By: Kayla Stephensen
The most recent Marvel movie The Black Panther came out with thematic events that curiously analyze the geopolitics of African American and African response to racism. The main protagonist, T’Challa, is the heir to the throne of the technologically advanced country of Wakanda and represents native Africans. When he takes the throne as the new Black Panther, he originally decides to keep his father’s way of isolationism and refrains from sharing with the world the advanced ways of the Wakandans. His close friend–now the leader of his tribe after his parents were killed in the same explosion that killed T’Challa’s father–urges otherwise, bringing a new idea to the elderly council. His ideas reflect many younger factions in Africa who wish to rise up against their “colonizers” and much like these factions, W’Kabi is shut down and not powerful enough to break free of the bonds forged by his ancestors.
On the other hand, the main antagonist, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, is a representation of African Americans. Americans in general want change to happen instantly much like how Killmonger himself chooses to take matters into his own hands. He spent his whole life preparing to kill his cousin, Prince T’Challa, so that he can take over Wakanda and give the advanced technology to all his “black brothers and sisters around the world” to rise up against their oppressors.
However, as the movie plays out, it becomes apparent that violence is not the way and the two polar ideas must come together to find a solid compromise. T’Challa realizes he mustn’t be so passive or more dissensions will occur. The final scene ends with T’Challa explaining to his little sister, the head of technology in Wakanda, that he is going to begin an outreach program where Wakanda will share their successes with the rest of the world. The irony is that he chooses to buy the building where his father killed his uncle, Erik’s dad, which started Erik’s path to revenge. Perhaps this is an attempt to say that even with all the pain and ties severed, solutions can be found.
As Killmonger attempts to kill T’Challa, he refers to him as “cousin” which is an interesting suggestion that Africans and African Americans are cousins. They grew up on different continents, had different problems growing up and different plans to change the world, but have the same heritage, the same race, and the same claim to power. Perhaps this clever storyline is a call to remind Africans and African Americans that they can be united in their cause to receive equal opportunities and find a middle ground since they are family.