The prison of unfounded positivity

The release of Marvel’s Black Panther really spoke to the Black writers here at Black Girl in Maine Media, and this week, we are offering our reflections on the film. Today Samara Cole Doyon shares her thoughts. 

Like almost every Black person I know, I went to see Black Panther this weekend and have already made plans to see it one more time. One more time this week, that is. Who knows how many times I will see it while it remains in theaters, and you can bet your life I will wear that Blu-Ray out almost as soon as it’s in my collection. To say I enjoyed the latest Marvel comic- turned-blockbuster would not only be an understatement, it would be missing the point entirely. As I told my Facebook friends, this movie was a necessity for personal and collective healing:

I honestly found myself weeping in the theater, not as a reaction to any typical sappy scene, but because I finally had the opportunity to view a black nation projected with beauty and strength. I saw us humanized through the lense of mainstream media, IN A SUPER HERO MOVIE!! After so many years of watching us get shot and left to bleed out in the street, get choked, get locked up, get demonized, being projected as evil, broken, weak and needy, even by those attempting to “help,” I needed this movie more than words could express. The world needed this movie.

After experiencing such an incredible glimpse into true empowerment and liberation, the question naturally arising for many is, “How do we get to Wakanda?” For some, it’s an almost literal line of inquiry: How can we form a separate nation-state, free from the devastation of imperialism, colonization, and white supremacy? For others, it is more of a metaphysical quest: How can we create space in our own communities to foster Black innovation, provide uniform access to quality education, support Black entrepreneurship, and protect ourselves from systematic violence via police brutality, racist legislation, the predatory prison industrial complex, and so on?

There are already more proposed answers to these questions than I have time or energy to give justice to, and I’m sure the discussion will only continue to grow more vibrant, reaching higher and further in the days to come. I’m profoundly grateful for that. I am in awe of the magnitude and the reach of hope and inspiration unleashed by images of our most powerful dreams coming true. The prophetic creativity displayed in Black Panther has breathed fresh life into the next leg of the movement, and we need that same prophetic creativity to sustain us in the work ahead.

It is imperative, however. to balance prophetic dreaming with pragmatic planning. Until Wakanda is on the map, we continue to live, breathe, and move in an environment shaped by all the evils we strive to escape. The scarring is a deep and daily occurrence, and we can’t heal systematically wounded humans until we mend, escape, or destroy the destructive system holding us captive.

I often encounter the idea, and not just from white folks, that we should “just get over” racism.  As though writers like myself intentionally dwell on inequity, oppression, and personal trauma as a means of excusing ourselves from the work of community building or to emotionally manipulate white folks and other privileged people into showering us with charity, leaving ourselves incapacitated to create change. This is backwards, garbage thinking. I don’t want anybody’s pity. It is useless to me, lessening our power and making us smaller in the eyes of the privileged. Furthermore, I understand all humans are working through layers of trauma and oppression, many of which both intersect and transcend the boundaries of race—patriarchy/toxic masculinity, generational abuse, transphobia, homophobia, and economic oppression just to name a few.  Life isn’t peaches and cream for any of us.

I don’t point out the disproportion and intersection of trauma, the many layers of inequity within systematic oppression, to try to earn some martyr’s medal or to excuse myself from continuing the work of the ancestors. I do my best to tell the truth about injustice, because I want us to start acknowledging that our nation and our state can and must do better by the marginalized among us. We can and must create a more beautiful reality for our children to dwell in. I have no desire to move others to pity, but it is imperative that more of us are moved to equitable action, spurred to the labor of reparations.

We can’t create Wakanda by spinning the web of lies so many prefer us to remain trapped within, the prison of unfounded positivity ensuring freedom remains beyond our reach. We can’t pretend slavery and its trauma are in the past, that everyone in this country has the same opportunities, that safety and wellness are a choice—Kum ba ya, hearts and rainbows. No. We must acknowledge the current injustice in order to rectify it. This nation and this state need to seriously address police brutality. We need to address policies restricting access to resources of empowerment, such as quality education, employment, actual healthcare, nutrition, and mortgage loans. We need to create more just and powerful representations of people and communities of color. We need to support POC in their businesses. We need to stop protecting white supremacist terrorist groups and their campaigns of hatred and carnage through distortions of “freedom of speech” and the “right to keep and bear arms.”

There is so much to be done, and none of it will happen if our eyes and our mouths remain shut in order to sustain comfortable delusions. We must lay a foundation of justice, making wrongs right again, so that the dream of Wakanda can become a more tangible reality.

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