NOTE: This whole post is one giant spoiler alert about the movie, so read at your own discretion.
Marvel just released a new movie titled Avengers: Infinity Wars on April 27th, where almost all of the heroes in the Avengers Universe of Marvel unite to battle the super villain, Thanos, and prevent him from executing his incredibly Malthusian agenda of killing half the universe’s population so limited resources will be distributed more evenly. During the 2 hrs and 40 mins of the film, the audience gets to see heroes trying their best to prevent Thanos from collecting all of the infinity stones (that would allow him to eliminate half the population). One of the most exciting moments in the film is when the heroes from the United States need help, and travel to Wakanda (with all of it’s technological advances) to get it. Seeing Wakanda glorified again as a beacon of progress and technological advancement was empowering, without Wakanda’s barriers the Earth’s defenders would not have been able to hold off Thanos’ army at all.
However, this positive moment was short lived, as in the end of the film Thanos wins and turns half the population to dust, some victims being superheroes. One of the superheroes turned to dust was Black Panther, after only being featured in one other Marvel movie. The “death” of Black Panther was perhaps the most disheartening, because of how important he was as the main character in Marvel’s first black superhero movie and also because of how short his reign was. Black Panther was released only two months before its hero was literally turned to ash.
Perhaps the next Marvel movie will entail a way to reset time and bring back all of the beloved characters; one can only hope.
The discussion fostered around Nitasha Sharma’s Hip Hop Desis on Tuesday was incredibly interesting, and I am still thinking about some aspects of it. One part of the conversation in particular that struck me was started by the discussion question about the status of blackness. As a class, we discussed the difference between blackness as a commodity experienced through the media (for non-black people) as opposed to the actual lived experience of black people. This part of our discussion specifically stayed with me because it got me thinking about the white privilege I have, specifically around driving.
The term “driving while black” came up during the conversation which is what started my thoughts on this topic. When I’m driving down the highway and I notice a police car is cruising next to me, I make sure to drive the speed and feel pretty comfortable that I won’t get pulled over. If anything, I worry about accruing points on my license. I don’t worry about being wrongfully pulled over, and if I were to be pulled over I would not fear for my safety or my life.
When I’m driving with my friends that are black, I do get nervous when I see police cars. I get really worried. But even then, I’m still not worried my own safety, I’m worried about the safety of my friends. I don’t know what it’s like to–without fail–feel a course of adrenaline run through my body every time I see a police car or a police officer; and I feel like that’s something that I won’t ever be able to truly know. I can continue to educate myself so that I’m aware that police brutality is disproportionately inflicted on people of color (which is important), but I will never truly know that fear.
I think Sharma’s last chapter in Hip Hop Desis was compelling in that she distinguishes between “appropriation as othering” and “appropriation as identification.” In reference to “appropriation as othering,” she talks about how “the popularity of hip hop and Black styles among other Desis is often decontextualized” to the point where the meaning of hip hop is not understood. What then happens is the glorification of images that “marginalize what these people in these ghettos and housing projects are going through,” which is othering these Black communities and their experiences. However, not in all instances does this prove to be case. For artist Chee, including derogatory terms in his music such as the N word and putting sand in front of it is strategic as it points to the “discriminatory and exclusive practices of the United States, which Middle Eastern and South Asians like himself are victim to. Here, he is identifying to a similar experience that other minority groups can relate to and not using the derogatory term to other, but unite.
I found it interesting how Hip Hop Desis concluded with the idea of “the Black experience [being] foundational to race relations in the United States,” and how because of this, “South Asians in America must look to and learn from the perspectives of America’s racial other,” (283). In order to better understand how to navigate issues regarding social justice for everyone, it’s encouraged that South Asians should create solidarity, and learn the histories of different groups as a way to understand them. I agree, not only for South Asians, but for other non-black people of color – both who go through similar oppressive experiences, and just in general – that they should make an effort to understand the adversity that Black people go through. I think in doing so there would not only be a more well-built foundation for solidarity, but they would also be inspired by some of the movements that speak to justice for everyone, like Black Lives Matter.