Listening to my favorite morning DJ, KawikaVeeka, on Native92.5, he reported the movie, Black Panther, amassed over $240 million in ticket sales over the long President’s Day weekend. Many on the political Left claim Americans are a racist people, if so, how is Black Panther such a blockbuster hit?
Kane Farabaugh, writing in Voice of America, notes Black Panther is a certified Hollywood blockbuster, raking in more than $200 million in North America during its opening weekend, setting several records and grossed close to $400 million globally.
“It’s a vision of Black people in power, and of Black people having control over their own destiny,” said Carol Lee, one of the founders of the Betty Shabazz International Charter School, which she described as “African centric.” Black Panther is the kind of film that reinforces some of what they teach.
If America were a racist nation, how is it possible Black Panther, an African centric film, is one of the highest grossing, record-breaking films of all time? The claim America is a racist nation is a false claim and myth. America IS NOT a racist nation.
On the other hand, some Black Americans are demonstrating nasty, racist tendencies. Writing in Huffington Post, columnist Brandi Miller states:
The lesson of Black Panther for White allies is this: They must learn to be the sidekick, to be at the fringe, to give up power, to have People of Color in their ears directing them on how to be useful in fighting for the cause of justice.
Brandi considers herself a “campus minister” and justice program director from the Pacific Northwest, who advocates for the dignity of all Black lives. She tells all the White Saviors in America, “If You Want To Be An Effective Ally, Be Quiet And Know Your Place.” Yeah, White Boy … know your place!
About Black Panther, she says the movie is “void of the colonizing impulse and experience of White supremacy, Wakanda is free from the need for a White savior.” But America isn’t Wakanda. White Supremacists enslaved Black human beings. They were unable to free themselves from this captivity. People Brandi calls “White Saviors,” such as my great, great grandfather, Robert A. Lower, put on the union army uniform and risked their lives to liberate tortured human beings. Out of a regiment of about 120 brave men, my grandfather was one of only 18 to survive. Brandi Miller dishonors his service. Brandi Miller disrespects the sacrifice of White Americans. Brandi Miller is a disgusting racist.
Wish To Be Black
A friend of mine, a White woman named Melissa, recently told my wife a story about her middle school son. She had been reminiscing about her days in college when she dated a Black basketball player and friend of mine, Willie Banks. Willie was loved by friends and fans alike. He was fierce and formidable on the court; a gentleman and hero off. Melissa’s son said to her, “Mom, why didn’t you marry him? I could have been Black.”
America IS NOT a racist nation. There are racist people in America. We all know who they are. They are pimply-faced, weak, insecure and uneducated White boys who can’t beat their way out a wet paper bag. They are bullies who make themselves feel better by putting others down. One sadly familiar racist face, in my opinion, is Ted Nugent. Many claim he evaded the Vietnam draft by taking drugs and acting crazy. He is a real disappointment to good White folk.
People like Nugent are the exceptions in America. Although this nation formed allowing the enslavement of Black Americans, only about one percent of Americans owned slaves. Black Americans did not end slavery. White American males ended slavery. My great, great grandfather, Robert A. Lower, was one of those who sacrificed to help end this horrific practice.
Be Like Mike
My young nephew, a White boy about 7 years of age, wanted a Michael Jordan poster for his birthday. He was frustrated he couldn’t find one in stores. He doesn’t understand MJ retired in 2003. This is about ten years before my nephew was even born. Luckily, I had saved a poster of MJ that I purchased around 1996. It was still in the wrapper and unopened. I knew it would be a valuable memento. I kept it for someone special like Kai. I wanted to “Be Like Mike.” Millions of White boys wanted to be like Mike. In preparation for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, I played against Mike. I was with the Cleveland Cavaliers. We had a couple practice scrimmages against the USA Men’s Olympic Basketball team. Mike and I were NBA rookies at the time.
How can The Left, many Black political leaders, and others claim America is a racist nation when young White boys want to grow up to Be Like Mike? Or when hundreds of millions of Americans jam theaters to enjoy and be inspired by an African centric movie? Or when 69,498,516 American voters selected Barack Obama to lead the nation as president in 2008 and slightly less in 2012? America admires Black culture — music, fashion, lifestyle. Batman, Superman, Spidey? They’re fake superheroes. Victor Kwansa, writing in Huffington Post, considers Black Panther to be a new kind of Black superhero movie. He claims the central figure, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who is the king of the fictional, technologically advanced African country of Wakanda, to be “fully alive and fully human.” Dude! T’Challa is fake. Mike is real. Black or White, he was our superhero.
