Sunday, March 4, 2018


But Black Panther is first and foremost an African American love letter, and as such it is consumed with The Void, the psychic and cultural wound caused by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the loss of life, culture, language, and history that could never be restored. It is the attempt to penetrate The Void that brought us Alex Haley’s Roots, that draws thousands of African Americans across the ocean to visit West Africa every year, that left me crumpled on the rocks outside the Door of No Return at GorĂ©e Island’s slave house as I stared out over a horizon that my ancestors might have traversed once and forever. Because all they have was lost to The Void, I can never know who they were, and neither can anyone else.
Adam Serwer "The Tragedy of Erik Killmonger"
The Void. Really? Is that what they're call it these days? For all that, being a Black American myself, I understand the knowledge that history has lifted you out of sight of the roots of one's family tree, to call that distance The Void seems pretentious. It's simply a fact of history, and not one unique to the descendants of American slaves.

There's a part of me that wonders if this isn't a cultural issue - an artifact of the concept that we have in the United States (and other nations) that who you are is defined, to some or another degree, by who your ancestors were. And while I can see the tragedy in being unable to lay claim to an ancestor's greatness, there is also the freedom of being free of their crimes. For some people, seeking out elements of the past that make them great and others lesser comes across is nearly an obsession. There's a part of me that's happy to be impervious to that call. And I wonder if there are other people in the world, perhaps in other cultures, who are content to be who they are, without needing to reference earlier generations.

But I understand how it can feel isolating. I realize that some part of the Black population (among other people) of the world are distant relations, and I will never know. If I meet them on the street, they won't be long-lost family - they will simply be strangers. I'm okay with that, and perhaps that's why The Void, a term which conjures up ideas of an inky, frightening, nothingness, doesn't appeal to me. I am unafraid to be without a family history. But I understand that phenomena need names, and I don't have a better one at this point. So if it must be The Void, then so be it.

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