Warning! May contain spoilers!
|Alec Frazier (center) seeing Black Panther with his friends Kenny (left) and Heidi (right)|
Last night some friends of mine and I went to see Marvel’s Black Panther. We were completely blown away by the storyline, and by the leadership of the African-American community in making this film. It is, on that front, a tremendous civil-rights landmark.
The film stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, King of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and its protector as the Black Panther. This nation is the most technologically advanced civilization on earth, and is far, far ahead of the rest of the world. This raises an interesting quandary, as the King is encouraged by various others to share his kingdom’s knowledge and technology with the rest of the world.
Let us not kid ourselves: even the best-off nations in the world can use some help. The United States is rife with gun violence, poverty, and corrupt politics. Those are just a few of our problems. However, no one society on earth should have the right to claim superiority above the rest. This is part of what motivates T’Challa not to meddle in global affairs, in addition to a long-standing tradition of noninterference from his ancestors.
Enter N’Jadaka also known as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, played by Michael B. Jordan, a rival to the throne, who has grown up amongst the urban poor African population in the United States. He is feeling hurt, betrayed, and angry at the way the African ethnic group has been routinely abused and mistreated around the world. He seizes control of Wakanda, and attempts to use their advanced resources, and more importantly, their more advanced weapons, to arm the marginalized African community around the world. He wishes to start a global revolution.
Nevertheless, by the end of the film, T’Challa defeats Killmonger, and offers Wakanda’s aid, science, and technology to the rest of the world.
At the end of the film, T’Challa gives a speech at the United Nations in which he says, “We have spent far too long focusing on what sets us apart, when we share so much in common.” At this point, in the audience, we at Autistic Reality shouted, “Thank you! That’s what we have been saying for years!” and the audience clapped.
There are obvious parallels between T’Challa and Killmonger and today’s society. Believe it or not, there are parallels between these two and the autistic advocacy community.
The traditional Wakandan point of view about the world has some parallels with the view of Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization run by parents and caregivers. The traditional Wakandan point of view states that other nations are naturally inferior, and that Wakanda should not get involved in world affairs. Meanwhile, Autism Speaks believes that the autistic population is naturally inferior, and that autistic people do not have a right to equal involvement in the world.
Killmonger’s point of view is that Africans in general, and Wakandans in specific, are superior to the rest of the world, and that they should overtake it by means of a violent revolution and rule it. Various groups such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) draw parallels to Killmonger. Whether or not it is their stated policy, members of organizations such as ASAN repeatedly voice their own superiority to the rest of the world, and even threaten violence against people with whom they disagree. Even when they are not threatening violence, they are needlessly combative, focusing more and more on identity politics then the commonalities which draw us altogether. In fact, the same feelings felt by Killmonger, hurt, betrayal, and anger, are often turned into emotions and actions of hostility, superiority, and separatism by organizations such as ASAN and their members.
Meanwhile, at our firm, Autistic Reality, we feel a strong parallel with T’Challa’s policies at the end of the film. T’Challa has decided to use the unique resources available to him and his kingdom to help the world become a better place. As an autistic individual, I feel that I have a unique worldview, and experiences from which I can gain knowledge to better help the world. In addition, I have other resources at my disposal, thanks in large part to networking, befriending people, and overall getting along with individuals and organizations whether they are autism-centric or not. I could care less if you are fat, thin, gay, straight, black, white, transgender, cisgender, old, young, disabled, or nondisabled. Are you a good person? Do you seek to better yourself and those around you? If you do, then I believe in your potential.
T’Challa’s speech at the United Nations plays into a philosophy I have had of the world for years, long before the release of the film Black Panther: we are all human, and are common, shared identity is the most important attribute we have. Too many people play identity politics, squabbling amongst each other, instead of focusing on the fact that any benefits we make should serve society. When we are separate, we are small minority groups. When we are together, we are humanity; we are one!
This blog posting is both the personal opinion of Alec Frazier, and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!