Black Panther Black Joy

Today is the day Black Panther opens across the U.S.! Meanwhile, the amount of anticipation and exhilaration--particularly in the black community—is garnering its own coverage. (Already Black Panther is the most tweeted about movie ever.) Efforts far and wide have been organized to make it possible for black children to see the movie for free. Central to this narrative is the power (and rarity!) of seeing ourselves in a black hero.

Along with the narrative of visibility, we at DS4SI believe that the exhilaration for Black Panther speaks to a kind of affective, haptic yearning, a thirstiness for black public joy. We haven’t had a moment of joy like this since Obama won in 2008. That was 10 years ago! We see meeting this need as a political act. We see it as an intentional act of radical, inclusive joy in opposition to the default position of white public joy in the U.S.. Whether it’s symbolically laundered as Red Sox Nation, a Bruce Springsteen concert, the Academy Awards or the Winter Olympics, white public joy gets to be ubiquitous—it doesn’t even have to claim its whiteness. (And if you don’t believe this, read John Moody’s pathetic nostalgia for the white hero in his lament of the U.S. Olympic team as “darker, gayer, different”.)

After we all go see the opening night of Black Panther (and a few other nights too!), let’s be about the making of joyful black experience as part of our political duty. Let’s not assume that Black Panther will quench our thirst. That will take the building of new kinds of public life, visibility and vision. Let’s claim a radical, inclusive black joy—a darker, gayer, different joy—as our collective super power.