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Black Panther in the Rain: The Truth of Perspective

February 21, 2019

Last week we decided, YES, our stories are worth telling no matter what we have or haven’t accomplished in our lives. We have value – inherently. But what happens when your story conflicts with another’s? They are both worthy, after all.  

It is very difficult for us to disassociate with our inherent biases created by our *experience* — influenced by race, socioeconomic background, our upbringing, gender, sexuality, etc. Really, things totally out of our control.

I’m taking this very gigantic topic and scaling it WAY down to fit this vignette. Anything more ambitious, and I’m sure to make mistakes. But the one thing I do know to be true are my own moments. Here’s one.

When Black Panther came out in theaters, I was abuzz. I couldn’t wait to see it, and I dragged my husband along with me. He is a self-confessed film snob and isn’t a huge fan of Marvel movies. “This is more than just a typical Marvel movie!” I tried to explain. “Representation in film! People of color who are multi-dimensional and not being portrayed as victims!”

My perspective in viewing this film was that of a woman of color who craved depictions of non-white heroes in our culture. My husband viewed it as a man who is white with a bias against expensive, mass-produced Marvel movies.

Afterwards, we discussed the film over drinks with a couple other buddies. My husband vehemently denied giving praise to the film, and instead recited all the ways it wasn’t up to snuff and how it could have been better. I was livid. But I couldn’t truly understand why. He was entitled to his opinion – why should I care? So he didn’t like it and I did. It had happened a hundred times before. But this one felt different.

As we walked together in the sprinkling rain afterwards, I finally understood. A fire was instantly ignited, and my bones shook beneath my skin.

“YOU CAN’T EVEN LET US CELEBRATE WHAT THIS FILM HAS ACCOMPLISHED FOR US. YOU, A WHITE MAN, ARE TELLING US WE AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH. OUR FILM IS NOT UP TO YOUR STANDARDS.”

…I was a little tipsy at this point.  Yes, I was yelling in public. And I don’t know why I spoke like I had personally made the film. But when I spoke-yelled, I did it from the perspective of me and my fellow friend who was at the pub with us who also praised the film and happened to be a person of color. We had given each other knowing glances as the others spoke of the films faults. We understood the significance of the film because of our perspective, our upbringing, our background. In that moment, my husband could not.

“Can’t you understand what this means to us?” I pleaded. I finally saw the understanding wash over his face.

But how could he have understood until I understood? It wasn’t until I made the connection of my perspective resulting in my reaction – and his perspective resulting in his – that I could not so elegantly explain my side of the story. We explored this concept together.  

And worry not, the day ended in apologies and hugs.

There is truth in your perspective, in your opinions. But there is also truth in other people’s. How we reconcile them is up to us – but I recommend an open heart, open mind and a whole lot of empathy. The more we learn and understand other people’s truths, the more enriched and just our lives and culture will become.

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