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Peter T Chattaway

Black Panther

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4 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

I guess my concern about this "black culture" talk is that it invites parallel considerations of "white culture" -- and I resist the latter, at least. I am half-British and half-Mennonite (and each of my halves are a melting pot of things in their own right!), but I am definitely not French or Italian or Norwegian or any of the other European ethnicities that sometimes get lumped together as "white". And I wonder what it would mean to talk about, say, an identity of "whiteness" that bridges America and Europe.

This raises the question of distinction between the language/construct of "race" and "ethnicity" and the problematic myth inherent in a "black" and "white" understanding of the world (in more ways than one, actually--black-and-white either/or thinking void of nuance has its problems). In fact--and I need to revisit Black Panther before saying this is a fact--but I believe the film doesn't use the language of "black" or "white" in the way I used it above. Again, I'll need to rewatch it, but I don't think the Wakandans call themselves "black," but I do think Erik Killmonger might, which again raises the African/American dynamic mentioned above in the thread. It's also one of the reasons I love Black Panther--it is directly about race (among other things--it's also about gender, violence and guns, foreign policy, pluralism, science vs spirituality, and a mosaic of other themes), but it's not about race in the same way as, say, The Hate U Give or BlacKkKlansman. Instead of angrily deconstructionist and overt in its arguments about race, Black Panther positively creates/constructs another world above and beyond, a film-world reality which which challenges and expands our imaginations in our life-world.

Peter, this is tangential to the film, but I'm curious: when you bring up that you are "Mennonite" in the discussion of race, what do you mean by this? Is "Mennonite" considered a race? An ethnicity? A culture? A society? A denomination? A theological strand? Can one be a Mennonite without believing Mennonite theology or attending a Mennonite church--like if one converts to a paedobaptist tradition in Christianity? ;) I know the history and culture of the Mennonites--I was a pastor in a Mennonite church in Langley--and I was struck by similar language and views while I was there. As an American and as a non-Mennonite by name/birth/culture, but (mostly) Anabaptist in my theology, I was still made to feel like I was inherently an outsider due to my last name and my American origins. So, I'm curious if a parallel is being made here between Mennonites and, say, Jews and Judaism in blurring the lines between religion and ethnicity.

Edited by Joel Mayward

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Joel Mayward wrote:
: In fact--and I need to revisit Black Panther before saying this is a fact--but I believe the film doesn't use the language of "black" or "white" in the way I used it above. Again, I'll need to rewatch it, but I don't think the Wakandans call themselves "black," but I do think Erik Killmonger might, which again raises the African/American dynamic mentioned above in the thread.

That's a detail I'll definitely be looking for next time I see the film, too. I *think* I can remember Killmonger talking to T'Challa about "your people" or maybe even "people who look like you", but I can't remember if he explicitly uses the word "black" (except, of course, in reference to the title character).

: Peter, this is tangential to the film, but I'm curious: when you bring up that you are "Mennonite" in the discussion of race, what do you mean by this? Is "Mennonite" considered a race? An ethnicity? A culture? A society? A denomination? A theological strand?

Yes, to all of the above (except maybe "race"). It's kind of like being "Jewish". Are we talking about genetic ancestry (my Oma had our family tree memorized back to the 18th century, and my mother has entire books that have been written about the families of the Ukrainian and Paraguayan villages that her family came from -- noting, among other things, that my grandparents were third-cousins to each other, and one of my uncles is third-cousins with his wife, etc. -- as the saying goes, when you meet a fellow Mennonite, the question is not *whether* you are related to each other but *how* you are related)? Are we talking about cultural traits, such as food (farmer sausage!) and clothing and specific linguistic dialects (Yiddish for Jews, Plautdietsch for Mennonites)? Are we talking about distinctive theological beliefs? It all depends on the context.

: As an American and as a non-Mennonite by name/birth/culture, but (mostly) Anabaptist in my theology, I was still made to feel like I was inherently an outsider due to my last name and my American origins.

Fascinating. I've always felt like a borderline insider/outsider, because my British father was an only child, so all of the family gatherings I've gone to throughout my life have been with the Mennonite side of the family -- but my branch of the family was the only one in which no one spoke German (except for my mother), so I often felt left out of the conversations.

: So, I'm curious if a parallel is being made here between Mennonites and, say, Jews and Judaism in blurring the lines between religion and ethnicity. 

Fascinating. I swear, I wrote my comments above before I had even read this sentence! It's an analogy people do make from time to time. (Back in the '90s, I was talking to a Jewish publicist about a movie that depicted shtetl life, and I mentioned that I had always wanted to be Jewish when I was a kid (partly because I was a big Fiddler on the Roof fan), and when I mentioned that my mother was Mennonite -- and had been born in eastern Europe, no less -- the publicist said, "That's close enough.")

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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