Black Panther Cultural Impact

Was “Black Panther” as good as what I expected? Definitely not… it was even better! “Black Panther” may have been out in theaters for months already, but its hype has not deteriorated.

I went to see “Black Panther” the weekend it was released. Theaters were packed and tickets were selling out fast. Even a week after its release, the line to watch Black Panther had not decreased. Releasing the movie during a four day weekend could be the best decision that Marvel has made yet. But even with the nicely timed release, the movie of course would not have been a success without the great actors, and story line. There was never a dull moment in the movie. I was entertained the whole time. It had enough action, and some jokes here and there, elements that helped grasp the audience’s attention.

The one aspect that I loved about the movie was that it did not just touch the hearts of African-Americans, but also of immigrants. As an American, and daughter of immigrants, I could relate to this movie in various ways, but the one that impacted me the most was of the right to speak any language one pleases. In “Black Panther” there is a scene where the Wakanda general, Okoye,  speaks in her tribal language to T’Challa (Black Panther), while a CIA agent is in their presence. This leads the agent to ask T’Challa, instead of Okoye, “Does she speak english?” Okoye quickly responds in English with, “She speaks English when she wants to.” The moment she said that, the inner me was jumping with happiness, because finally someone on the big screen chose to speak up about this issue.

Throughout history, and even today, people in America are being told to ONLY speak English, or to NOT speak another language. Some even having the audacity to tell others that our soldiers aren’t fighting for us to speak other languages, that they are fighting for our “right” to speak “American.” People should not feel bad speaking in a language besides English in public, and most importantly, people should not be obliged to forget their native language in order to make others feel “comfortable.” I am tired of worrying about making others feel “uncomfortable.” I personally have never been afraid to speak Spanish in public, but I know for a fact that there are many others, children and adults, that do need this reassurance of being told that it is okay to speak another language. “Black Panther” encourages people of all ethnicities and ages to love their culture’s language.

Unfortunately, some children didn’t get the same encouragement from the movie. Or at least the young girl I heard talking in the bathroom didn’t. I was washing my hands after the movie and I overheard a young black girl talking to her mom about how she didn’t want to be like the general. The mom asked her why, and the little girl said that she did not want to speak “African.” I was devastated when I heard her say that, because it showed the negative affect society can have on the minds of the young, when it comes to the topic of speaking other languages. In America, any language besides English appears to be ugly, and it’s not okay and it must change.

Enough decades have passed for people to understand that America is a melting pot, and no one language is better than the other. This is why I thank Marvel for including this scene in “Black Panther,” and presenting the people of Wakanda as people who love their culture, and are proud and unafraid of speaking their language.