“I think you’re wrong. But I love you, so I’ll take it down.
But you don’t think Wakanda is for white people. And you need to own that.”
That was one of the last texts I received from white pastor friend of mine after I asked him to take down whimsical snap announcing a Wakanda campus of his church. I thanked him for taking it down and because I didn’t want there to be any misunderstanding on my thoughts about white people and Wakanda, I addressed his suspicion of my underlying feelings.
“I own it completely: I don’t think Wakanda is for white people.”
And I don’t. Because it’s not. And let me say it one more time for the people in the back (who in this particular case are the people in the pulpit): Wakanda is not for white people.
Look, I get it. Black Panther is what’s hot right now. And not for nothing. It is not only a stunning piece of cinema (a “marvel” if you will), but with Black Excellence on display from top to bottom, it is a moment. We can all see that. And we can (and should!) all enjoy it – multiple times, by all means. But we can’t all own it.
Wakanda Forever. But not for everyone.
As a Black person who lives in and loves a country that, historically, has not loved me back and still refuses to fully admit to its injustice and inequity, past and present; Wakanda is a fantastic vision of an alternate timeline – not where white people don’t exist, but where they have not encroached. And yet my friend’s first instinct, as a white pastor, was to immediately inject his leadership and write his name on something there. Nah homie. Or in the words of Shuri:
Don’t sneak up on me, Colonizer.
So for white pastors who would love to plant in Wakanda or just want to talk about it sensibly from the platform, I’m going to ask you two questions and then give you one suggestion. Ready
1. What is it that you like about Wakanda?
a. Its technology
b. Its Black leadership
c. The Dora Milaje
d. All of the above
e. Other: ________________________________
Okay. Cool. Now…
2. How would your presence improve whatever your answer to #1 was?
What’s that? Yeah… that’s what I thought. It mostly likely wouldn’t, right? Because you don’t want to go to Wakanda for Wakanda’s sake, you want to be there for your sake. And whether it’s to learn from or straight up take what you like for yourself, there’s a word for that, several words actually depending on the severity, but at its most basic level it’s appropriation. And if nowhere in your burning desire to get to Wakanda or to speak about it from your platform is there any recognition for the significant role that the absence of white people played in the magnificence of it all, then you’re not actually ready to be there. So consider yourself travel banned for now.
But it’s not all bad news. Look again at that list in question #1 – Wakanda might be fictional, but not everything on that list is. Why not try incorporating the real things you liked about Wakanda in your church here and now? Because I know it wasn’t just the technology that you liked… So ask yourself the hard questions about where people of color find themselves in world of your church. Think about your congregation – the mix of races, ages, genders, life stages, etc. – who do the decision-makers around your leadership table more closely resemble: your congregation or you? You don’t have to answer. I can take a pretty good guess at the answer for your church, White Pastor that I don’t know.
Wakanda, for a good many Black people, is a vision of escape from the day-to-day reality of the otherness, disdain and disregard that we face in the real world. And functioning as it should, as an imperfect preview of Heaven, the church should already feel like Wakanda on some level. But this all sprung from a social media post on a social media platform that I don’t even use. Sent to me by someone who attends my pastor friend’s church and was upset by it; because the sad fact is that his church, (and most likely your church), as great and diverse as it may look on the surface, and as wonderful as it may be for some, is nothing that we’d want to see in Wakanda. And nothing that Wakanda needs. Praise the ancestors.
Want to ponder this topic some more? You should check out…
This Article. A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshippers are leaving White Evangelical Churches
This Book. The Divide: Spoken Word Unspokens on Racial Rifts
This Book. The Politics of Jesus