Black Panther is a movie about a comic book hero, entertaining, well -acted, action filled and awe inspiring. But like any other Disney or Hollywood production, in a nation built on the myth of White Supremacy and the reality of class division, it is also a propaganda vehicle, thus we have to guard ourselves against false subliminal and subconscious messages, some of which reinforce divisions and seek to legitimize US Empire and justify a society of “haves and have nots.”
The Global opinions editor of the Washington Post, who is native African, called the movie “a culturally revolutionary moment.” No doubt it is an exceptional moment in the Black experience in the US, radical in that it actually shows Black folks deciding their own fate, but it is not quite revolutionary.
The excitement generated in the Black community, along with the cultural weight given to a movie about a comic book super hero and all its supposed cultural, psychic and emotional benefits; speaks to the status of Black people living in the US.
In fact it says a lot about the ill will of a society that has refused to shine a light on the glorious Black nation of survivors that lives within its borders. It speaks to the mean-spirited-ness of a nation that refuses to allow Black folks to feel comfortable in a home, a nation, that their forebears help build, as well as lay the financial foundation.
Even today fellow citizens sings their songs, tell their stories, parrot their slang and unabashedly appropriate Black culture, even claiming to love Black culture, celebrating it, but not Black people.
As a result, Black people in the diaspora (even in 2018) find themselves starved to see themselves potentially on top. The irony of course is that Africa originated, not from the bottom, but from the top.
So it makes sense that the Black diaspora in America would be thrilled to learn of a unapologetically African country (Wakanda)that is un-bought, un-bossed and in control of its own destiny and resources. It makes sense that Black folks would be excited about the prospect of a dark skinned people, being portrayed by dark skinned Africans, strong African and African American women and men, laced with pieces of kente cloth and other features of Africa.
Dark skinned beauties Lupita Nyong’o, Black Panther’s (Chadwick Boseman) love interest and the resolute General Okoye played by Danai Gurira are absolutely regal in their roles.
Yet one has to keep in mind that this is a story about a comic book superhero, produced by Marvel, told from the perspective of cooperation with US empire and produced by Disney.
Black folks can no more expect Disney and Marvel to get their story right, no more than Oliver Stone can be relied on (or Hollywood for that matter) to accurately depict history. Without question the Black/African idea of Utopia wouldn’t be the same as Disney’s.
Nevertheless, Black folks are treated to seeing the racial script flipped. Wakandan’s save a White man, rather than the reverse. Black and African Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation in the world, as a result of putting its most precious natural resource “vibranium” to work for themselves.
On the other hand, there were some deeply disturbing moments in the film.
How in the hell does the CIA play a positive role in anything involving Black people? We can’t trust that organization to handout candy to kids on Halloween for fear there will be razor blades in the apples, poison in the cookies,or drugs in the candy.
And how does a movie that somehow supposedly, a celebration of all things African actually wind up reinforcing the divisions between Africans and African Americans? Killmonger and King T’Challa never reached a compromise!
And why does the Black middle class writer create a revolutionary hero for Black people in the form of the character of the amoral Erik Killmonger, played by Micheal Jordan? Killmonger is a trained US Special Forces killer, who murdered Arabs, Muslims and Africans for the sake of US empire.
Killmonger as the blood relative of Wakandan King T’Challa, living in the hood in the US, represents or symbolizes the diasporic Africans, stolen from Africa by the Europeans, who Killmonger believes Africa has turned its backs on.
Killmonger is not a revolutionary, he is a reactionary trying to defeat the master using the Masters tools and ideology. He insists that Wikanda help Blacks overcome their oppression, but he has not first come to grips with his own internalized oppression. He is as savage as the oppressor!
We have seen the limits of nationalism played out for decades all over the African continent, many have evolved into a more sophisticated form of neo -colonialism. Killmonger served to remind us that “nationalism is indeed the last refuge of scoundrels.”
The African American who is to be savior of Black people, kills his girlfriend under questionable circumstance and some folks applaud, because after all, he is on a mission to save us and so “the ends justified the means.”
Wakanda represents the conflict that continental Africans have when considering how to relate to its left behind brothers and sisters.
Yet, the leadership of Wakanda could also be viewed as middle class Black America.
Many got a vicarious thrill out of General Okoye’s silencing of the White CIA agent. However Black folks would benefit more if these same petite bourgeoisie forces, rather than just making White folks feel bad about their “privilege,” helped give voice to their poorer Black brothers and sisters cries for better housing, jobs, quality public education, an end to mass incarceration, police violence and justice and equality.
Without question, the focus on Africa and appreciation of all things African, wrought by the movie was refreshing.
However talking about Pan Africanism is not the same as being Pan Africanist. It appears that all over the US, Africans who have come to the US voluntarily and the offspring of those who were brought here involuntarily, are finding ways to separate themselves and accentuate their differences, rather than finding ways to use their similarities to forge ways in which to cooperate.
The irony of this dis-unity, is that the White ruling class hates and despises Black folks and won’t hesitate to scapegoat them, if and when the need comes. When the cop decides to brutalize a Black person, he doesn’t seem to care if they are from Kenya or Kentucky, South Africa or South Carolina. Nigerians are just n–ers to this ruling class.
When the former president and Black child of Africa, bombed African countries (Somalia and Libya) and destroyed one of the most advanced countries on that continent, Africans living in the US sat quietly and told themselves it was okay, because “our” Black president was doing the dirty work.
While the story of Wakanda is in some ways self- affirming and inspiring, no movie can stand in for the work Black folks must do. We must move from fiction to fact, from fantasy to reality and from the unrealized to the realized.
Black folks have to affirm themselves! They have to see one another as a nation, an oppressed one, but a nation nevertheless. And it must use its suffering, the lessons learned from it, to do as the Wakandan’s and take the lead in seeking to develop a world, in which we see one another as one tribe and work so that no man, no woman or child goes without shelter, food, education, health care and all of the things that make living possible.
We should seek to build a world, to paraphrase a prophet, in which everyone can sit on his own porch, under his own bilboab tree, her own mango tree their own olive tree and no one shall make them afraid!
justice then peace