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Wakanda Forever MAG
frica is a barren wasteland with a poor economy, starving people, bad politicians.
These are the things that I grew up hearing as a child of a Kenyan mother and a Ugandan father. People assumed that just because I had relatives from Kenya and Uganda, that I lived in a hut, had no electricity and was a starving child. After that, I would politely correct them that I was not starving, I was born in WakeMed Hospital and that the worst problem I had as a nine-year-old was that my parents wouldn’t let me watch “Spongebob Squarepants.”
There are lots of unfair and inaccurate stereotypes about both Africans and African Americans, and when information is portrayed about them, it’s often skewed extremely to the left or to the right. The movies with predominantly black casts aren’t relatively known or talked about. This negatively impacts us a people, but there are solutions to ending discrimination and misrepresentation.
Dating back to the times of the civil rights movement, black people have not only been fighting for equality, but also fighting to be perceived as equals to their white peers. While laws have improved for African Americans since then, modern studies show that the portrayal of African Americans in media has not. In an article by The Washington Post called “How the News Media Distorts Black Families,” a study is mentioned where a research team “examined more than 800 relevant stories published or aired from January 2015 through December 2016, encompassing coverage from national broadcast and cable news outlets such as ABC, CBS and MSNBC; national mainstream newspapers like The Washington Post, The New York Times, and USA Today; and online news sites. In both written and television reporting, the researchers found that the news media systemically misrepresented black families.” News stories often report police officers in faraway states being shot by a black boy or man. Black people are arrested simply because they match the physical criteria for the shooters. Oh, and by the way, the only criteria is being black. So if black people are seen in media mostly committing crimes or as high school dropouts or as active killers, what are you going to think the next time you see a black person – a black student – isolated in the hallways?
In an article by The Atlantic, Joe Pinsker references studies showing that Americans believe over half of the overall population that is in poverty is made of black people. At the time of the study in 2013, only 23% of Americans living in poverty were black. Yet, the study by Bas W. van Doorn, a professor of political science at the College of Wooster, in Ohio, studied 474 news stories about poverty at the time – and well over half of them were accompanied by images of black people. In short, the media perpetuates the idea that being black is synonymous with being poor.” The same study also showed that in 2008, “only 37.6 percent of Americans considered black people hardworking.” Too often in the media, black people are portrayed as lazy and undeserving of America’s great welfare plan. In fact, the study also showed that although only “38 percent of welfare recipients are black, 80 percent of the people pictured alongside Newsweek’s stories on welfare were black.” It’s no wonder why welfare payouts are unpopular with American citizens who think that African Americans have a bad work ethic.
If ideas like this are encouraged by the media, people’s perceptions will become warped. The media seems fixated on portraying people who don’t look like they do in a negative light. If the media portrays African Americans poorly and incorrectly, how do you think your perception and the perceptions of your peers will ever change? If perceptions change, then thoughts and words will change.
I am an African American, and I have experienced these false perceptions personally. Last semester, I took English 1 Honors, which was not a fun class for me. It requires deeper thinking and more independent work. That wasn’t the difficult part, though. The difficult part was the boy who sat in front of me. I’ll call him Dylan.
Dylan was a boy who made it very clear the first day that we were not going to be friends. Fine by me. But when he turned around and saw the cover of my English binder, he smacked his forehead. I wasn’t embarrassed about what was on my binder; I was more upset that he would make another stupid comment about it. On the front of my binder was a picture of Poe Dameron from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” He is a pilot for the Rebellion. His picture is still on the binder and on my wall in my room, in addition to the Star Wars calendar I got for Christmas.
So when Dylan turned around and smacked his forehead, I was on red alert. “A black person,” he said, “can’t like a Mexican.” He sneered the words ‘black’ and ‘Mexican’ like he didn’t want our teacher to catch him cursing.
I didn’t understand what the problem was with the picture. It was well drawn and clear, so why did it matter? He’s not even Mexican; he was born in Guatemala. But Dylan said it like people who aren’t white are outliers or pieces of data in a study. I was used to him making fun of my obsession with Star Wars, but not of him making fun of my racial standing.
If we don’t take action and tear down the racial boundaries in this country, we won’t be able to live as humans. We’ll lose the ability to communicate properly and civilly. We have to learn that there are people who aren’t like us – but just because they aren’t like us doesn’t mean we treat them or see them any differently than the people who do look like us. So here’s the solution: representation, the proper kind.
We need movies with casts that are predominantly black or other races besides white. “Black Panther” is an excellent example of a movie with a predominantly black cast. There are only two white actors in the whole movie, and Ryan Coogler, the director, is also black. It takes place in the fictional African city of Wakanda. It features beautiful scenery, fabulous architecture and the most important metal in the MCU: vibranium, used to make Captain America’s shield. It’s a movie that America desperately needs right now, and I agree with Jamil Smith’s opinion in a recent Time article: “It’s a movie about what it means to be black in both America and Africa – and, more broadly, in the world. Rather than dodge complicated themes about race and identity, the film grapples head-on with the issues affecting modern-day black life. It is also incredibly entertaining, filled with timely comedy, sharply choreographed action and gorgeously lit people of all colors.”
We need to keep making movies from the black perspective that aren’t about drugs or crime. We need to show them to people – show them to our kids – and tell them that there are different colors of people, but that’s not a bad thing. I think we’re well on our way to making things better, and I highly encourage everyone to see “Black Panther.”
Can I be real for a moment here? I’m kinda sick of all-white movies. I’m sick of black people being seen as lazy and dangerous. I’m sick of not having dolls with dark skin and bodies that look real. I’m kinda sick of the fact that little girls like past me will grow up with white friends and view themselves as inferior because of their skin.
I’m sick of misrepresentation. Even though you probably can’t relate to seeing people who look nothing like you, I can.