Recognizing Black and Latino-majority cities is the first step to finding a real world Wakanda

Editor’s Note:

In 2017, Brookings published its first analysis of Black-majority cities. This report updates that publication using the most recent American Community Survey data, averaged over the period from 2015 to 2020. 

By:Andre M. Perry and Manann Donogho

The “Black Panther” comic book and film series tells the story of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda, which must protect itself from countries seeking to extract its rare natural resources. This narrative can be seen as a metaphor for historic colonization and present-day wealth extraction in Black-majority communities. But just as white supremacy, colonization, and apartheid occurred in different regions of the world, the metaphor doesn’t apply only to Africa and people of African ancestry. Hence, the recently released second installment to the film franchise, “Wakanda Forever,” introduces the kingdom of  Talokananother resource-rich, technologically advanced civilization, this time steeped in Mesoamerican culture. 

In “Wakanda Forever,” filmmaker Ryan Coogler asks audiences to see that Black and brown-majority places share a common challenge, as modern-day colonizers seek to strip them of their resources. This similarity is more fact than fiction when considering that some of the cities with the greatest economic output in the U.S. are mostly populated with people who identify as Black and Latino or Hispanic. This is the case for the top three cities in terms of economic output: New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, which estimates show had a combined gross metropolitan product representing 16% of the nation’s total gross domestic product in 2021.  

Just as in the fictional nations of Wakanda and Talokan, the demographic trends in these communities here in the U.S. present real opportunities for racial coalitions that can shift the balance of power around critical quality of life areas such as housing, employment, education, and political representation. Black and Latino or Hispanic cities reflect America’s rapidly shifting demographics, which demand a more strategic recognition of the value of racial diversity in our cities and towns. 

This report and interactive data visualization updates Brookings’s 2017 Black-majority cities map by including Latino-majority and Black and Latino-majority places, where there is the potential for racial coalitions to drive community well-being.[1] 

BLACK-MAJORITY AND LATINO-MAJORITY CITIES AND TOWNS 

This interactive map shows the location and total population of Black-majority places (in purple), Latino-majority places (in yellow), and places with a combined Black and Latino-majority population (in orange). The size of each dot shows the relative size of the city.  

While these places are spread out across most of the U.S., Black-majority places tend to be clustered in the Southeast while Latino-majority places are in the Southwest. 

 

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