Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness: Why Killmonger (Blackpanther) Was Wrong
A quick update on the weekend–I had planned to write a blog post of Friday, but due to how busy I was in the Writing Center and the fact that I also went home for the weekend made it nearly impossible for me to get a blog post written that I would have been happy with, so I just didn’t write one for Friday. Monday was an off day for me, and I spent the day doing (and recovering from) yard work. So, even though I mentally planned this blog entry, it just didn’t get done due to yard work. Now with that out of the way, on to the post . . .
Killmonger as a Hero?
As I’ve been reading through articles and texts on Afrofuturism, there has been quite a sentiment that I (also) heard when the movie first played: Killmonger could have been (and in more radical comments–should have been) the hero of the movie. Now, long-time readers of the blog know that I hate the new (although at this point, it’s fairly old) trend of trying to make the “villain” into the “hero” and vice-versa. I could only shake my head during the time. Despite my “anti-hero”/”villain” bias, I still knew that there was something wrong with that sentiment. I couldn’t put my finger on it, nor could I successfully articulate it (even to myself). However, as I’ve read more and more articles, I’ve finally discovered why I dislike this idea/ideology so much: to take Killmonger as the “hero” and to take his view is to ignore the actual theme of the movie–hate or love, which is more powerful?
Hate Cannot Drive Out Hate; Only Love Can Do That
In many ways, the Black Panther (T’Challa) vs Killmonger debate offers a rehash of the Martin Luther King, Jr/Malcolm X debate that occurred historically, which (although there were other more fundamental differences) boils down to violent vs non-violent protests for civil rights. Flash forward, and you still have that debate–now, T’Challa wonders if things done in the past can be forgiven (made right–and how does a “good” man/king do that) vs. Eric (who is bound by the past and can’t push forward). Eric wants to continue to fight the battle of the past and just cannot move forward. While he has a point–slavery (and injustices it engendered were wrong and horrifying)–he now wants to use violence to retaliate for past atrocities. One article that I read, while admitting that Killmonger’s violence is a problem, rationalizes that he is bad because he uses the violence indiscriminately–against both the “colonizers” and his own people. In other words, the authors had no problems that he was violent–just that he was violent to people of his own color/kind as well as to those out of his race.
The thing that T’Challa does that makes him a hero is that he can acknowledge the wrong, but then he can figure out how to try to find a solution and then to move on. Eric is all about revenge/avenge the past. He wants to perpetrate the same fear, the same destructive behaviors, just to a different group. In essence, Killmonger is all about flipping the dynamic on its head, while T’Challa is interested in changing the paradigm in a positive and helpful way. He is not interested in fighting the old battles or (more importantly) turning the same old tired paradigm upside down. Ultimately, the point I’m trying to make is that the avenge/revenge angle is one that is not correct, no matter what the authors of the articles (and popular sentiment) may want. In this case, T’Challa’s message parallels that of a Jedi–“Defend, never to attack.” Sure, you can remember the wrong, so as not to allow it to happen to you (or anyone else). Killmonger’s attitude is a “Do Unto Others as They Have Done Unto You” and this negatively affects both the man and the message–which is why the movie (and the hero) is ultimately T’Challa and his worldview.
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