“Black Panther” is set to hit movie screens Thursday, but given that it’s a Marvel superhero flick, “Black Panther” merchandise will also be released — merchandise that includes “Black Panther” costumes and costume elements like masks and gloves. This lead the New York Times to wonder, apparently, whether it’s appropriate for white parents to buy these products for their kids, and if white kids should dress like “Black Panther” at all.
“As parents, or even as the people creating costumes, we need to be very aware of what that says,” one professor of Early Childhood Education told the NYT. “There’s not a whole lot of black superheroes, so this is a really important thing for black kids growing up.”
The New York Times frets that dressing your child up as the main character, T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman in the movie, might just be cultural appropriation, or worse, something akin to wearing “blackface.” Before editing the name of their article to “The Many Faces of Black Panther,” it seems they even titled it “Who’s Allowed to Wear a Black Panther Mask?”
Their original title still lurks on social media.
But if the social justice warriors at the New York Times are worried that their enthusiastic progeny will be culturally appropriating a beloved comic book culture, they seem to be the only ones.
In their own article, Boseman — Black Panther, himself — says that he finds joy in seeing all races of children dress up as his eponymous character. Other members of the cast told the NYT that they believe that kind of crossover is actually a testament to how impactful the movie is on an increasingly polarized cultures.
Another woman interviewed for the article called the possibility of crossover in costuming “beautiful.”
“When I look at it, I see no reason why a kid who’s not black can’t dress like Black Panther,” she told the NYT. “Just like our kid who’s not white dresses up like Captain America. I think the beautiful thing about comics is they do transcend race in a lot of ways.”
In the end, the NYT could only find one person — a college professor, of course — to give them just a bit of satisfaction on the issue.
Brigitte Vittrup of Texas Women’s College told the Times that any parent allowing their child to dress up as Black Panther must, at least, discuss with them the concept of privilege. “White people have the privilege of not constantly being reminded of their race in the United States, where white is the majority, whereas as a black person you don’t,” she said.