Opinion: The Power of Wakanda
At this point, it’s safe to say that most of us have been to Wakanda and back. Many have been multiple times, and some of you probably already have a summer home there. “Black Panther” has lived up to all of its expectations and has become a cultural phenomenon. The film puts Black culture in the forefront in an extremely authentic and unapologetic way.
In the film, the title character, Black Panther, is the King of Wakanda, which is a fictional country in Africa that has never been colonized. Everything there is FUBU, For Us By Us. It is Black, Black, and more Black. It is a place where Black men are kings who yield to their wives without question. Black women are always respected and utilized for their strength and intellect. It is a nation with great wealth and resources. To put it simply, Wakanda is where every Black person wants to be.
“Black Panther” creates a fantasy that allows us to escape and to get lost in the idea of superheroes. But for Black people, the film offers an additional fantasy. It is a fantasy that allows us to vividly imagine what life could have been like if our ancestors had never been enslaved. It allows us to imagine a world where we don’t carry the daily burden of oppression. We imagine a world where Black men aren’t automatically perceived as threats and killed without consequence. We imagine a world where Black women aren’t sexualized, dismissed, or belittled. We imagine a world where our children can grow up knowing that they truly have limitless opportunities. That is why this movie is so important. It allows us to stop and ask, “What if?”
What if slavery never happened? What if we were allowed to stay in Africa and thrive and grow as a people? What if our ancestors were given the option to immigrate to America as opposed to being forced from their homes? For us, Wakanda is the American dream that we never had.
When I think about all of the “what ifs,” I can’t help but think about HIV and the continued burden that it carries within the Black community. What if Wakanda had the cure? Or, better yet, because of their structure and technology, what if HIV never even existed. We know that systematic racism, sexism, and homophobia have contributed greatly to the epidemic. If we lived in a world where these systems of oppression didn’t exist, then it’s likely that HIV wouldn’t impact communities in the way it does. But, unfortunately these systems do exist. And we have to continuously work to dismantle them.
Wakanda may be a fictional country but it provides a hope and a framework for the world we want to see. We want to see a world where the natives get to keep their land and build their communities as they see fit. A world where there are no systems of oppression in place and where Black men and women are not only free but they are valued and revered at all times. A world that provides endless opportunities and everyone’s ambitions are supported. And finally, we want to see a world where HIV/AIDS is completely eradicated and becomes a distant memory.
That is the world I want to live in. “Black Panther” makes us believe that anything is possible. It gives hope and motivates us to keep fighting for ourselves. Never stop fighting. Never stop believing. Wakanda Forever!