Black Panther: When Representation is Overdue and Too Little

I couldn’t find a Black Panther cake design for my son’s Wakanda-themed seventh birthday party. So I had to get Funko figures to be the cake topper.

Picture it: Broward County, FL. 2018.

I was chaperoning my first-grader’s field trip to… I forget where. It’s not terribly important.

The bus driver hit a pothole and of course, mass hysteria ensued.

The loudest reaction came from my own son, H (biracial) and his good friend C (Black). They were arguing about who was going to catch the bus if it fell off a cliff.

“This town is an inch1 above sea level,” I told them. “The bus driver can manage. I promise.”

C turned to me with shining eyes, and all the pride in the world on his little face.

“Kelly, H and I got this. We can do anything. There’s a Black superhero now.”

Of all the little boy bravado that all the adults have listened to since the dawn of time, no superhero has ever made a kid feel as empowered as T’Challa did for C that day.

But we have A Black superhero. One. For the 12%2 of the US population that is Black / 40 Million-ish Black people in the US alone.

It took us till 20-freakin-18 to make a movie where the little Black boys who can lift a schoolbus, beat up a school shooter, and kill zombies with their epic farts, can see themselves in a superhero.

That’s what we lost on Friday. 3

To be clear: There was only one Black superhero. We all need to sit with that and be really, really uncomfortable.

And then do better.

RIP Chadwick. My love and condolences to your family.


1Nine feet, ten inches. My brain injury makes me dumb at math.

2Or is it 13% of the US population. Get it together, Wikipedia

3Don’t get me wrong – it’s always the most horrible thing when a human life is lost. Whether humanity has lost a boring insurance salesman or a mega-superstar, it hurts just the same to the people who love the departed. But, some lives touch more than others, and in different wasys.

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