Stop believing what other people have to say about Black women, and start believing what Black women have to say about ourselves.
This week, rumors about actor and heartthrob Michael B. Jordan’s alleged new girlfriend — Latina Instagram model, Ashlyn Castro — began to take root. Almost immediately after, news of a boycott against “Black Panther” appeared, supposedly led by Black women (but we didn’t get that memo).
Not a boycott of Michael B. Jordan or any of his other upcoming projects. Just “Black Panther”, which is currently everybody’s favorite Black power emblem. In this narrative, Black women quickly became traitors to our race, thoughtless and trivial. Our imagined lack of support for “Black Panther” translated very easily into a lack of support for Black men altogether, and this was used as a justification for the misogynoir that ensued.
First of all, the sheer ease and momentum with which this wildfire rumor spread is proof enough for me that some people simply cannot wait to talk shit about Black women. All they need is a reason to air their already long or deeply-held misogynoir, whether or not that reason is based in any truth. The “Black women are boycotting “Black Panther” because Michael B. Jordan is dating a non-Black woman” hoax of 2018 was a pathetic attempt to make Black women appear bitter and paint us as irrational and irresponsible, unfit to make decisions about the media we consume — an old song that also plays during conversations about Black women’s love for “Scandal” and disdain for “Birth of a Nation”.
The beginnings of it rest on misogynoir as much as the public’s willingness to believe in it does. Created by a known troll account on Instagram, ground zero of the fake “Black Panther” boycott effortlessly built its narrative around a familiar stereotype: Black women become irrationally angry when Black men date people of other races, especially white and white-presenting women (I’m sorry this discussion is so cisnormative and heteronormative).
This is a belief that continues to grow more and more, with less and less context in each evolution. Even Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” dipped its toe in this flavor of misogynoir when Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) insisted to his girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), that the most likely reason for Georgina’s (Betty Gabriel) apparent coldness towards him was because she did not like the fact that he was in a relationship with a white woman. He had no evidence to support this claim when Rose questioned it, except to flatly say, “It’s a thing.”
As with most conversations regarding these relationships and Black non-men’s perspectives and feelings towards them, it lacks context and it lacks nuance. To simply say “It’s a thing” without contextualizing misogynoir is dishonest. To simply say “It’s a thing” without speaking to the undue attacks and abuse that Black non-men, especially those of us with dark skin, experience daily is irresponsible. To simply say “It’s a thing” without shedding light on the countless ways in which this world tells us that non-Black women are better, smarter, more acceptable, and more valuable than us, and the fact that we especially hear this from Black men, is cowardice.
Too many times have we been told that we are unworthy, undateable, and unlovable because of our Blackness. To paint us as a monolithic hoard, foaming at the mouth and brimming with bitterness and jealousy towards Chris Washington and Michael B. Jordan and the non-Black women on their arms is a purposeful erasure of the truth, which is that we have heard, time and time again, many variations of, “I love [insert any non-Black race] women because Black women [insert any insult or stereotype dripping in misogynoir].”
Much of this feels like thinly-veiled projection. Those who say these things to us are often the same who are eager to call us “negro bed wenches” if we pursue relationships with white men and often the same who resent Black non-men for defending and celebrating the likes of Serena Williams, Rihanna, and Meghan Markle for finding love with non-Black partners. The cognitive dissonance is simply astounding.
But I should move on to my second point.
Second of all, since when did supporting “Black Panther” become synonymous with supporting Black men?
“Black Panther” has more Black women than any other film from Marvel Studios to date. It has more Black women than any superhero film that has ever been made, especially one of this magnitude. It has more Black women than most films of any genre that were produced in the U.S. in 2017 and that will be produced in 2018.
The Black women in “Black Panther” are integral to the survival of T’Challa and all of Wakanda. The King and the nation are protected by the fearless Dora Milaje, led by the supreme Okoye. Ayo already plainly let Black Widow know the deal with “Move. Or you will be moved,” and she takes that same intensity and fierce loyalty everywhere she goes. Princess Shuri is devastatingly brilliant and designs and directs all technological development in Wakanda, including the armor and weaponry. Nakia is a nimble spy who helps to ensure the secrecy of the isolated nation and provides necessary intelligence about the outside world that aids in safeguarding Wakanda against colonialism and other threats. Ramonda provides T’Challa with counsel and helps to keep focused and grounded so that he can be at his best as Black Panther and find his place as Wakanda’s new King following the death of his father, T’Chaka.
Child, y’all must don’t know Black women. There is no way that we would sacrifice our chance to witness Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Florence Kasumba, the whole of the Dora Milaje, and a bunch of African aunties and cousins getting lit in Wakanda and doing all this badass shit because Michael B. Jordan allegedly has a non-Black Latina girlfriend this week. Moreover, Black women helped to create this film with crucial world-building labor. Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler did phenomenal work in their respective roles as Costume Designer and Production Designer. Because of their talents, the afrofuturism of “Black Panther” comes alive on-screen, authentically blended with African tribalism and tradition. Black women will carry this film to glory. There is no “Black Panther” without Black women.
If you really think that Black women are not going to show up in droves for “Black Panther” simply because one of the cast is allegedly dating a non-Black woman, then your problem is in your inability to recognize the misogynoir embedded in the boycott hoax from its very inception. You fail to recognize our capacity for rational thought and nuance. And you severely underestimate the brilliance and vitality of Black women and our right and desire to see ourselves represented as much as anyone else. Stop believing what other people have to say about Black women, and start believing what Black women have to say about ourselves.