The much-anticipated Black Panther movie hit the theaters last Friday, and it looks like it was a success.
However, the conversation regarding race continues to accompany the movie. Last week, The New York Times published a piece that was originally entitled, “Who’s Allowed to Wear a Black Panther Mask?” Apparently, after they realized how ridiculous that headline sounded, they changed it to, “The Many Faces of Black Panther.”
Okay, that second title is still pretty ridiculous, but not quite as bad.
On Twitter, The Times posted a tweet discussing the article. It read, “As children glom onto #BlackPanther, their parents wonder how best to talk to them about race, racism and cultural appropriation.”
Should White Kids Dress As Black Panther?
The article explores whether or not white kids should dress up as King T’Challa — AKA Black Panther — when seeing the film. Yes, that’s right. Because of The Times, I have to write a piece explaining why it’s okay for all children to dress up as a black superhero. Thanks, Gray Lady.
As a parent, I think the notion that we need to use this film to discuss racism with our children is absurd. But am I alone in this? Has the Black Panther movie caused other parents to worry about discussing these issues with their children?
Let’s take a look.
Do People Really Care?
Black Panther is not the first black superhero to be depicted in film. Blade, the vampire hunter, and Storm, of the X-Men, and Spawn have all been featured on the silver screen. Both Falcon and War Machine have appeared in the Avengers movies. Additionally, Luke Cage has his own series on Netflix and also appears in “The Defenders.”
Before Black Panther, Blade and Spawn were the only black superheroes with their own film. No, Halle Berry’s “Catwoman” doesn’t count. As far as I’m concerned, that movie never happened.
While black superheroes are no strangers to Hollywood, Black Panther is the first that features a mostly black cast. Additionally, the character happens to be the first and most popular black superhero. These factors might be why the film has sparked a national conversation about race. When you take a closer look, it’s easy to see The Times concerns are unfounded. In an interview with Buzzfeed, Sterling K. Brown, who stars in the film stated that he was happy that children of all races would dress as T’Challa:
“This Halloween, the first time I see a little kid, a white kid, dressed up as Black Panther, I’m taking a picture. You better believe I’m taking a picture because that’s the crossover.”
Chadwick Boseman, the actor who plays Black Panther, also saw white kids embracing Black Panther as a positive thing:
“I’ve seen little white kids dressed up as T’Challa. I’ve seen pictures, and I’ve seen it in person. You know, I’ve seen, like, family members’ kids, friends’ kids. They show up on Halloween, and they’re the Panther, and they understand that I’m the Panther, and they want to show me.”
Most of the parents that spoke with The Times about the movie were positive about white kids dressing up as a black superhero. One stated that it was important for “a white kid to be so open and judge based on the character’s story and the personality and history.” She also said that she thought it was “great to have a black superhero you can identify and connect to.”
But wait. What about racism? What about cultural appropriation? Don’t worry, The Times couldn’t let us finish the piece without injecting at least some social justice dogma.
Well, Maybe Some People Care
Brigitte Vittrup, a professor at Texas Woman’s University, ensured that The Times’ article retained its “wokeness” by reminding us of the importance of teaching our children about race and inequality. “White people have the privilege of not constantly being reminded of their race in the United States, where white is the majority, whereas as a black person you don’t.”
Well, Ms. Vittrup, the joke’s on you, because by including your quote, I just reminded every white person who is reading this that they are white. Good thing too, because I’m sure it’s easy to forget if they don’t constantly have a mirror handy.
She went on to state that the growing popularity of other black superheroes can create an opportunity to “teach nonblack children about the black experience.” Vittrup also said. “There’s a lot of structural inequality in our society, and kids are noticing that. By not mentioning it, by not talking about it, we’re essentially preserving the status quo.”
Here’s a surprise: I don’t fully disagree with what Vittrup said. I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking to your children about people from different races and cultures when you feel it is appropriate. She’s right when she says that completely ignoring the issue isn’t helpful. However, this does not mean we should teach our children to become obsessed with race.
We should feel free to enjoy characters like Black Panther without having to worry about bigotry and cultural appropriation. These issues do not have to permeate every aspect of our lives. While The New York Times may not have intended to, they have demonstrated that parents and their children are not as fixated on skin color as the left wants us to believe.
I have a confession to make: I haven’t seen the movie yet. Yes, I know I’m a disgrace.
However, I do intend to see it — because I like superhero movies, not because the main character is black. Furthermore, I will not be discussing issues of race, racism, or cultural appropriation with my children because of the film. And hopefully, I will not have to write another piece on Black Panther — until Halloween.
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