This is a spoiler alert! The latest Black Panther movie is in theaters, as the Wakanda nation went through some changes while making new moves. First, they spent time regrouping after the passing of their beloved leader T’Challa (previously played by Chadwick Boseman). There was internal squabbling within the inner circle (i.e. among their caucus, their crew). But eventually they worked things out with a new generation of players and protocols.
If that sounds familiar, well Wakanda isn’t too far off from what’s happening in America today. We just went through midterm and runoff elections where the results point to dustups and shakeups. Before the elections there was internal tension among citizens around the potential threat to democracy. We’ve already seen changes in party leadership, and we’re poised for more intrigue around the process of choosing the new Speaker of the House.
For some perspective on what needs to happen next in America, let’s pull-in George Washington and Dr King. Washington went through a similar period of regrouping back in his day. It involved a reset around vision and a reboot around leadership. In Washington’s farewell address after his second term, he shared insights, somewhat summarized below, that we might chew on as follows:
- Be steadfast in holding the Union together, with the Constitution as your guide.
- Be careful of allowing factions in political parties or public impulses to disrupt liberty and tranquility.
- Be mindful of those driven by power & control in a single individual as opposed to a common purpose.
- Be robust in the business of functional government and public opinion, such that they’re both enlightened.
The concern about factions in political parties, whether based on wealth, ideology or populism kinda ring true today. His message to the country then seems equally on point now, considering the many skirmishes we’ve seen in what SAIC describes as today’s Civic Revolution (isms & schisms, political lost cause, hate & bias, culture wars). It’s just a new version of social battles, like happened around the American Revolution.
Now, Dr. King also took time to share how the country and the culture could regroup in the next phase of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1967, King took a month’s long getaway to Jamaica and spent some secluded time penning his thoughts. He later published a book entitled, “Where Do We Go From Here?” He highlighted accomplishments of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He also addressed the Black Power movement within the context of the broader history of civil rights struggles. King and Washington left us the challenge of moving dreams, country and culture into next gear.
When you tie-in their message with SAIC’s deep dive in American history, the ‘Black to America’ story, and #HometownStrong comebacks, you realize that we’re at a pivotal moment too. We might need to reset around vision and reboot around leadership that brings a better sense of purpose, belonging, significance and influence, as happened in Wakanda nation. Dr King stressed then that America had a choice between nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation, between learning to live as brothers or perish together as fools. So, if we wanna deal with the four corners of the culture wars, the choices we gotta make today are between:
1. Legacy or Lie-gacy – “Heroification”
One corner of the culture wars is that of ‘heroification’. This is the idea Washington mentioned of being mindful of those driven by power & control in a single individual as opposed to a common purpose. That has been a problem ever since our founding but has become more damning lately. It’s what can cause some to confuse choosing between legacy vs lie-gacy. Back in the early days, there was a popular painting that showed Native Americans attacking the homes of European settlers. The truth was really the opposite, but the narrative later became baked-in. That’s how lie-gacy can lead to distortion and division.
2. Legislation or Lawsuits – “Disinformation”
Another corner of the culture wars is disinformation. It’s one thing to not know, it’s whole ‘nother thing to know better but still lead folks into quicksand. These days we see it happening when public officials spend more time filing lawsuits than proposing legislation. Before the recent midterm elections, there were 100+ lawsuits filed in the courts. Folks will say one thing in the public space but can’t back it up when in court. The problem is with using the system against itself by filing a lawsuit that might look legit but isn’t on legal grounds. Then some in the public are left in a state of confusion and distrust.
3. Chaos or Community – “Polarization”
We saw polarization after the civil war. An example from Reconstruction was when public figures used the phrase “carpetbaggers and scalawags” to describe others. The term ‘carpetbagger’ was used to describe whites from the north who travelled south to support blacks (a carpetbag was a type of cheap suitcase). The derogatory term ‘scalawag’ was used by those in one political party to describe folks in the other party. We’ve gotta watchout today for the terms ‘anti woke or woke mob’ being used that might polarize or politicize. How folks describe the ‘other’ gives clues on whether they wanna side with chaos or community.
4. Hate or Hope – “Demonization”
There’re those we look-up to as role models. In them we see something to aspire to or gives us hope. If the opposite of ‘heroification’ is demonization, what’s the opposite of role model? Maybe that’s reflected in those who might turn grievance into vengeance, based on hate. We’ve seen attacks on Native Americans, African-Americans, Latinx, Asian and more recently LGBTQ Americans. That’s why current anti-semitic fervor against Jewish Americans isn’t a good look and even dangerous. Dr King called this out in his book where he said “Anti-semitism often gets exploited by those whose appetite for attention exceeds their attachment to truth and responsibility.”
To deal with the culture wars by moving dreams, country and culture into next gear, checkout the movie to learn what Princess Shuri did at a pivotal moment in Wakanda nation. They were able to reset around vision, reboot around leadership and regroup around the ‘why’ for Wakanda. Washington and King might remind us that America loses its way when it loses touch with its ‘why’. As individual citizen or home country, our ‘why’ makes us special. So if you’re ready to do bigger and better things in the community and in life, be like Shuri, who at a key turning point asked the question to her crew, “Are You Clear?”
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Tracks: Lizzo – Special – https://youtu.be/0ypvxb3MaO4
Beyoncé – Bigger – https://youtu.be/JED5wEKc3Lc