White Privilege at a Black Panther Screening
Article by Paige Smith
On Saturday, March 3rd, a group of Goucher students were invited to a screening of Black Panther by three on campus clubs: UMOJA (Goucher’s BSU), GWOCC (Goucher Women of Color Circle), and DOCC (Dancers of Color Coalition). The movie is one of the newest Marvel movies about an African Nation called Wakanda that is in need for a new king after the death of their leader and the fight between the main character, T’Challa (son of the former king), and N’Jadaka, A.K.A. Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (T’Challa’s long lost cousin), for the throne. What was meant to be an empowering event for people of color, quickly turned into just another place where white students could get away with rude behavior.
Students of color were left appalled and fed up with the behavior of white students who were invited as allies to people of color (POC). While seating, some students of color found themselves having to sit on the floor. “Personally, I wasn’t upset because of the fact that I had to sit on the floor, I was more so upset with the fact that I had to sit on the floor because white students, who have never shown support of DOCC, UMOJA, or GWOCC and have actually spoken poorly of the people involved in that and everything that they are doing, took up space for those seats” says senior Nathaniel Magloire.
In addition to having to sit on the floor, students’ belongings were moved and people refused to sit in a seat next to another person. Sophomore Zanabou Nije, a Pyschology Major and one of the GWOCC leaders says, “People were trying to save some seats and their bag was moved by a non-POC. It was a mess. I just feel like it was an intrusion of space and a falsely advertised event.”
The event was initiated by leaders of DOCC, who reached out to the other POC affinity groups at Goucher in hopes of collaborating with them to help students see the empowering movie. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication about which students would be invited. “As a leader of GWOCC, I would not have signed the form for this to go through if I knew what this event was… If they wanted it to be just a Goucher-wide event, they should’ve just went through the Student Engagement Team, not through the affinity groups” says Zanabou Nije. There was also a Facebook event created by DOCC and neither GWOCC nor UMOJA knew about the event nor were included in administering.
Another senior who also had to sit on the floor, Arthur Mutijima, a Peace Studies Major, says “My main concern about the screening was that it was not exclusive to students of color. The message of the movie is to portray a kind of afrofuturism in which people of African descent have been able to progress without the direct burden of colonialism and enslavement. While the audience for the movie is global, there is a unique experience that black viewers undergo in sharing that moment together.”
In the end, what should have been an empowering moment turned into another event for white people. The leaders of each group met to discuss what they could improve for future events and DOCC was able to express that the way this event turned out was never their intention. The groups also decided to host a post movie discussion to discuss the movie itself and what occurred in the theater. At the end of the day, people’s actions cannot be controlled, but they can be exposed. There’s a major difference between allies and just white people.