With high hopes, I recently went to see Black Panther, and not only did it meet these hopes but it also surpassed them all. Not only did it give a view of people of colour, especially Black people of colour, in a refreshingly positive light but it also gave to brutally realistic narrative of colonialism and the role that the white man had in our oppression, the effects we still feel today.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a British Pakistani who has grown up in Britain, now studying at a British University, being British is a massive part of my identity. But another part of my identity is that of the oppressed, the state that was crippled by colonialism and I still see it as the reason of many of the issues in Pakistan today. It’s hard growing up on two sides of a coin, of the oppressor and the oppressed and finding a way that both can be represented whilst giving them both justice. Moreover, because of the hybridity of my life, it makes culture a hard thing to reconcile with; the West is more secular and so more modern and the East is more traditional and less modern. This is where Black Panther is really important.
The state of Wakanda held their culture and traditions as a priority but this did not take away from the modernity of their state. In fact, it was far more technologically advanced than the West. This challenges the narrative that many of us are given, that the Western model of modernity is the thing to strive for and that the places that we or our families are from are viewed as backwards. Black Panther gives those who don’t find themselves completely in the West a hope that where they come from is just as important and as valid as where they are now. It gives us a platform from which we can be proud of where we come from, not just the parts of us that we see represented and validated by the West.
The use of white characters in the film was phenomenal. Unlike the usual narrative of the POC being the one who supported the white character’s arc. Black Panther did the opposite. The white characters in the film were used to enhance the Black characters and this is so fundamental to the identity of POCs everywhere. For too long, we have been seen as the sidekick, so much so that we have started to believe it ourselves. The narrative for many, is that there is no point in attempting to fight this glass ceiling as it is impenetrable. Black Panther not only shattered it, but gave every POC the tools to do so in a way where our identity is not compromised.
This film gives so much inspiration to so many different people that it will be talked about for a long time. Hopefully, it has the effect to strengthen the identity of people of colour and give us back the pride of home, a place that only exists in the imagination of our parents. The idea of modernity is slowly changing, for us, we can proudly be a hybrid with our heads held high holding the pride of our people. Not the weight of their oppression and bondage.