In the waning hours of Black History Month, a confession: I’ve been sitting on these comments for about a year…
A few things made this timely for me. During the first week of February, AMC mounted free screenings of Black Panther, so I took my Son for collective viewing number fifteen. Make no mistake; the film is still the enjoyable, AfroFuturistic wonder that it was last year.
I also couldn’t ignore the history-making Oscar nominations and wins, and the announcement that Michael B. Jordan would be reprising the role of Killmonger in the sequel.
Finally, I was reminded of viewing number four, where Mrs. Tragic and I sought to talk through the deeper themes, especially regarding the Killmonger character, with Tragic Son. The gist of his response was that he viewed the character as heroic, because every action he took was, “for Black People…”
I was very hesitant, a year ago, to label that character, “a villain.” I empathized with the tragedy of his background and the overriding motivations of why he wanted to level the playing field for the African diaspora. I asked, “If Wakanda existed, would you be T’Challa or Killmonger?” https://dzi-thevoice.com/2018/02/22/black-panther-review-build-bridges-not-walls/
And, my regard for the spirit of what he voiced, completely overrode the reality of his actions…
In reaching Wakanda, he killed and destroyed, without compunction. He murdered a person who believed that they were partners and a woman who believed that he loved her.
During the duel that won him the throne, he admitted to being a proficient killer and marked his body to commemorate (celebrate?) each life that he had taken.
He killed his “uncle,” and savaged his cousin, attempting to kill him by throwing him from a cliff.
He assaulted an elder and destroyed the physical link and spiritual legacy that tied his newfound kingship with all those who had preceded him.
He dedicated the resources of Wakanda, not to helping or healing, but to more death and destruction.
He damaged relationships between the Men and Women of Wakanda, turning them against each other.
In early viewings, I completely overlooked his statement: “I’m going to make them pay for what they did to me.” That is the totality of his motivations, not wanting to elevate Africa’s descendants, as the right thing for Wakanda to do. He would make the world burn for leaving him fatherless in a racist society. And, clearly, he held just as much anger towards Wakanda itself, for the very same reasons.
Most of us wanted Killmonger to be about the empowerment message that he espoused. If I, as a Person of Color in the MCU, was made aware of the existence of Wakanda, I’d be pissed, too. The solution to the diaspora’s many concerns is not, “kill them all and let’s take over.” Especially when spearheaded by a scarred individual who ranks that empowerment as secondary to the bloody retribution that they believed they were due.
Many more conversations can be had about the damaging effects that trauma, be it institutionalized racism, the lost of loved ones, etc., can have on the psyche of People of Color. The anger, sorrow and scars are borne by too many (Jordan himself sought therapy to deal with that anger: http://www.oprah.com/own-supersoulsessions/b-cooper-m-b-jordan-b-orourke-l-borders-m-gates)… It is attractive to see the marvelous (see what I did there?) resources of a place like Wakanda as the solution to those ills. I contend, however, that no matter the loftiness of those ideals, the means by which they are accomplished are fundamentally important.
Because, here’s the thing: having a few, excellent points, doesn’t always make you, “right.” And they damn sure don’t make you a hero.