Photograph by Williams + Hirakawa for TIME
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Marvel Black Panther. L to R: Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)

Black Panther marks a major milestone for culture

The first movie I remember seeing in a theater had a black hero. Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams, didn’t have any superpowers, but he ran his own city. That movie, the 1980 Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back, introduced Calrissian as a complicated human being who still did the right thing. That’s one reason I grew up knowing I could be the same.

If you are reading this and you are white, seeing people who look like you in mass media probably isn’t something you think about often. Every day, the culture reflects not only you but nearly infinite versions of you–executives, poets, garbage collectors, soldiers, nurses and so on. The world shows you that your possibilities are boundless. Now, after a brief respite, you again have a President.

To read the full cover story, click here.

This appears in the February 19, 2018 issue of TIME.

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