Using Our Voices to Help, Not Hurt in Black Panther 171

By Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Our voices make us powerful. They allow us to make bonds and forge connections with one another, they allow us to speak out against oppression and injustice, they allow us to express our innermost desires and emotions, to be heard. Unfortunately, some voices are louder than others. Voices of men, voices of white people, they have a platform that women or people of color are so often denied access to, a platform that amplifies their voice, not only giving their words too much power, but drowning out the voices of others. This is first and foremost a problem for those whose voices are being drowned out, of course, but it’s also a problem for those doing the speaking; they’re so busy talking that they’re not listening, and that means they’re missing out on a lot of vital information.

This whole concept is made quite literal in the case of Ulysses Klaw. Already a personification of imperialism, in the most recent arc of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leonard Kirk’s Black Panther, he’s also the epitome of the white man who abuses his platform. His sonic powers literally allow him to turn off sound, shutting down the voices of others, and allows him to amplify his own words to the point where they can mislead and control others. Black Panther 171 finds Klaw falling victim to his own power, though.

Klaw transformed himself with Reverbium, which left him vulnerable to T’Challa and Dr. Franklin’s attack. Klaw didn’t listen to the reports, to the people warning him about the dangers of Reverbium. Whether he literally didn’t hear them because he was so wrapped up in his plan, or whether he just ignored their warnings because he thought he knew best is immaterial — either way, he let his own voice drown out the voices of other, smarter people who had a lot to offer him, who could have saved him a lot of pain and suffering. His abusing his voice, his power, his platform, hasn’t just hurt others, it’s hurt himself as well.

That speaks to another theme that’s run throughout this arc, albeit a minor one — the importance of listening to others, respecting them, and having empathy. T’Challa wins back the respect of the Dora Milage by assisting them in their rescue mission, listening to their cries for help despite their differences in the past. He also seems to have won over Dr. Franklin by, again, treating him with respect and dignity and trusting his advice. Even Asira, revealed last month to be Ras the Exhorter the whole time, seems cooperative and repentant when approached with kindness by Okoye. The message is clear: our voices shouldn’t just be used to benefit ourselves, but to elevate and empower others as well. That’s what Klaw will never understand.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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