The 2022 film “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which is a sequel to “Black Panther,” brought a lot of excitement to many Marvel fans as the film has Black and Latino actors in the majority of the cast. One of the main characters they introduce in this installment is Namor, played by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta Mejía. Mejía’s character is the ruler of a kingdom known as Talokan, which is heavily influenced by Mayan and Aztec culture.
According to a 2021 report from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, called “Hispanic and Latino Representation in Film: Erasure On Screen & Behind the Camera Across 1,300 Popular Movies,” only seven percent of the actors who played a lead or co-lead in films in 2019 were Hispanic.
In the film, the East African kingdom of Wakanda and the Indigenous kingdom of Talokan both do whatever it takes to protect their homelands and the resources they have. However, when outsiders figure out the existence of a metal known as Vibranium in the middle of the ocean, it causes conflict between both kingdoms due to Namor believing Wakanda is the reason this happened. However, both kingdoms decide to join forces together at the end for the greater good of their lands.
In a Brookings Institution report released in January, titled “Recognizing Black and Latino-majority cities is the first step to finding a real-world Wakanda,” authors Andre M. Perry and Manann Donoghoe made a connection between the film and ways Black and Brown people socialize and build community. Perry is a senior fellow at the Brookings Metro who focuses his work and research on race, inequality and education. As a senior research associate at Brookings Metro, Donoghoe is an expert in social justice and the environment.
Donoghoe said films like “Wakanda Forever” can be used as conversation starters in terms of real-life discussions about the world, such as what can happen when groups come together to form connections and cooperation. In their report, the authors used Wakanda and Talokan as a comparison to potential racial coalitions in cities in the United States, specifically between Blacks and Latinos.
As for Perry, he found that the film attempted to show how cooperation between communities is necessary and this can be a reflection of real life.
“For us, that metaphor rings true in cities all across the country, we have assets and strengths in communities of color, in cities that are predominantly Black and Brown, in which those assets really don’t get their sense of value,” Perry said.
Black and Latino-majority cities
Following a report published by Perry in 2017 that focused on Black-majority cities only, the latest report’s purpose is to provide an interactive map where readers can view Black-majority cities, Latino-majority cities and Latino-and-Black-majority cities across the U.S.
According to the latest Brookings Metro report, Detroit remains the largest Black-majority city, followed by Memphis, Tenn., Baltimore, and Atlanta. Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City are among the large cities that are considered to be Black and Latino majorities. Fresno, El Paso and San Antonio are considered to be Latino majorities.
Perry and Donoghoe wanted the report to reveal where there are cities where the majority of the population is Black and Latino, and how that reality can signify cooperation between the marginalized groups. According to the report, “In addition to being centers of cultural diversity and creativity, Black and Latino-majority cities are some of the nation’s greatest economic engines and centers of employment and wealth.”
However, the report sheds light on how it is not always easy for racial coalitions to occur, referring specifically to the Los Angeles City Council scandal.
“For instance, the bombshell recording of three Latino Los Angeles City Council members and a local union president spewing racist language widened the divisions organizers had been trying to bridge and prompted some pundits to ask, ‘“Is the Black and Brown Coalition a Myth?’” the report stated.
Despite this, Perry said there are undeniable sources of great potential that can change the trajectory of the groups. “We certainly don’t sidestep the tensions that really exist between different groups. But, when you look at different outcomes in terms of education, housing, jobs, and in other areas, there’s a lot of overlap and connection,” Perry said. “And so LA is a place where you would hope there would be more collaboration. More cooperation.”
This report is only the start for Perry and Donoghoe, they said. They plan to release more reports that focus on other marginalized groups, such as Asian Americans.
CALÓ NEWS interviewed authors Andre M. Perry and Manann Donoghoe to discuss the importance of their report, their findings specific to Latinos and how they plan to analyze the strength of Black and Latino communities and more.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
ANDRE M. PERRY, 52, NATIONAL HARBOR, MARYLAND, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE BROOKINGS METRO, HE/HIM/HIS, BLACK
MANANN DONOGHOE, DC METRO AREA, SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE AT THE BROOKINGS METRO, HE/HIM, WHITE
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT TAKEAWAYS FROM YOUR MOST RECENT REPORT, AND WHY?
PERRY: Well, for me, we are living in a multicultural society that if you’re talking about cities, you really have to talk about Black and Brown people and others and working together. I may sound like a broken record, but the narrative that you hear constantly is of how fractured we are.
But, there’s a lot of cooperation that’s going on and there’s certainly a lot of potential cooperation and collaborations that can occur. So we wanted people to actually see how close people are to one another. Now we can overlay these demographic data with the actual quality of life outcomes as well. But you’ll see that there’s a lot of shared interest between Black and Brown people in the U.S. So it’s just important for people to see who’s living where in our communities because too often we don’t have a big sense of the power just in numbers, just in the numerical diversity that we have.
DONOGHOE: I just wanted to second that as well. I think there’s value in identifying and mapping and naming these places. And that’s really the kind of data innovation of this work is putting these places on a map, and again, not just majority Latino places or Black majority places, but places that are majority in combination. And that to me is the most important aspect of the paper.
WHAT DOES THE REPORT REVEAL ABOUT LATINOS AND LATINO CITIES?
DONOGHOE: I think there are a few things. One comes back to what I was saying before, just about LA. But, another thing to highlight would be in terms of speaking about just the majority of Latino cities from a data perspective is one thing that they tend to be larger. They tend to be clustered, which is no surprise in the southwest of the U.S. as well. These are some really big cities in terms of places with greater than 65% Latino populations. You’re talking about places like San Antonio, El Paso and Fresno. These are big diversities and economic powerhouses.
