Not A Movie Review: Black Panther vs. #YPIPOtho?
My Uncle John introduced me to comic books, most notably MAD Magazine. He played folk songs on his acoustic guitar and taught my brother to flip olives over Grammie's chandelier. John was my Godfather in the old Catholic way; he was a Viet Nam veteran and a great father when he finally had kids of his own. He died young, seven years ago. I think today was his birthday.
We were oblivious to any insidious racism in comic books. We were kids, and took things literally. Some of those characters were blue, for God's sake. The adults in my young life never addressed the issue of racism at all, because it didn't affect us. People are people to us. This did not prepare me for the real world.
So I learned some awesome new hood Latin, and I apologise to my patient friends for possibly ruining this for them: WYPIPO. It's phonetic - think about it. No? Okay, try this:
There are people in the real world, people who allegedly have pulses, who think the movie Black Panther is too..black. They're white. White People. WYPIPO. Get it now? I am so ashamed.
A Really White White Guy I know went to see the movie over the weekend. I asked him:
"Did you think it was...too black?"
Even in email I could tell he was looking sideways at me.
He said that, in his opinion, the topic of race was handled perfectly, as in not at all. It was not a subject. It was a bunch of people doing what they do as people, because that's what they are. Since I haven't seen the movie yet, he's not discussing it further. But he's looking at me funny for even asking the question. He is sad that this is a thing. Please let's not let it be a thing.
WHY, WYPIPO? Why first of all would this even matter to you? If you are bothering to comment, there's some level of discomfort going on in your mind. You owe it to yourself and your children to sit down and figure out what bothers you. Is it something you believe? Something somebody told you to believe? Is it something you felt or or related to an event you witnessed?
Now think hard: is this real, or are you finding stories to justify some instinctive reaction (i.e. latent childhood memory)? You can find someone else to blame for this, I promise. It's not Black people, though. They didn't do this to you.
When we were oblivious white kids reading comic books, and some of our adults were busy creating invisible partitions to separate Us from Them, the Whypipo did not give a thought to what all the Them people were going to do once they were excluded from Us. They just wanted everybody Not Like Us, for whatever reason at all, to be invisible.
What do you think Them did?
WELL GOT DAMN. They lived. They breathed, they cooked dinner, went to work, had birthday parties, bought new outfits, made friends, learned to play violin and paint portraits...they read comic books. Yep.
I have this on good authority. They read all the comic books with White heroes, too, because those heroes aren't White - they're just Heroes. And the blue guy was usually a nefarious villain. But when a hero isn't a Whypipo, he gets an additional descriptor: Black Hero. Hero of Color. And you know what else? Black people didn't do that first, either. Whypipo did. Editors, inkers, publishers - have you heard of the Harlem Renaissance? You know why that's a thing? Because art and literacy and magic will not be suppressed. There's a law of physics to that effect, yet unidentified.
So here's a whole fantasy world - Wakanda - where kids and former kids get to run free and not look at anyone trying to exclude them. They didn't exclude you. You can watch the movie.
Whypipo, what did you want Them to do when you excluded them from us? You can't just put everyone you don't like outside the wall. Even if you do, they flourish. Get over yourself.
If you have Amazon Prime, you can read The Black Panther on your Kindle. If you don't have a Kindle device, Amazon will be glad to hook you up with the desktop version. I have it on mine.