Why Black Panther is Necessary for the Mental Health of Black People
February 17th, 2018 by Cultural Therapy
Since the announcement of the Black Panther movie, Black people have been exhibiting all kinds of joy and excitement for a film that represents Black culture in a positive light. Here are some reasons why this film is so important to the well-being of Black people across the globe.
Black Panther is Necessary for the Mental Health of Black People..
Because it has infused the culture with Black pride.
This film has created a movement of Black pride across Diasporic communities, one which acts as an active shield from negative images of Black people. It actively counteracts inaccurate and stereotypical representations of Black communities in the media and replaces those images with accurate and positive depictions.
A person’s mental health is highly reliant on one’s self-concept and self-worth. Negative images of one’s racial group can contribute to an experience known as internalized racism, which is the development of self-hatred and resistance to identifying as Black. The ability to love one’s own Blackness, which is to develop a healthy racial identification, relies heavily upon an exposure to significant role models with whom one can identify with. Black Panther has turned internalized racism on its head by creating a cultural atmosphere where Black pride is booming and solidifying the joy and delight that comes from being Black.
Because it has once again reminded us that Black Lives Matter.
We live in a society where the importance of Black lives and Black minds have to be proclaimed and protested. This was no different for those who resided outside of the Wakandan empire, as the film attempted to infuse aspects of the current social barriers and resistances Black people currently face in the world. Still, the film was filled with messages related to the humanity of Black people and the preservation of Black lives, Black minds, and Black communities across all nations.
One such instance in which Wakandan King, T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, shows his own nation just how critical it is to preserve Black lives and Black leadership was when he spared the life of his challenger to the throne, and leader of the Jabari tribe, M’Baku. King T’Challa’s words to his opponent, “You have fought with pride…your people need you,” is exemplary of how valuable he saw M’Baku’s life to be.
This scene symbolically contrasts what we are accustomed to seeing in the media today, which is Black people being senselessly killed, rather than being allowed a chance to live and be well. It changes the spectators’ lens, by allowing us to see the safekeeping of a Black life and helps reinforce the message that Black Lives do indeed matter.
Because it has shared with mainstream society an uncontaminated view of Black cultural values.
Every scene in the movie teaches us about responsibility for the continuous expansion of Black culture and Black values. Having a collective goal of commitment to Diasporic accomplishments, resources, and empowerment helps in the construction of a positive racial identity that is essential to remedy the negative emotional effects created by the constant messages of racial inferiority that commonly flow through mainstream culture. Black values, such as harmony amongst groups, the importance of family, love at the center of existence, and women in positions of power are all emphasized throughout the film in an unfiltered and authentic way. It reminds us of the reasons why these values have been sustained for centuries.
Because it provides us with a model for confidently confronting colonialism, discrimination, and cultural appropriation.
Black Panther has so eloquently produced several scenes in which its characters model how the knowledge about our own histories can be a source of empowerment in light of oppression. The film does this in several ways. It continuously acknowledges the historical and present day prejudice, racism, and discrimination. The first step in confronting oppression is the recognition of its existence, which is integrated into the general narrative of the film.
Shuri, the Princess of Wakanda and sister of Black Panther, which was played by Letitia Wright, humorously screamed “Don’t scare me like that, colonizer!” to a White CIA agent who snuck up behind her. Her immediate and confident use of the word colonizer was her assertion of his role in history and her clear understanding of it, which made for a very powerful interaction.
Eric Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, also proclaimed his understanding of colonialism and cultural appropriation in his interaction with a white museum conservator. In a scene where this conservator was describing the origins of different artifacts in an exhibition, Killmonger challenged her knowledge and appropriation of these items by asking the conservator “How do you think your ancestors got these? Do you think they paid their price or did they steal it like everything else?”
One’s ability to confidently and appropriately address issues related to colonialism and oppression reinforces one’s self-image and self-esteem. Princess Shuri and Eric Killmonger modeled for us how confronting oppression and its constituents head on can be ways to directly cope with the effects discrimination.
Because it has reinstated the idea that we are more powerful together.
Our healthy sense of ourselves also depends on our perceptions of power: who is in power and whether the people in power belong to our racial group. This helps us create an understanding of what we are capable of achieving, which is especially so in early childhood. Seeing the movie screen filled with Black people in positions of power, ruling nations, leading entire communities, helps build high self-esteem, confidence, and a healthy sense of self-worth. The film’s expression of collective and individual survival, spirituality, and justice demonstrate how mighty and resourceful Black people are singularly and as a unit.
Since a positive self-regard and high self-esteem are grounds for a healthy mental state, it is safe to say that Black Panther has contributed greatly to creating a movement that instills healthy positive well-being for Diasporic communities.
This is why Wakanda is forever!