Monday, July 23, 2018
An Argument Aagainst Killmonger and the Wokemon Who Love Him
After watching Black Panther, it is safe to say we of the black society found Eric Killmonger relatable. He was handsome, smart, physically appealing, dominant and fighting for a just cause. Within Black Panther Killmonger’s character served as a poignant statement about the American black man. One who has been used, abused, thrown out, and angered by the system.
Instead of being viewed as a villain, he is thought of as the Malcolm X to T’challa’s MLK. There is a feeling of empathy surrounding his defeat and a feeling, amongst some, that more real-life members of our society need to channel some Killmonger in order to get things done. The overarching theme that consistently ruins this philosophy for me, and doesn’t endear those who love him to my heart, is the treatment of the women around him. Killmongers callous use of his partner is symptomatic of the use and systemic erasure of black women in black American society and American society at large.
The movie made it abundantly obvious that a large part of T’challa’s success was due to the core of strong women around, that supported and strengthened him. A large part of his success was his black panther suit, one made for him by his sister Shuri. A black woman.
Whenever T’challa had a serious problem he turned to the women in his life, all black. When he nearly died he was healed by those same women. They acted to temper his decision making, kept him focused and acted as his support system. Not intangible support but, physical effects in the form of scientific advances and bodies on the battlefield in the final fight.
One of the turning points in the movie was T’challa’s journey to the ancestral plane to speak with T’chaka and gain the powers of the Black Panther. This journey was aided, abetted and moderated by Black women. They created the nectar from the heart shaped plant, administered it to T’challa, prepared his body and made sure it was safe while his spirit journeyed. Part of T’challa’s strength was the women in his life who strengthened him.
Then we have Killmonger, who became exactly the colonizer he was fighting against. A man who murdered his literal partner in crime for the sheer convenience of it within the first twenty minutes of the film. He didn’t fight for her at all, he didn’t negotiate for her life, he didn’t even hesitate. He looked her in the eye and said ‘Its gonna be okay” and he didn’t mean for her. Klaue was trying to use her as leverage against him and she became dead weight to be cut free. Pro-liberation black men, in the way of Killmonger, frequently also perform this surgery to achieve liberation gains when their partners outlive their usefulness. He destroyed his own support system and spent the remainder of the movie fighting alone; a metaphor seemingly lost on the population of Killshippers.
The comparison of the two men, one raised and socialized in Wakanda and the other in America, by virtue of its difference in scale, points to the black woman's absence in America. This is characterized by Killmongers entire character as he is America’s byproduct.
Killmongers girlfriend, a person who aided and facilitated his goals, was not a casualty in that battle. She was not taken out by his enemies, rather he killed her himself and used her death as a stepping stone to dispatch his white enemy, Klaue. Furthermore, her death went unrecognized in the movie. Killmonger never hesitated to press his advantage. He never seemed to regret his actions and, putting sentimentality aside, never even paused to respect or acknowledge how useful she had been. We never even learned her name. This is frequently the fate of black women who are viewed as expendable by Killmonger types. Once she died, it was as if Thanos snapped his fingers, because no trace of her was left.
These men and society at large frequently use the bodies of black women as stepping stones to advancement, then erase them from history. Societally this brings to mind the stories of Saartje Bartman, Henrietta Lacks, and countless other black women used and abused in smaller and no less damaging ways.
I truly worry for black men who see nothing wrong with Killmongers actions. It means they view black women as nameless expendable fodder within the struggle that characterizes the black experience.
We as proud black people need to realize that to uplift our women is to advance ourselves.
It is beneficial to nurture women because women are nurturing. There are women who don’t nurture and men who do, which is fine. In current society, through accidental or purposeful socialization, generally, function in a more nurturing capacity compared to men. The metaphor of black society failing to nurture its women is like that of a farmer leaving the fate of his seedlings up to cruel chance, after spending weeks planting his harvest. With just a little water and care his harvest could be so great, but for some reason, he feels like the plant should be doing all the work since it's in the ground. He can argue as much as he likes, but the guy watering his soil is going to have a better haul come harvest time.
Wakanda is an imaginary society in which the men and women work in tandem for the greater and faster advancement of its people. Why don’t we as a real society aim for this ideal? Killmonger was a relatable villain, but at his core is still a problematic character and we shouldn’t be using him as the example of how to be strong, black and male, just because he was popular in a movie. Killmonger wasn’t about the advancement of the race or he would have treated ladies better, he was about the advancement of himself, and so he fought alone and burned down everything valuable behind him so that others couldn’t benefit.
Seriously fuck this guy.
By Alisha Smith, Alisha is a 24-year-old recent graduate, writer, blogger, gamer, and corporate drone by day and rampant blabbermouth by night. She currently writes for Ms. Vixen and on Medium and spends her free time shamelessly pursuing her interests and avoiding other humans.
Check out more of her work here!