As a young boy, my first hero wasn’t George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or other White figures. I was fascinated by Crazy Horse. He was a Native American leader of the Oglala Lakota in the 1800s. He took up arms against the United States federal government to fight the encroachment of White American settlers. To White settlers at the time, Crazy Horse was a terrorist. My first hero was a terrorist!
Yet Crazy Horse was not a terrorist. He lived his life for his nation, people and culture. He cared deeply for them. He loved his family. He was brave; he was honorable; he was wise and cunning. His nation was under attack from a culture with greater technological superiority. History shows it was a war they would not — could not — win. We understand this today. Crazy Horse demonstrated the values all of us admire. Facing the forces that threatened him, we would have responded similarly; we hope we would have been as noble. Crazy Horse taught me to be courageous when facing overwhelming challenges and to be proud when fighting the good fight. Heading into battle, he would encourage his warriors, “Today is a good day to die.” I’ve never forgotten his words.
By third grade, I was fully committed to athletics. My father was a high school coach. Robert H. Goold was my hero and role model. Other local heroes were his players and I was committed to following in their footsteps. For my birthday when I was about to enter junior high, my father gave me a book, Stars of Pro Basketball. It’s worn and tattered, as I read it over and over, while imagining myself in the many pictures along with the great players.
Authors Lou Sabin and Dave Sendler wrote, “Here are the exploits of nine of the finest young stars of professional basketball. Included are the triumphs and trials of Lew Alcindor (he later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Billy Cunningham, Walt Frazier, John Havlicek, Connie Hawkins, Elvin Hayes, Spencer Haywood, Lou Hudson and Jimmy Walker.”
Of the nine, only two are White. My childhood heroes were non-White, primarily Black Americans. I wanted to be Black. I listened to Motown. My high school teammates called me an “inside out Oreo” — White on the outside, Black inside. My high school was nearly all White. We had great athletes and dominated the state in part due to our excellent coaching. Our school mascot were the RAMS — Right Attitude Means Success. Attitude makes all the difference. Working with famed basketball coach, John Wooden, a couple years later, he taught all of us:
If you believe you can or believe you cannot, you are correct.
We believed in our system, our coaches and ourselves. Too many Americans do not believe they can today. They look backward. They see instances of failure and let that dictate their future. All of us fall at some point. It is inevitable we will fail. The victor is the one who refuses to stay down. Stand up and fight! Never kneel! Never quit!
I’ve carried a poem from Walter Wintle with me all my life. Seems it’s more applicable to Americans than ever before.
IT’S ALL IN A STATE OF MIND
If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you won’t;
If you like to win, but don’t think who can,
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost:
for out in the world you’ll find
Success begins with a fellow’s will;
It’s all in a state of mind.
For many a game is lost
‘ere even a play is run,
and many a coward fails
‘ere even his work is begun.
Think big and your deeds will grow,
Think small and you’ll fall behind;
Think that you CAN and you WILL;
It’s all in a state of mind.
If you’ think you’re out-classed, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise;
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before,
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always to
To the stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the fellow who THINKS HE CAN.
There were some better individual players at the crosstown rivalry high school — many were Black. On weekends or off-season, I trained with them. I learned more than just basketball. Many of these athletes were poor or struggled with difficult home lives. Basketball was life to me. For many of my friends, basketball was an escape. Big Russ Sanders was one of the most influential men in my life. He opened my heart to the smooth, mellow sounds of jazz on his Sunday night program. He schooled me frequently on the basketball court teaching me humility. His positive, loving attitude for ALL and hatred of racism from anyone taught me compassion and kindness.
Big Russ lost his final game to cancer this year. Cancer doesn’t care if one is Black or White. To my dear Big Baller Bruddah, the tears I shed are in anticipation of the time we next meet. Mahalo for all the love and aloha!
My mother taught at a minority school with a large percentage of Black students. She brought struggling students home on weekends and made clothes for them, fed them healthy meals, and taught them discipline.
Nobody messed with first-grade teacher Mrs. Goold; nobody messed with Momma Goold at home either. She treated all of us the same — overwhelming love, strong discipline, and endless encouragement. She taught all of us we could be “whatever we wanted to be.”
Taryn Finley, writing in Black Voices about Black Panther for Huffington Post, saddened me. She stated, “It’s just this amazing model for us all to look at, like can we all just be like Wakanda,” which is the mythical, hidden nation in Africa where the movie is based. Wakanda isn’t real; America is real. This is similar to Americans claiming they love Planet Tatooine, which is the fictional, sparsely-inhabited and circumbinary desert planet located in the galaxy’s Outer Rim Territories, and homeworld to the influential Anakin and Luke Skywalker. Tatooine isn’t real; America is real. America is an amazing model. The ideals of America are perfect. Americans ourselves are not. We have failed, but we have also succeeded.
