• It had the highest budget ($200) for a black director (Ryan Coogler)
• It had a predominantly black cast
• It had the biggest February opening weekend in motion picture history
But perhaps my most favorite of all was the introduction of the first major black superhero – T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman. To me, the film boldly addressed one of the most divisive issues in Hollywood – and, indeed, in other areas of American culture today – diversity.
And in my opinion, it has addressed the issue beautifully, succinctly, and near-perfectly.
For too long, black people had been demonized in film. Too often, they’ve been cast as villains, comic reliefs, and token characters who always felt shoehorned into the plot just to make the film “more diverse.” (Even some Marvel characters, like sidekicks Falcon and War Machine, come to mind.)
Black Panther changed all that. In the process of becoming one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best, most entertaining movies yet, it also sends a clear message of how diversity should be.
Embracing Diversity In Business
I’m a black entrepreneur and businessman. I can safely say there’s virtually no downside in embracing diversity in my businesses. My experiences confirm what a growing number of studies claim: Diversity increases productivity and competitiveness in companies.
The reasons are easy enough to spot:
• Diverse companies enjoy different viewpoints and experiences
• These lead to new ideas
• While some ideas don’t work, some do – and that’s what matters
That’s perhaps the main advantage of diversity in business: Innovation. We create better ways to do the necessary things in life. We’re breaking inefficient old patterns and introducing new ones.
In my own businesses, I keep getting exposed to radical viewpoints from the people I work with, who come from all walks of life. They all bring wonderful ideas to the table, as well as insight into markets and audiences I would never have come up on my own.
Diversity. It works. And if it works for my companies, it should work for yours, too.
Visionary entrepreneur and coach Tony Robbins once told the story of how the Cold War ended. Back then, America and the U.S.S.R. were on the brink of nuclear war, and the media from both countries fanned the flames by painting the other as the “evil empire.”
The Cold War ended once and for all when, after reaching an impasse in a face-to-face talk with then-Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan comically asked to start the talks over, smiling and greeting Gorbachev with a smile and a handshake.
According to Tony, that was the moment when Gorbachev knew he could work with Reagan. The Cold War ended soon after that.
It doesn’t take a political analyst to see the parallels then and now. Today’s media tends to demonize the other side, whether it’s Blacks vs. Whites, Democrats vs. Republicans, Liberals vs. Conservatives, etc.
Black Panther reminds us that the old way of breaking patterns – with violence – doesn’t work. The only way to change things is to end demonization. The movie gave us an idea of exactly how to do that – with diversity, education, and leadership.
AP Photo/Marvel Studios