Can you cosplay from Black Panther if you’re white?

Black Panther is out and white cosplayers are asking, “How can I cosplay from Black Panther?” and I’m over here like…”We gave you two characters. Pick one – buff white dude or skinny white dude…I mean…let me be helpful.”
After watching the movie, I definitely see every single last cosplay that I want to do. I want to do everything from Angela Basset’s white dress we see her in when T’Challa returns to Wakanda to Killmonger’s jean jacket and Timberland boots. I just want to cosplay the whole movie and I can’t be the only one who feels this way especially my fellow white cosplayers.
I’m not saying white cosplayers can’t cosplay from Black Panther – that would make me no better than the trolls who comment “You’re too dark to cosplay Mizore!” – but there is a respectful way to go about cosplaying from Black Panther when you aren’t black. Black Panther isn’t the first and definitely not the last movie to be heavily influenced by African culture and clothing, but BP went out of their way to incorporate specific African designs, tribal markings and hairstyles. Unknowingly, if you just throw on a Black Panther cosplay – tribal markings and all – you could be mistaken for a classic case of appropriation.
To avoid any mistaken identity as a just another “appropriating white person” follow these tips on how to cosplay from Black Panther respectfully and still have fun.
  1. The very first thing – the NUMBER ONE THING – is no Black face! I don’t know why this is even a thing, but if you feel like you can’t pull off being a Dora Milaje without darkening your skin, then you clearly missed the point of cosplaying. Just about all and any of the Black Panther outfits are more than enough to wear and be recognized as said character.
  2. Be cautious of different hairstyles. Yes, you technically can wear dreadlocks – I personally don’t think any white person should do that to their hair – but if you already have dreads then go on. Just don’t be that White guy who buys the fake looking dread lock wig from Party City. Bantu knots I would stay away from as well as braids. Again, Black Panther outfits are recognizable enough on their own that you can wear your hair however, put on the cosplay, and still get recognized correctly.
  3. Speaking of cosplay accuracy, a lot of the tribal markings used in Black Panther are directly inspired by an actual African tribe. The Dora Milaje are inspired by the Maasai Tribe. The River Tribe (Black Panther) is inspired by the Suri Tribe (Africa). If you are White, don’t wear these tribal markings for the sake of “cos-accuracy.” While I have no jurisdiction over what you can and cannot do, if you want to avoid any potential backlash from the POC community just keep your makeup designs to correct skin tone foundation and a smokey eye.

Remember to have fun. We’re not used to seeing a major movie do so well and gain so much popularity while having an all Black (98 percent) cast. Cos-accuracy is probably my new favorite word to hate because I see more and more cosplayers trying to be something that isn’t even real, and it has hurt the cosplay community.

Our uniqueness and differences are what make the cosplay community so special. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to who we can and can’t cosplay based solely on how closely we can “be” that character. The community was built on a foundation on embracing our differences and respecting each other for them.

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