit!
For a while, yes. Yesterday, an exceptionally fine black writer expressed surprise that I knew this day was coming. It was obvious to me, if I started with the assumption of equality between the races. Black people are not inferior. All cultures are emergent qualities of basic survival wiring. That meant that, given time, it would re-emerge. Oh, yes, it would. Multi-generational damage requires multi-generational healing, however. But it was coming.
And the other half of it, of course: Whites are not some special evil. Americans did what they did to gain labor, discovered there were social (and sexual! Take the #meetoo movement and think for just a moment what sexual abuse is if/when there are no laws against rape or murder. What the hell do YOU think happens? Where do YOU think all the “light skinned black people” came from. Give me a break) benefits. But also realize that, the Chinese have this expression about Riding the Tiger–as exciting as it might be, its dangerous as hell getting off. Especially if you aren’t just riding it, but sodomizing it.
There’s an image.
But what I knew is that if we became full citizens with full rights in about 1970 (the voting rights acts), then all that had to happen was all the white people born before that point dying and we’d be in a new world. Yeah, that sounds brutal, but there it is. That is EXACTLY what I thought. Deal with it. Or don’t. I have run out of fucks to give.
And as that generation, those who had to defend the laws and strictures designed to make it safe to get off that damned tiger without getting clawed died out, their children, in a way they had not for 400 years, could say: “this is bullshit. I don’t need to defend this.”
And as that began to happen, we could say: “wait a minute. If there has been a myth of inferiority, what is the truth? (And trust me, this went all the way to the top. When I was about eight, I was in a white friend’s house and read through an old Encyclopedia Brittanica which stated clearly and for the record that blacks were less intelligent than whites. Thanks a heap. Hey, what do YOU think the “Encyclopedia Wakanda” would say..?)
There is, in other words, an awakening from the Matrix, a system of lies and myths designed to extract labor from one tribe and invest it in another, along with all the methods that made it safe to rape that tiger, and simultaneously absolve oneself of guilt. “Why, slavery was GOOD for those people…”
It’s a version of Charlie the Tuna begging to be eaten. Why, animals LOVE to die for us.
But this is the opportunity. If the CSA is finally breaking down, if the mythologies are dying, then the reality is the bedrock on which we can finally build a home for all. And people both white and black are shaking themselves like people stumbling out of an opium den. Saying: “wait a minute. If you aren’t these servile subhumans you’d have to be to be natural second-class citizens, what the hell are you?”
And as soon as you are far enough from the pain to disown it without defensiveness (“hey. Screw all of that. I want nothing to do with it!”) you want to know what is true. Remember the two core questions?
- Who am I? (What are human beings)
- What is true? (What is the actual map of reality, not the myths or illusions)
The gap between reality and fantasy is dangerous. And it takes energy to sustain that fantasy, especially if you are pushing against a coiled spring like the human spirit. That means that the first person who tells the truth releases that energy…and if you do that through the structure of craft and commerce, there is money to be made.
Are you hearing me, artists? TELL YOUR TRUTH. Dive deep. And you will find others who, for their own selfish reasons, NEED to hear you.
We cannot create our country’s future without shedding the lies of the past. And those who are still addicted to the CSA will hate and fear this discussion. Those who disown it will say: “finally. Someone spoke the truth.”
At the core of art is an impulse, a vision. Mine is the universality of humanity. We are neither good or bad, we are creatures crawling through the muck with our eyes on the stars. We do wonderful things and think we are “bad”, but we also do terrible things and think ourselves “good.”
We can choose which path to take.
And the most “trivial” of our entertainments speak to our basic yearnings. Our view of the world. Those who protest the “politics” of the “SJWs” were perfectly happy with the philosophies that excluded minorities or kept men and women in toxic boxes. That stuff was invisible because it matched their perceptual filters.
“How DARE you wake us up! How DARE you deliberately, consciously alter the narrative. Let us roll over and go back to sleep.”
Well, sure. But if you’re sleeping, you don’t get to drive the bus.
The pressure point, I think, is the intersection of race and gender, and the illusions that served different purposes. It is time for those illusions to die, and for us to explore the realities. This is part of the strength of art. It takes the “Who am I/are we?” and “what is true?” and says that the stories we’ve been told are not the only stories. If you WANT to be free of them, these new stories will be a joy.
But if you NEED to be free of them…they are a revelation, an explosion.
“Dear God. I didn’t even know I needed to see that.”
We are faced with not an improvement on the old myths, but a new set, a chance to start over. But we have to actually look at the past, and welcome the future.
In this case…the afrofuture.