Can we imagine a world that does not include the domination of black people?
I’m sure this will be this thousandth “think piece” you’ll read on Black Panther, but this isn’t really that, it’s merely an open ended discussion (I hope) on the perspectives put forward in this unapologetically black film.
Black Panther attempts to show us what could be if we imagine a world with black people unaffected by imperialism and colonialism. What this fantasy world does, in fact, is suggest that this idea must be positioned within the scope of fantasy, which alludes to how unimaginable true black liberation is. I often think about the multilayered complexities of colonialism, down to racial categories which essentially formulate our experiences of the world – even the term “post-colonialism” suggests that colonization is very much working in our life on macro and micro scales. Blackness in all its fullness and potential is too much for a world ran by white supremacists; though there are so many amazing things to say about Black Panther, it’s important to note that domination of all black peoples is always a running undercurrent throughout the film; and in most of our lives.
Michael B Jordan’s character, Erik Killmonger, seems to represent the African diaspora, particularly African-Americans who feel abandoned and far removed from their African roots. The resentment he feels, which manifests itself in “black rage”, seems to speak volumes about the psychologically damaging effects of colonialism and further highlights how systematic racism has shaped the experiences of black men in America. A part of Killmonger’s character seems to reveal something that Frantz Fanon understood: the black body is made “out of a thousand [white racist] details, anecdotes, and stories”. Killmonger's story is a culmination of anger, resentment and most importantly, white imaginations of the black body. How do we grapple with the idea of Killmonger within the scope of a film essentially made for profit? Is his character a mere recreation of white figurations of the black man? Can we see ourselves in Killmonger's anger? Both Killmonger’s and T’challa’s varying ideas of black freedom are predicated on the domination and subjugation of black peoples. Throughout American history and the civil rights struggle, we are presented with T’challa’s (in the form of MLK Jr's non violent protests) and Killmonger’s (in the form of the BLA, BPP and other more separatist black groups). The defeat of Killmonger seems to be a subtle assertion that “togetherness” and unity as “one people who have more in common than difference” is the way towards black liberation. It also trivializes the anger of Killmonger and portrays him as a maniac, as well as implying that his anger is unjustified. Aren’t we justified in our anger Marvel? What do you think? Mikai