What can we learn from Black Panther?

Image source: Disney/Marvel Studios

Have you seen it? I’m sure you’ve at least heard about it, right? And now you’re wondering, “What on earth is she referring to?” The movie Black Panther, of course!

The Black Panther superhero was first introduced in a Marvel comic in 1966 and received its own comic in 1977. The film was one of the most anticipated of 2018; it was eventually released on February 16th and is still going strong. According to many critics, Black Panther was one of the most impressive Marvel movies to date, for a variety of reasons. The film recently sailed past Titanic in unadjusted earnings, and it is the 10th film to gross over $1.3 billion worldwide. On top of its monetary success, the film is also the first of the Marvel series to feature a black superhero, played by Chadwick Boseman. It features an impressive cast such as Lupita Nyong’o (Star Wars and The Jungle Book) and Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out). Black Panther resonated well with viewers as it has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Now you may be asking yourself, “What does Black Panther have to do with World Relief Chicago?” Well, this film is full of valuable lessons that range from the importance of getting along with others – demonstrated by the cohesiveness between most of the tribes that form Wakanda – to the value of women, as exemplified by the strong female characters. Perhaps one of the most important lessons we can take away is Wakanda’s final stance on sharing their wealth with others. For most of the movie, King T’Challa is adamantly opposed to exposing the truth about Wakanda to the rest of the world. Wakanda successfully avoided colonialization, and he fears that the country will be exploited if people discover their large amount of Vibranium and technologically-advanced society. Other residents also fear that refugees will bring their problems with them if Wakanda allows them in.

Throughout the film, he is challenged by numerous characters who feel the need to share Wakanda’s resources with the rest of the world. Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), the villain of the film, wants to export Wakanda’s Vibranium to oppressed people all over the world so they can lead an armed resistance. When King T’Challa is challenged by Killmonger, his long-time friend W’kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) sides with the opposition.

Eventually viewers see T’Challa publicly change his mind in one of Marvel’s notorious mid-credit scenes. After the resolution of the film’s main conflict, he is shown addressing a crowd at the United Nations and reveals that Wakanda will be sharing its resources with the rest of the world.

This shift in thinking provides an exceptional model for us as a country to follow. For Fiscal Year 2018, the refugee admission ceiling was lowered to 45,000, the lowest it has been since the commencement of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program in 1980. Almost halfway through FY18, we have resettled just over 10,000 refugees.

We have been provided with the opportunity to open our doors to others in the midst of the largest global refugee crisis to date, estimated at 65.6 million displaced people by the end of 2016. Unfortunately, this change in policy has drastically lowered the number of people allowed to resettle in the country. As Christians, this is disheartening as we are losing a major opportunity to advance the cause of Christ.  With fewer refugees and immigrants entering the country, we have fewer opportunities to interact with them and love as Jesus did. We tend to make security an idol while ignoring the facts. Americans have a 1 in 3.64 billion chance of being killed by a refugee, and the only three terrorist attacks by refugees were committed before rigorous screening was put in place in 1980. Refugees also contribute to the economy; in 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services found that refugees “contributed $63 billion more in tax revenue than they cost in public benefits.”

But there is hope! As we see in Black Panther, people can change their minds. Though we may differ from Wakanda (like the fact that we are not a fictitious country that boasts a superhero and tons of Vibranium), they provided a valuable lesson for us to learn: the importance of sharing your abundance and welcoming the stranger into your land.


World Relief Chicago is a refugee resettlement agency and provides immigration legal services to the Chicago community.  If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or learning more, visit our website. Our most urgent needs are for Health Advocates, Medical Appointment Transporters, Citizenship Workshop volunteers, and In-Home ESL tutors.

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