What ‘Black Panther’ Says About American Identity

With the release of Marvel’s “Black Panther,” featuring the fictional African nation of Wakanda, it’s vital to reiterate: it’s OK for America to have an Anglo-Protestant identity.

To say that this nation was cultivated and defined by Anglo-Protestant Westerners is no less true than to say it is exceptional, and neither is it harmful. To admit Anglo-Protestant Westerners furnished a value system that resulted in the abolition of slavery should be a source of pride for all its beneficiaries. Thomas Sowell argues this point in the affirmative:

Nothing could be more jolting and discordant with the vision of today’s intellectuals than the fact that it was businessmen, devout religious leaders and Western imperialists who together destroyed slavery around the world. And if it doesn’t fit their vision, it is the same to them as if it never happened.

The preeminence of this demographic in America and the West is a matter of historical record, but is it wrong for nations like America to preserve this identity? Marvel certainly doesn’t think so and their audience seems to agree, as evident by the success of “Black Panther.” In the film, Wakanda has a definitively African identity, which King T’Challa—the Black Panther of the title—fights to preserve for the welfare of his people. Moviegoers love it.

Perhaps the takeaway is that it is far more invidious to insinuate nations have no right to preserve or even acknowledge a definitive identity. In the case of America, it is an identity that provided the framework for the most prosperous and tolerant society in the world. America is, in fact, the least racist white-majority society, it affords people of color more legal protections and opportunities than any other nation today.

The strength of this nation rests in its unity, not in “diversity,” which really means tolerance for everything from the Left, and intolerance for everything from the Right. Unity in identity is the basis of E pluribus unum, and Marvel’s “Black Panther” gets it.

There was a time when intellectuals of color understood the salience of unity. Black patriots like Booker T. Washington and Zora Neale Hurston exonerated the speckled history of America with their moving prose. Washington, a man born into slavery before becoming a statesman and a preeminent American educator, once said:

Think about it: We went into slavery pagans; we came out Christians. We went into slavery pieces of property; we came out American citizens. We went into slavery with chains clanking about our wrists; we came out with the American ballot in our hands. . . . Notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, we are in a stronger and more hopeful condition, materially, intellectually, morally, and religiously, than is true of an equal number of black people in any other portion of the globe.

How did we stray so far from such an honest and grateful appraisal of America? We might see some parallels between Washington and his rival, W. E. B. Du Bois, with Black Panther and his rival, Killmonger. In both cases, the latter championed racial consciousness and Pan-Africanism, and in both cases, the former rejected such notions. But Washington wasn’t the first who called for embracing, rather than rejecting, Western values. Olaudah Equiano wrote of white Christian Westerners in his autobiography:

I no longer looked upon them as spirits, but as men superior to us; and therefore I had the stronger desire to resemble them; to imbibe their spirit, and imitate their manners; I therefore embraced every occasion of improvement; and every new thing that I observed I treasured up in my memory.

Equiano was a black man sold into slavery by his African countrymen to Europeans. Rather than feeling inferior or resenting Anglo-Protestant culture, Equiano embraced it and eventually converted to Protestantism. Equiano, also known as Gustavus Vassa, went on to win his manumission and united with white Christians against the institution of slavery. This should be the cornerstone of race relations in America and the West, but of course, that would mean the “studies” departments might find themselves obsolete, so don’t count on truth and patriotism being back in vogue in academia any time soon.

Wakanda might be an exceptional fictional nation (one that enforces strict border control, to boot), but America is exceptional and real. That exceptionalism rests in an identity fostered by Anglo-Protestant Westerners, who happened to be the first people to unite against the institution of slavery, side by side with blacks. Now that is an identity worth affirming.

About Pedro Gonzalez

Pedro Gonzalez is assistant editor of American Greatness and a Mount Vernon Fellow of the Center for American Greatness.

Want news updates?

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.

21 responses to “What ‘Black Panther’ Says About American Identity

  • “We went into slavery pagans; we came out Christians. We went into slavery pieces of property; we came out American citizens. We went into slavery with chains clanking about our wrists; we came out with the American ballot in our hands… Notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, we are in a stronger and more hopeful condition, materially, intellectually, morally, and religiously, than is true of an equal number of black people in any other portion of the globe.” Wow, true then and still true today! If you don’t love America, you are free to leave her for a more enlightened place. Good luck. Loyal Americans will be all the better off for your absence.

