Richard Spencer, Chadwick Boseman, white supremacy and Black Panther.

2017/11/26


 

There’s a thing called White Supremacy and a thing called white superiority. They are not synonymous.

The former term, White Supremacy, refers to the extant state of society where white people generally populate places of power (see: Congress, every boardroom), dominate our media and entertainment (see: the majority of TV shows), and elsewhere (see: the Dove ads) due to centuries of active discrimination against and exploitation of non-white populations.

The latter term, white superiority, is the myth that both originally led to said exploitation and that some now believe is fact because they see the resultant white-dominated society and think, “We did that and no one else could because we’re better.”

Alt-right icon Richard Spencer is one of these believers. He’s trapped in the myth of white superiority. He doesn’t KNOW it’s a myth, the product of so many centuries of White Supremacist culture and policies. He has no idea that the very idea of whiteness as an identity was utterly  non-existent in history until slavery was racialized in colonial America.

Before that point in history, captive Africans worked alongside enslaved indigenous people and white indentured servants. They’d also intermarry and rebel or run away among their class, leading to interracial alliances inconvenient for the ruling class. So the powers that were decided to restrict the slave class to the ones most isolated in the Americas: the Africans. And that’s when “white” became an identity, all in the cause of maintaining the permanence and separation of the slave class.

Spencer doesn’t know that, though.

Journalist Gary Younge recently visited Spencer for an interview. Younge’s stated goal was to see what the intellectual underpinnings of what the British citizen calls “the Trump movement” look like.

It was like watching a man tie rope around his own neck, then blithely walk down a steep hill.

Spencer was that man, not Younge.

In the interview, Spencer relates his belief that African slaves in America are better off than Africans in Africa (as though colonialism didn’t nearly destroy the continent’s progress). That British citizen Younge will never be an Englishman because of his race (only true if douchebags like you have a say so, Spencer). That whites are “the genius that drives” world history (no, you only had A) the gun and B) Christianity, the latter of which muted your natural tribalism long enough to see about conquering others with the former).

Spencer is wrong on every count. But he’s not alone in his delusion, one that even had me caught in its web.

Case in point: “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman.

In 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” and 2018’s upcoming “Black Panther,” he plays the part with a (patched together) African accent that I thought was slightly exaggerated in the 2016 film.

I was like, “Why doesn’t he speak English better? He’s more than smart enough.”

I, too, had fallen in the White Supremacy trap. I was thinking: Better English equals better intelligence. But Boseman has thought about this.

“People think about how race has affected the world.” Boseman said. “It’s not just in the States. Colonialism is the cousin of slavery. Colonialism in Africa would have it that, in order to be a ruler, his education comes from Europe.

“I wanted to be completely sure that we didn’t convey that idea because that would be counter to everything that Wakanda is about. It’s supposed to be the most technologically advanced nation on the planet.

“If it’s supposed to not have been conquered — which means that advancement has happened without colonialism tainting it, poisoning the well of it, without stopping it or disrupting it — then there’s no way he would speak with a European accent.”

He added: “If I did that, I would be conveying a white supremacist idea of what being educated is and what being royal or presidential is. Because it’s not just about him running around fighting.

“He’s the ruler of a nation. And if he’s the ruler of a nation, he has to speak to his people. He has to galvanize his people. And there’s no way I could speak to my people, who have never been conquered by Europeans, with a European voice.”

And there it is. And that’s why I’m now ABSOLUTELY OK with his accent — it’s an artistic rebuke of White Supremacy. And it’s also one more reason I am pensively anticipating the movie in February for bigger reasons than it simply being the newest potential Marvel Studios blockbuster.

 

 

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