Diplomacy In Black Panther
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Diplomacy In Black Panther

While Black Panther has been a record breaker and a revolutionary piece of cinema, it is an insightful example of the importance of diplomacy and what good can come when humanity comes together as one.

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Diplomacy In Black Panther
via Lindsay Silveira

It would be an understatement to describe Marvel’s Black Panther as anything less than a success. Looking beyond its monetary value, the film plays a large part in setting the standard for representation in the industry moving forward from this point. It debunks the myth that minorities and people of color do not nor cannot successfully compete in Hollywood. It has become the largest grossing superhero movie and the fifth largest grossing film in North America since having earned $1.185 billion in box office revenue. The outpour of adoration and love for the film can be seen on social media as children and adults alike are moved by intelligent and honorable characters that emulate not only themselves but their culture. Black Panther has succeeded because it understands humanity and shines a light on the hard work that goes into preserving culture and peace.

The most important example of this is found in the film’s theme of diplomacy. T’Challa is a man who dislikes diplomacy, a fact made known to us in Captain America: Civil War during the United Nations meeting for the signing of the Sokovia Accords. His father, T’Chaka, comments on this, saying “For a man who disapproves of diplomacy, you're getting quite good at it.”

By definition, diplomacy is the managing of international relationships. The reasoning for T’Challa’s involvement with the governments of the world in Civil War came from the loss of Wakandan lives in the destruction of the hospital in Lagos. It makes sense that Wakanda would comply with signing the accords. In the eyes of the nation, the Black Panther is not a superhero but a warrior of great strength. The accords regulate the activity of enhanced human beings by limiting their interference with affairs. The Black Panther, until his first appearance, has been hidden from the world which is why the individuals who are running to escape him in Civil War are shocked by his presence. If Wakanda’s true mission is to exist peacefully in the absence of foreign interference then it is in their character to promote peace on a worldly level, which motivates their decision to sign.

We learn from the beautiful opening of Black Panther that Wakanda hid from the world in the aftermath of the destruction of resources and the colonization of surrounding communities. Since then the main goal has been to preserve their culture and avoid being exploited for their resources which, in this case, is vibranium and the technology it powers.

In this mission for preservation, the people of Wakanda have been closed minded to the world beyond its secluded borders. This school of thought evokes ideologies such as W’Kabi’s comment “You let the refugees in, you let in all their problems” and Shuri’s use of the phrase “colonizer” to describe Everett Ross, one of the only white people in the film. I can’t help but think of how these phrases are used in the world today. If we think of current and historical American diplomacy we see numeral examples of exclusion on the basis of supremacy and xenophobia. This comes from an endless history of conquering and colonizing that has either erased cultures or made them a foreign and ostracized concept. Here in Wakanda the roles are reversed which paints a clear picture of the danger outsiders (which is symbolized through Ross and Klaw) can become.

A brilliant moment of imagery that supports this idea is the museum scene. Following the rich, vibrant colors and sounds of Wakanda in the scene before, the museum seems exceptionally pale in comparison. The white walls swallow the displays and the expert in African artifacts is a white English woman, a fact Erik Killomonger is not afraid to mention. Even Killomonger’s presence in the museum has prompted an increase in surveillance on him and he is asked to leave following his speech on how white people have been taking things that have not belonged to them for centuries. In this moment, we see a similar enemy arise between our protagonist and our antagonist. While Erik also brings with him a sense of entitlement to the luxuries of Wakanda, the problem becomes about how to ensure the preservation of a culture and should that be enforced through violence or by simply doing nothing.

We are informed at the beginning of the film that Black Panther takes place one week after the events in Civil War. Having just lost his father to the hands of Zemo, a man with a selfish agenda, T’Challa has a fresh memory of what the world outside his country can amount to. Nakia mentions wanting to work beyond the borders of her country to right the injustices she has seen. She assures that any refugee program Wakanda can provide will be better and more successful than anyone else in the world. But T’Challa sticks with what he knows which is being diplomatic from a distance, something instilled in him from watching his father’s reign.

Even in the interrogation of Klaw, Everett Ross tries to make a deal with the Wakandas, promising that Klaw will be theirs once he is tried under the U.S. government. T’Challa’s response is nothing short of ‘absolutely not’ but allows for Ross to have his turn with Klaw, much to Okoye’s disappointment. Here Ross responds with “This, this is diplomacy.”

We as an audience know that this situation is in fact not one of diplomacy. The Wakandans have the upper hand because of their technological secrets and their ability to access the audio of Ross’s conversation with the criminal. They are not working together with the U.S. government or Ross to accomplish their similar yet separate goals to bring Klaw to justice.

The lack of unity and cooperativeness that carries on throughout the film only helps in becoming a larger lesson for T’Challa once he realizes the mistakes of his ancestors that he must correct, specifically that of his father. His biggest question becomes “why” as he questions the ways in which Wakanda has kept itself from the world. Because while there are people like Klaw who seek to destroy and deplete the beauty and strength of Wakanda there are people like Erik who suffer their whole lives because they cannot provide a means with which to defend themselves. And while Erik’s solution to arm every suppressed individual is brash and counter-intuitive, T’Challa takes inspiration from Erik’s ideas and begins to reach out to communities of African people beginning with Oakland, California, the very place his father killed his uncle.

So why do I bring up diplomacy? Because it is such an important aspect to the world we live in. In the news, we hear of North Korea and South Korea finally seeing it in their best interests to end the war between them. We continue to follow the heartbreaking news regarding the conflicts that plague Israel and Gaza with hopes that a solution can be found. Even we struggle as a nation for we do not have a great role model leading our government at the moment. But to allow for someone who is fictional yet has an impression like T’Challa to stand on a podium at the U.N. and delivery a speech on the danger of walls and borders is an image that is inspiring. Beyond that, it proves to its audiences and those who look up to the Black Panther that change is possible as long as humanity works together to make it so.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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