  • Can’t watch the movie without thinking about President Trump being the hero

  • The left regards the founding fathers and anything white as horrible and that must be erased. If you admit that the country was founded by northern European white men than you are immediately a racist. Whats left to say? To defend yourself against their accusations is pointless because even though its the truth it doesnt matter.

    • Wrong, Mr Bone. The founding t=fathers were flawed: some good; some bad. Problem is, you want to ignore or whitewash the bad. CAn’t be done. The stain of slavery is on America to this day and will never leave.

      • So they were flawed, so what. Are you flawed? I am and so is everyone else. You live on the greatest country on the earth because of these men, like it or not. If it wasnt for these men you wouldnt be sitting there writing your cultural marxist nonsense.

      • Sorry Bone: “greatest country on earth” up for debate. American exceptionalist BS. Second: people in hundreds of countries can do what I did. Nothing special about doing it in America. Last: I am hardly a Marxist, 35 very successful years in the business world. I am just not a blind idiot. So pi$$ off and find a stupid person in a MAGA hat to spout your historically-illiterate hillbilly gibberish.

      • Nah. Staying put: family and assists here. But, most places I visit are more appealing – less division, fewer/no guns, more civility. America is becoming a boorish nation.

      • Blah, blah, blah – hillbilly, blah, blah – redneck, blah, blah, blah –
        deplorable, blah, blah – white oppression, blah, blah, blah – white privilege. We have heard it all at this point. I am so traumatized about being called a hillbilly, can you please give me a safe space.

        If you dont love America, feel free to leave. You dont appreciate living here than go. The country doesnt need any more leftist traitors. Because if this is what you believe than you are in fact a traitor. You are either with us or against us.

        If there is nothing special about doing it in America – One question, than how come these other places havent done it? And its not because of whites. Its because of themselves. Deal with it. Dont blame whites for these other people’s failures.

        The blacks in Africa were selling each other into slavery long before whites arrived. Blacks sold each other into slavery. They sold them to the Muslims and anyone else who would pay them. Its still going on to this day in Africa. One of the biggest slave owners in the south was BLACK. Of course these little facts are conveniently forgotten by the media because if you know this it might disrupt their agenda.

      • Now was that nice? Not as full as sh** as you. Remember no matter what you call yourself you will be a TRAITOR and a MARXIST.

    • How interesting that the most racist people in America today are the ones that used to be oppressed by racists. Now white racists are an insignificant fringe of America while minority racists are mainstream in the democrat party.
      Not sure how to fix the problem either.

  • Rubbish, garbage, trash, malarkey, and drivel. I always get nauseated by white weasels who try to portray America as noble for having the vision to abolish slavery rather than having the perfidious evil constitution to have practiced it on an industrial scale for 250 years. No nation – ever – built its economy and society around such a patently foul institution. Why not quote from Harriet Jacobs, or Douglass, or Henson or Du Bois? Do you know why there aren’t many slave accounts? Because it was illegal to teach them to read. Anyone who tries to make an American virtue out of slavery is a pathetic putz. No country practiced it more widely, cruelly, and NO COUNTRY had to fight a civil war to get rid of it. So, basically, GFY, you toady revisionist BS chucker.

    • “Pedro Gonzalez, the White Weasel.” I’ll take the name. Thank you!

    • So why are you still here associating w/ us evil Americans when you have the freedom to move just about anywhere in the world?

  • The problem with the Booker T. Washington is that when he was writing, none of the good things he said had happened actually were true. Blacks didn’t experience real citizenship in this country until much later, not to mention the access to the ballot.

    It is slightly strange that a certain species of conservative wants all the credit for adding of slavery, but for America to take none of the blame for having extended it and supported in the first place. And of course, Jim Crow doesn’t really come up in those discussions.

    That’s not to say we shouldn’t reflect on the positive lessons of history. But to suggest, as Pedro does, that the lesson of slavery is that white people are awesome it’s probably not the right one.

    • Yes, white people were wrong in practicing slavery, but it was also white people that ended slavery. Yes white people created Jim Crow, but it was also white people that ended Jim Crow.
      Are the children guilty of the sins of the fathers? If the children overturn the evil of their fathers do they not deserve the acclaim for doing so?
      The problem here is that you are trying to look at “white” as something monolithic. White is made up of hundreds of millions of individuals who fall all along the spectrum, most in the “I just want to live my life and be left alone” category and not caring about POC are doing or not doing.
      And where do black people fall out? It was black Africans who sold other black people as slaves to the white Europeans. Do we tar all blacks w/ the same brush that you seem to want to tar white people with?

Comments are closed.