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'Black Panther' inspires more than African Americans

The box-office success of "Black Panther" gives me hope that one day my minority group, Arab Americans and Muslims, w...

Posted: Feb 19, 2018 9:03 AM
Updated: Feb 19, 2018 9:03 AM

The box-office success of "Black Panther" gives me hope that one day my minority group, Arab Americans and Muslims, will see a superhero from our community on the big screen.

Maybe there will be a future superhero named "Muslim Man" or "Super Samira"? Or, just to scare the bigots, wouldn't it be fun to see "Sharia Man," whose power is flying around America taking pork bacon from people's plates and replacing it with turkey bacon?

Regardless, the popularity of "Black Panther," which took in $192 million in North American theaters its opening weekend, lets me -- and people of other minority groups -- dream of one day seeing our own superheroes. After all, Hollywood is a business. And when entertainment executives see that something works as stunningly as "Black Panther" has, some will likely start thinking about who the next minority superhero could be.

My excitement about "Black Panther" potentially helping other minority groups is not intended to take away from the significance this film holds for so many African Americans. As I learned in discussions with both racial-justice activists and listeners on my SiriusXM radio show, this film represents a milestone for their community.

More specifically, I could hear the emotion in the voices of African-American listeners who spoke of growing up and seeing black people almost always depicted as criminals and drug addicts in film. Now, finally they have a superhero they can look up to and identify with. It's taken too long for Hollywood to get behind a major superhero movie which features black actors on screen and black creatives behind the screen.

Many of my listeners were also quick to point out the Black Panther, played by actor Chadwick Boseman, hails from an African nation that's depicted as both wealthy and technologically advanced. To many, this was the perfect response to Donald Trump reportedly calling Africa a "shithole" (a comment he has since denied making).

I look forward to the day when my community can be this excited to see a movie that showcases one of us as a superhero. What a contrast it would be to how cruelly Hollywood has depicted Muslims and Arabs in both TV and films for decades.

As the late scholar Jack Shaheen documented in his seminal book, "Reel Bad Arabs," between the mid-1970s and 2001 there were more than 300 films that portrayed Arabs in a negative light.

In other words, we have been treated to film after film in which Arabs and Muslims are depicted as terrorists, evil villains, sinister billionaires and, of course, silenced women. Think about how such images would impact your sense of self-worth.

And, worse, think about how that makes your fellow Americans see you and your community.

Some white people, as I have heard firsthand, simply don't get why positive minority representation in entertainment is vitally important to my community. That's because they've grown up constantly seeing people who look like them -- be it Superman or Wonder Woman or Batman -- saving the day. We, as a society, are taught from a young age that the hero is white and the person of color is bad -- or, at best, a victim to be saved by the hero.

Let me be brutally honest: If you are a minority, it's challenging to not be angry with Hollywood for the irresponsibly negative ways it has depicted blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Arabs and other minority groups -- all in the pursuit of making millions, if not billions, of dollars.

Don't get me wrong: I understand that Hollywood is not a charity. Nor are executives of big media conglomerates motivated by making sure minorities are depicted in a positive light. Their job is to make movies and television shows that sell.

But that's exactly why I'm hoping that "Black Panther" breaks box-office records. In turn, that means we will see black superheroes in countless movies and TV shows going forward. And here's hoping "Black Panther's" popularity translates into other minority groups getting a chance to see someone who looks like them save the world.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61125

Reported Deaths: 1711
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5269106
DeSoto332627
Madison229756
Harrison215232
Rankin214628
Jackson199434
Jones177457
Forrest164053
Washington149232
Lauderdale132988
Lee123930
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Lamar112112
Oktibbeha105435
Lowndes98932
Warren96427
Scott95517
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Copiah91724
Panola91211
Sunflower90822
Lafayette88111
Holmes84747
Leflore84059
Pike83232
Grenada81320
Yazoo78611
Leake76825
Lincoln74540
Pontotoc7377
Wayne73321
Simpson71227
Monroe70250
Coahoma66310
Tate65023
Marion60118
Covington58811
Adams58425
Marshall5718
Winston57115
George5475
Union53113
Newton51611
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Pearl River48536
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Smith38013
Calhoun3788
Jasper3768
Clay37013
Alcorn3574
Prentiss3426
Hancock33614
Tishomingo3204
Lawrence3135
Tippah31212
Yalobusha31210
Itawamba30710
Clarke30025
Montgomery2933
Tunica2786
Humphreys27111
Carroll24511
Greene22611
Quitman2251
Kemper22315
Perry2227
Amite2105
Jefferson Davis2026
Webster19912
Jefferson1936
Wilkinson18712
Sharkey1801
Stone1523
Choctaw1274
Benton1250
Franklin1162
Issaquena211
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 90890

Reported Deaths: 1611
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson11859225
Mobile9086191
Montgomery6249143
Madison501425
Tuscaloosa397463
Baldwin321023
Shelby305032
Marshall296630
Unassigned273453
Lee250540
Morgan222315
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DeKalb170113
Elmore160237
Calhoun15609
Walker147063
Houston131912
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Russell12331
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Franklin119620
Limestone119613
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Colbert109312
Lauderdale107112
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Escambia97915
Talladega91813
Jackson8283
Chambers82138
Tallapoosa81478
Dale78520
Butler75235
Blount7363
Chilton7106
Coffee7095
Covington70920
Pike6607
Barbour5635
Lowndes55224
Marion54224
Marengo52014
Clarke4869
Hale45926
Bullock43811
Perry4294
Winston42911
Wilcox4059
Monroe3914
Randolph38810
Bibb3743
Conecuh37310
Pickens3679
Sumter36118
Lawrence3100
Washington31011
Macon30913
Crenshaw2863
Choctaw27412
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Clay2175
Lamar1982
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