True Super Hero: A Tribute to Chadwick Boseman
Should we blame social media that people deem themselves privy to the intimate matters of others? Somewhere along the way we lost our respect for privacy.
On a job interview this year, I met a young woman who told me she has to pump breast milk during her commute home. As a healthcare worker—not fazed. All fine to that point. Then she asked me if I have children (which always makes me cringe because I can predict what follows.) I told her I do not, and quickly added that I’m fifty years old. She said I don’t look my age. Nice! I thought disclosing my age would make her see the futility of continuing on the topic. It didn’t. She asked if my husband and I want children. I repeated that I’m fifty. I didn’t know how else to respond.
Although you just told me about how you operate a breast pump while driving, keep in mind, we did just meet three minutes ago—in a busy health care facility—with strangers buzzing past us. You do realize you are asking about the long-standing malfunction of my reproductive system? OK, perhaps not.
Nothing personal against her. She had no malicious intent, and did what countless women before her have done—picked and rubbed salt into this old scab. But why do women do this? Men rarely ever cross this line. It’s a 1) personal intimate issue which 2) entails a complex response. Maybe some of you cannot relate to this type of sting because a man sneezes in your vicinity and you conceive. The rest of you get it when I say that inquiries about my lack of motherhood feel like a knife going into and out of my heart. Every. Single. Time.
I felt sucker-punched upon learning of the death of a real-life superhero last week. Chadwick Boseman died young and unexpectedly. I nearly pass out when I stub my pinky toe into a door. Yet Boseman made movies during a private four year battle with colon cancer, amidst multiple rounds of chemotherapy and several surgeries. Incase you haven’t seen Black Panther, Spoiler Alert: Chadwick Boseman did not possess the physique of a man in stage III oncology treatment. He looked so–healthy.
I first heard his name in 2018 when he hosted Saturday Night Live months after the release of Black Panther. I’m usually not impressed with superhero movies. But Black Panther? Wow. Right up there with Wonder Woman (vintage: Gal Gadot). Who knew that even as I rolled on the floor laughing at his portrayal of T’Challa in an SNL Black Jeopardy skit, Boseman battled stage III colon cancer? Only a handful.
Up until recent days, I didn’t know much about his life, except that he starred as Jackie Robinson and James Brown, amongst other roles. But a quick Google search caught me up on Chadwick Boseman. Many things impress me about him—not the least his portrayal of important Black figures during his career. Chadwick Boseman not only suffered in private, he suffered well.
In 2018 he received an honorary doctorate degree and delivered the commencement speech at his alma mater, Howard University. Days ago, Boseman’s speech ministered to me from the grave. Because in that moment I needed to hear the words, “When God has something for you, it doesn’t matter who stands against it. God will move someone that’s holding you back, away from a door, and put someone there who will open it for you,” after which he quoted Jeremiah 29:11. At that time (thanks to HIPAA and a thing called Protected Health Information) only Boseman, his medical team, and a select few who mattered most to him knew of his impending demise. Today he rests free from pain and disease in the arms of his Savior, having dodged the unnecessary added burden of having the details of his personal life plastered over the internet.
During this time of surfacing decayed social injustices, and the oppressed shouting demands for justice, we see the bittersweet evidence that Black life matters. The final tweet from Boseman stands as the most liked post in Twitter history. Millions grieve this loss. His life clearly mattered. Chadwick Boseman has proven that—through his film career, his life, and now in his death.
I’m not a fan of social media. Great concept—but not always utilized well. For this I respect Boseman. Even as he lost significant weight this year, the public did not know why. Many actors exhibit significant weight changes in preparation for upcoming movie roles. Many surmised he was physically getting into character for another role. In a day that tends towards TMI blasts and broadcasts, Chadwick Boseman suffered privately and with dignity. He battled four years with colon cancer, got engaged, and got married while dodging the Hollywood gossip radar.
Genesis 2 shows God did not create us for isolation. But privacy and isolation are not the same thing. Perhaps people will respect others’ privacy when they begin to respect their own.