“The conscience of children is formed by the influences that surround them; their notions of good and evil are the result of the moral atmosphere they breathe.”-Jean Paul
Upon initial observation of Marvel’s BLACK Buster smash Black Panther, one is reminded that the designations of good and evil are reduced to the circumstances of our individual dilemmas. Initially, when I saw the trailers for the movie, I deduced Erik Kilmonger as an anti-social street nigga who felt he was entitled to something beyond his actual merit. This happened even though I knew better from reading the comic. The movie showed the lack of objectivity of my analysis.
SPOILER ALERT: At the very beginning of the movie, it appeared that his father was planning a robbery, but the truth was that he was planning a revolution on behalf of all oppressed African people throughout the diaspora. His motive is revealed thanks to the wisdom of the Wakandan King: T’Chaka, who later kills his (Killmonger’s) father to save a member of the Wakandan Government, and later counsel to the King: Zuri.
Killmonger is eerily similar to the children of black revolutionary leaders across the globe, but especially in America. The Black Power Movement of the late 1960’s and early 70’s saw the murder and mass incarceration of key movement leaders under government counter insurgent programs like COINTELPRO, Operation Chaos, Lantern Spike, and other numerous undisclosed military urban counter-intelligence programs. Like tumbleweed, their families were scattered to the wind; never to be assembled again. To put it plainly, Killmonger symbolizes Attilah Shabazz, Fred Hampton Jr., and Tupac Shakur. With the exception of Erik Lensherr (Magneto), there is no more sympathetic anti-hero than he.(Killmonger)
While I, in my own prejudice had deduced him to be an anti social street nigga, the character was actually well educated, well disciplined and militarily trained. He was an updated version of Dan Freeman from the 1970’s cult classic, The Spook Who Sat By The Door. His character cannot be exiled within the small conspicuous box of good and evil. Thus, it is understandable why he is such a charismatic figure in the movie.
Like his father, he is a revolutionary. He is also a troubled man traumatized by his father’s murder and his abandonment by his family. Like so many before and after him, he is left alone with a single mother in an environment where the solutions to all problems are rationalized with combat. While it would be easy to write this socialization process off as an isolated phenomenon of the hood, Erik later learns that this is also how America resolves it problems both domestically and internationally. On an instinctual level, he understands the truism of the 1970’s musical proclamation that “The World Is A Ghetto.”
Though he has 2 degrees from M.I.T. and is brilliant, he joins the military where he hones his craft in assassinations and overthrowing governments. He is driven mad by the soul numbing violence at the direction of the state. (Spoiler Alert) In the movie, he kills many to achieve his objective to ascend to the Wakandan throne. He even murders his own girlfriend. To Erik Killmonger, the ends justifies the means. And from this aspect, he is fundamentally American to the core. Though impulsive and hyper-violent, his vigilance has a greater cause: The liberation of all oppressed people. And while his rage blinds him to the consequences and practicality of his actions, his goal is one shared by Wakandans such as W’Kabi (the King’s Second in Command) and Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest.
In their eyes, Wakanda’s isolationism while empowering can be in some instances, self defeating. What will a technologically superior world mean if 2/3rds of their fellow africans, worldwide, are liquidated under despotism? The presentation of this dilemma is what makes Killmonger’s character so charismatic. He empathizes with their suffering and seeks to relieve it even at the cost of their deaths. Though he is of Wakandan blood, he makes it clear that his sympathies are with the descendants of enslaved Africans who made the perilous journey across the Atlantic Ocean. He invokes this spirit at the point of death when he is face with the choice of living as a prisoner or dying as a free man. He requests that T’Challa “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, cause they knew death was better than bondage.”
In the end, Killmonger’s scheme was thwarted. Wakanda was returned to the King and all was right with the world; well….in Wakanda anyway. Killmonger’s attempted coup made him a dangerous radical. However, in uniquely ironic manner, he forced T’Challa to understand what many already knew. The world is not a bubble of isolated territorial boundaries. Countries do not exist in a vacuum. This does not suggest that we will all hold hands and sing Kumbaya either. While he died a scoundrel, he achieved a kind of quiet victory when T’Challa announced that Wakanda and all of its technological advances would be shared with the world, which was what he wanted in the first place. Through his rage, he posed the age old biblically rhetorical question: AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER? History is still waiting for an answer.
TONY MACEO is a senior blogger on the Negromanosphere and the Chief Blogger @Power and Strategy.com. Like, share and subscribe to the mailing list @power and strategy.com. Subscribe to the You Tube Channel or Like us on FB@ Power and Strategy. You can also become a Patron @PowerofStrategies..Till Next Time…AMANDALA!!!!!