I get it. Everyone is worried about the midterm elections right now (and you should be). Will there be a blue wave of Democratic victories? Will Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams be able to pull off wins in Florida and Georgia? Will Ben Jealous be able to get within 10 points of a loss in Maryland? How effective are black candidates in fighting voter suppression? Where can the black community look for hope in this complicated and treacherous electoral environment?
Fortunately, there is a candidate that cuts through the red tape like a Vibranium knife, floats over controversy like a hover-board and can reach across the aisle to work with white gorillas.
Last week, a Black Panther was elected leader of the Avengers, which just might be the biggest campaign victory for black folks in 2018.
Avengers comic No. 8 featured an amazing political accomplishment the likes of which should inspire anybody black running for office in 2018. T’Challa, the Black Panther, was elected chairman of the Avengers by a unanimous vote.
This is impressive for several reasons: first, T’Challa pretty much has no political experience running for office. He’s King of Wakanda, a theocratic constitutional monarchy, which, in simpler terms means, as long as he can beat up a few guys on a waterfall cliff once a year and worship a panther god in a purple haze, he’s good to go. I’m not sure if Challenge Day is harder than most American political campaigns but I’m almost positive that, if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had to strip naked and fight to the death with nothing but a spear and a leather shield, we would have confirmed supreme court justice Kamala Harris last week and Roy Moore would be in jail right next to Jared from Subway.
Black Panther’s landslide election is even more impressive when you consider the tough constituencies he had to win over to get the job. The Avengers aren’t just “America’s” team, they’re white America’s team. While the X-Men have been a living, breathing Old Navy commercial of diversity for decades, the Avengers look like the Trump White House Christmas photo they take real quick when Ben Carson is in the bathroom. In other words, these probably weren’t easy groups for T’Challa to win over.
Captain America is a 90-year-old white man who was in a block of ice for the entire civil rights movement. He probably still checks the papers for Negro League playoff scores and wonders how he ended up being teammates with a Russian woman and a black guy in wings. Your libertarian Silicon Valley tech bros like Tony Stark never think that voting matters. Then you’ve got religious conservatives with Thor (What’s more conservative than a blonde white man who thinks he’s a living God? ).
Now to be fair, Black Panther did have some built-in constituencies such as Latino Robbie Reyes who is Ghost Rider. And he’s killing the gender gap with Captain Marvel (the white one) giving him the college-educated white woman vote. Black Panther could definitely count on women of color to turn out (She-Hulk is green, which makes you an unofficial PoC in comics). However, he was still facing an uphill battle.
The Avengers have had white women, androids and former felons as chairperson before Black Panther. Yes, the team has technically had black leaders before, but Luke Cage or Falcon ran unofficial outlaw Avengers teams and they weren’t elected. They were chairpersons in the same way that you can be a ‘manager’ at a mall kiosk. The one time the Avengers elected a black person as permanent leader before Black Panther it didn’t work out so well.
Back in 1987 Monica Rambeau, (the only Captain Marvel I acknowledge), was nominated as leader of the team by Captain America. She was smart, a military veteran and had the power to turn herself into almost any form of energy. She was totally qualified for the job.
Of course, Thor was totally against it (what do you expect from old white religious conservatives ), Dr. Druid wanted the job for himself and She-Hulk, in true sisterhood, had her back.
In the end, Captain Marvel led the team but all the white guys undermined her. Thor called her an angry black woman; Dr. Druid questioned her intelligence and The Black Knight blocked all of her judicial nominations. (I’m not sure if the last part happened but I’m sure he was thinking about it). The Avengers basically disassembled by the end of her leadership term.
So what did Black Panther do that didn’t work last time? How did he convince a bunch of white people to elect a guy with a funny sounding name, who was born in Africa, whose religious beliefs are a bit questionable (where have we heard this before?)
Other than being a man, (because face it, White Avengers America wasn’t really trying to support a black woman as Chairperson in 1987) Black Panther did what Obama realized in 2008; what Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams are doing in 2018; and what Kamala Harris and Corey Booker will have to do come 2020. He waited until the white people (Like Trump) had screwed everything up so badly that other white people were desperate for something new, anything new and then hit them with a better idea.
Black Panther didn’t have to prove Captain America was a bad team leader, he just let people watch Steve Rogers become a Nazi sympathizer that almost destroyed America. He didn’t have to show that Thor’s obsession with the world ending Ragnarok didn’t make him a good leader, he just let the rest of America see that the religious right obsession with a morally ‘fallen’ country doesn’t lower taxes or improve healthcare. Then he made some proposals on how to improve everything for everyone. And those same white folks who hated him just a few months ago are unanimously voting for him to run their team. I’m sure at some point they’ll turn on T’Challa and re-elect Captain America to Make the Avengers Great Again. But until then the Black Panther is running things.
So, credit Marvel Comics for depicting a black man using the same strategy of success for campaign victories that black people have to use in the real world. Be better than everybody else, let them screw up on their own then they’ll literally come begging you to take over. It just goes to show that in America, when everything else has been tried, and failed and eventually caused irreversible ruin, there’s always a chance for a black man to come in and clean everything up. Even if we aren’t sure he’ll get credit for it.
Wakanda forever (or at least for four more years).