Finley points out a section of the movie that endears her. W’Kabi stands before the female ruler, Okoye, and asks, “Would you kill me, my love?” “For Wakanda. No question,” she answers. W’Kabi yields to her, dropping to both knees, and ends the battle. He has no choice. The things Okoye would undoubtedly sacrifice to serve her country, W’Kabi would hesitate over. Finley claims this speaks “volumes about the power Black women possess. Seeing anyone, let alone a Black man, submit to a Black woman on screen in this way is a rarity.” Taking a knee is too common by Black men today.
Finley describes Okoye, the General and head of the Dora Milaje, as a patriot and traditionalist, sworn to protect the throne and her country. Okoye’s strength is only second to the Black Panther. She kicks ass for her nation, speaks unapologetically, throws her wig in the faces of White men, and yet is still a multidimensional woman able to give and receive love. The movie continues many stereotypes, which some consider harmful to American culture. The Black Panther, a male, still dominates, and furthers a Patriarchal society. The heroes achieve their goals using violence and war culture. Hollywood’s success simply removes heroes such a White Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia and replaces them with the Black Panther and Queen Okoye. Faces and skin color have changed; behavior is still violent and domineering.
Finley claims characters such as Okoye are seen in Black women “who are at the forefronts of activist movements today and so many throughout history.” She adds such women “can be found in Black moms and caretakers who go the distance to provide for and protect their families.” Finally, Finley writes, “Wakandan women represent everything that Black women are and have always been. The doers, the fixers, the defenders, the lovers.”
Some Black women fit this description. My White mother fit this description. My Mexican-American wife, AnnMarie, fits this description. Do we need to watch a movie about a mythical nation to find our heroes?
I know Asian, Brown, Hawaiian, Native American through rainbow colors of women who fit this description. And, in all of these groups, some don’t. This is why we honor heroes. I’m not sure why society is motivated today to divide over Identity Politics. There is greatness in every culture; there is also failure.
Women Are Allowed?
Actress Danai Gurira, who played Okoye, says, “Wakanda forever indeed, because it’s showing that this is a world where women are allowed to be all they are … to the fullest gamut of their potential.” Her interesting comment is “women are allowed.” Who is allowing them? Who is NOT allowing women in America today?
Gurira continues, “They’re allowed to be ferocious and fierce and feminine at the same time, and they’re allowed to be … at the top of their field … and leading the nation’s technological advancements — which happen to be the most advanced in the word. They’re allowed to be all these things and that is something that society embraces and is excited by. … It’s just this amazing model for us all to look at, like can we all just be like Wakanda?”
Again, who is allowing them in Wakanda? Who is NOT allowing women in America today? My mother raised her son and two daughters to believe we could do anything. Nobody allowed us. She taught this to her White and Black students as well. She empowered all of us.
From my John Wooden Basketball Fundamentals Camp, Player’s Notebook, I want to leave a final thought.
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The Myth of Racism Divides Us
Writing in Huffington Post, Tyece Wilkins says “I want 2018 to be a watershed moment for Black women. I want this to be the year that everything shifts and the world forever locks eyes with our talent.” Tyece admits, yes, Black women have claimed victory and make history for years upon years. She recalls only a few days earlier she watched Halle Berry’s 2002 Oscars speech for “the umpteenth time,” when Ms. Berry became the first Black woman to win the lead actress award. Tyece believes now is the time for the world to pay attention.
“This is the time for the world to take action. This is the time for the world not only to applaud us, but to also protect us. To respect us. To center us.”
This is racist. Tyece wants the world to focus on Black women, simply due to their Blackness. How would Tyece and others respond if I wrote, “This is the time for the world to pay attention to White Men. This is the time for the world not only to applaud us, but to also protect us. To respect us. To center us?
Pay attention to me! Is that what this really is?
Applaud us based on our social identity? The world recognizes talent and success, as the world applauded Black actress Hale Berry in 2002 or Black actor Sidney Poitier in 1964. They recognized them not for their Blackness, but their skill. This is what is best about America. The world applauds people of all colors, race, gender and sexual orientation. Just do it! Tyece is selfish and a divider. People like her are not helpful to our national discourse.
The claim America is a racist nation is a myth — perpetuated to divide us and furthered by many for selfish interests. It’s not Republicans v. Democrats; it’s the Rich v. the Middle Class and poor. And, The Left has divided primarily on Identity Politics and The Right has conquered. But it’s the wealthy donors behind both parties who are the winners. They fuel these racist forces to keep power and wealth in the hands of the One Percent, while leaving the 99% fighting amongst themselves. Isn’t it time to empower yourself? Press on!