Black Panther was an Undocumented Immigrant

By Rondell Treviño, Founder, Memphis immigration Project

40th-highest-grossing movie of all time in North America.

12th-highest-grossing movie of all time (worldwide) with with $1.237 billion worldwide after six weeks.

Fourth-biggest sixth-weekend gross.

Fifth-biggest domestic grosser of all time.

Third-leggiest MCU movie of all time.

Second-fastest-grossing movie of all time.

Biggest comic book superhero movie ever (in North America).

These are some of the record breaking stats on one of the greatest comic book movies I have ever seen: The Black Panther. 

Black Panther has given the Black community–some of which are my good friends, joy and hope in the midst of a racially divisive society. The way the movie gives honor to the Black heritage is jaw dropping and emotional.

The Black Panther has also given the Black undocumented Immigrant community joy and hope as well. The Black Panther movie couldn’t have been made without immigrants – from the artists behind the screen to starring actors, immigrants played an invaluable role in the movie’s creation. As the movie so clearly highlights, an open and integrated world is better than a closed off and homogeneous one.

In the 2011 comic series Black Panther: The Man Without Fear, the Black Panther character lives as an undocumented immigrant in New York City, and in a Washington Post article.  Immigrant Bambadjan Bamba, who’s an actor in the the Black Panther movie writes about how T’Challa’s story in the series mirrors his own experience as an undocumented immigrant, saying, “Black Panther: The Man Without Fear] resonated with me because, while I was trying to maneuver through life without legal status, I was also dealing with the realities of being black in America . To be black without papers meant that I was walking on an additional layer of eggshells, never wanting to appear too “aggressive’ or “suspicious’ for fear of giving law enforcement a reason to criminalize me and triggering deportation proceedings.”

This experience is shared by many Black Immigrants in the United States. Studies show that although only 7% of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are black, they make up 20% of the population facing deportation. Furthermore, Black immigrants are more likely than natural born citizens to have earned a college degree [Pew Research]. Despite their educational achievements, and despite high participation rates in the workforce, Black immigrants have an unemployment rate of 7.4%, one of the highest among immigrant groups. The median household income of Black immigrants is $4,200 less than that of all immigrants.

In other words, there is a lot of work to be done to ensure justice and opportunities for Black immigrant communities. Now there is a lot of work to do for ALL Immigrants from different ethnicities since the Immigrant community is not a monolith, but I wanted to focus on Black Immigrants specifically in this article because far too often we believe the myth that all Immigrants, documented and undocumented, are just Latino when in reality this is far from the truth [Pew Research].

On a final note, the Black Panther being an undocumented Immigrant in the comics speaks to the reality of Immigration and race are interconnected. We easily separate the two as if they are totally different topics, but they are closely related. When we realize this as a Church then when talk about racism we give ourselves an opportunity to talk about Immigration and vice versa.


Memphis immigration Project exists to engage issues of Immigration from a Biblical perspective.

 

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