PERRY: I mean, it is clear you see a clustering on the west more so than any other place. But, there are certainly cities in the Midwest and the East Coast. But, what’s interesting is when you see the Brown-majority and Black-majority cities, both at the same time, you really see them really going almost like a U-shape across the United States.
It’s just fascinating to look at the coverage and where Black and Brown people are living. But, Latinos are primarily in the West, but certainly, you see clustering in the Midwest on the East Coast, moving from Maryland through New York.
WHAT WAS SURPRISING TO FIND OUT ABOUT LATINOS AND WHY?
PERRY: In my first major job, I worked on migrant education policy and immigrant educational rights. And at the time, Latinos, and Hispanics may have been around six to eight percent of the U.S. at the time. This is going back to the late eighties. So, it might be a little bit more, but over time, Latinos have really helped drive a growing economy. They’re settling in cities all across the U.S., so I don’t know if it’s surprising, but it is eye-opening to see the growth in population in a relatively short period of time.
For me, I will say this, and I also think it’s surprising not just looking at the data, just, but understanding what these data mean to people. I also understand that with that rise in growth comes a lot of anxiety among particularly white Americans, no, all Americans because many of these cities were once a Black-majority or white-majority, and now they’re something else. And so there are perceived cultural and linguistic threats among people. But, the reality is from an economic standpoint, you cannot divorce our economic growth from our demographic changes, that Latinos in this country have helped grow our economy.
DONOGHOE: On what Andre was mentioning there about many of these cities which have been majority Black and are now majority Black and Latino. Washington, D.C. where we are now is an example of that somewhere there was a majority Black, less than 10 years ago, and has just shifted now to be majority Black and Latino. I think the Black population is still in the high forties [percentile], but just on the cusp of shifting, I think there are a lot of cities that are in that position, which speaks to the growing kind of demographic influence of Latinos.
Speaking more personally, I’m Australian, actually. I’m not from the U.S. and I think one thing that kind of was a personal takeaway that was surprising to me was just how big a majority Latino communities have in some of these cities, in some pretty good-sized cities as well. We’re talking about greater than 70%, up in the 80-90% Latino majorities. So that’s something I didn’t really realize as an outsider coming in and was really interesting to see on the maps.
WHY WERE LATINOS LEFT OUT OF THE FIRST REPORT? WHY WERE THEY ADDED TO THE SECOND REPORT?
PERRY: When I first came to Brookings, I wanted to examine my hometown and it was really more of a personal choice. But, having worked in the policy arena on issues that impact Brown and, or as I should say Latinx people, it’s important to recognize the Brown majority cities as well because I see how cities are identified. I recognize how there’s a pride in knowing that you are in a place where you can see other people who look like you, that you can share in the culture, and there’s a pride there.
I felt that it was almost necessary to expand that analysis to include others, and we’re gonna expand again. I mean, eventually, we’re going to add our Asian American brothers and sisters and other groups. So it’s just really an iterative process, starting with my hometown, but also recognizing that there are other communities that deserve to be recognized.
DONOGHOE: I wasn’t involved in the first publication, but as to why they’re in this publication, it’s important that Latinos are, and that we’re speaking about issues facing Latinos as well because, for many marginalized groups, they’re the same or similar issues which come from the same or similar structures.
So if we’re gonna talk about the issues for Black Americans, we should also be talking about the issues facing other minority groups as well.
PERRY: If I can add on, structural racism impacts everyone and the more we start to be able to measure structural racism, we can now see its impact on every group in this country. The larger goal is to measure structural racism. But, along the way, we’re going to be able to see where people live in concentration to better be able to analyze the impacts of structural racism.
WHAT PROBLEMS ARE IDENTIFIED IN THIS REPORT? WHAT ARE POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS?
PERRY: Well, this report really wasn’t about identifying problems. It was really just to state where people are living. The assumption is, I will say this, we go about a lot of these reports out of my team, which is called the Value in Black Assets Initiative. But, we go about our work to look at the strength in these communities. Too often, when we talk about primarily, predominantly Latino communities or predominantly Black communities, we talk about problems. Our goal is to look at the strength, the assets. So you’ll see a number of reports moving forward analyzing those strengths in those places.
DONOGHOE: This map is, and this report is really a tool to push a conversation, and that begins with just putting all of these places on a map and naming them.
WHAT CAN BE DONE IN TERMS OF COALITION-BUILDING BETWEEN LATINOS AND BLACKS BASED ON YOUR REPORT?
PERRY: I don’t want to overstep. It was really just a demographic study. But, there are a few obvious ones in that there is power in numbers and when you’re talking about electoral politics in particular at the city level and for states, coalitions can clearly lead to the election of candidates who can address the shared interest of Black and Brown people. Now that’s probably the only direct link I can make because each person, has one vote. But, it’s really to talk about the power in numbers in that regard, which elections probably have the most ostensible sort of tie.
DONOGHOE: I’ve got nothing to add to that one. I think that was a great answer.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO HIGHLIGHT FOR OUR READERS?
DONOGHOE: One of the interesting innovations is looking at places where there is a super majority, so there’s greater than 65% either Black/Latino or Black and Latino combined. That really allows you to kind of zero in on these places where there is this strength in numbers and large populations of either Black/Latinos or Black and Latinos combined. So I’d like to highlight that as a kind of interactive element of the report that people no matter where they’re living across the U.S. can zoom in and have a look at their own cities and places.