As a Black woman trained in bioanthropology and dedicated to a career trying to undo the residues of social Darwinism and anti-Black racism in museums, I’m concerned about the present state of popular discourse around Africa and Blackness.
In a tweet from 2013, Roseanne Barr called former United Nations National Security Advisor Susan Rice a “big man with swinging ape balls.” This year, Barr was at it again, tweeting “If Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby =vj.” VJ was a reference to Valerie Jarett, a former senior advisor to President Barak Obama.
Running through terminal three at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport, two thoughts crossed my mind: “I have to make this flight,” and, “This is my McCallister moment.” It was not until I was finally seated on my seven-hour flight to Heathrow that doubt began to creep into my mind. All of the trip anxiety that I had before leaving came rushing back somewhere between hours three and four of the flight.
More than 200 scholars and students from gathered in Johannesburg for the second in a series of biennial scholarly exchanges on the African continent to celebrate the interdisciplinary connections that help us situate the locus of knowledge production about Africa’s contemporary successes and challenges.
Black Panther (2018) is one of the highest grossing films in history. That a high-budget, sci-fi, action-hero movie is popular around the world is not a surprise. Yet, a global cinematic hit made by a mostly Black cast and production team, and set in East Africa, is unprecedented. Black Panther and its commercial success are products of and contributors to a growing popularization and even valorization of forms, metaphysics, symbols, and other cultural elements recognizable as “African.”