IT IS ONE of the most strikingly political lines from “Black Panther,” and it’s not even uttered during the film itself.
In the movie’s first mid-credits scene, we see the Black Panther/King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) speaking at a lectern as he announces a massive policy shift by his long-hidden African nation. Wakanda, the most technologically advanced place on the planet, will share some of its ideas and resources with the rest of the world.
In doing so, T’Challa quotes a version of an actual African proverb that says that “the wise build bridges” while “the foolish” build walls. (Some variations on that proverb say “dams” instead of “barriers” or “walls.”)
Gasps and laughter can often be heard in the theater when the Black Panther says that line, because it rings as a direct rebuke of President Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
It resonates, in other words, as one of the most overtly political lines, in terms of real-world relevance, ever said in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In interviews, writer-director Ryan Coogler has said that the line was included without Trump’s wall in mind and that he was moved to include it after his wife brought the proverb to his attention. The filmmaker also notes that the Black Panther, as a ruler himself, has long been a political figure.
One real leader who appreciated the inclusion of that proverb is Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil-rights hero who documented some of his story in the acclaimed graphic-novel memoir “March” — and who will continue to chronicle his civil rights fight in the recently announced comic book “Run.”
Lewis tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs that he loved that line.
“It is better to build bridges than to build walls,” Lewis says. “Who are you trying to keep in and who are you trying to keep out?”
“We should be building bridges to the rest of the world.”
Lewis marched on Selma in 1965, the year before the Black Panther made his debut in Marvel Comics. (The Southern protest leader had marched for years before the launch of the Black Panther Party, as well.)
In the new film, Lewis sees much to admire and inspire.
Here is how some other “Black Panther” fans reacted to that line on social media: