Killmonger and T’Challa: A Reflection
People love Killmonger. Why not? They aren’t wrong for that as Michael B. Jordan did a great job and the character was well written. Black people love Killmonger. Some black people REALLY REALLY LOVE KILLMONGER. I know some people who seem to be obsessed Killmonger. While I don’t understand their obsession I do get why they like him. They relate to him and they relate to his anger and frustration.
Killmonger is a guy who was robbed of his father by the powers that be, abandoned to fend for himself in a country that doesn’t hold his roots. Having to grow up and feel somewhat disconnected from the country he’s in and the one that spawned his Family. It’s not hard to see how African Americans can relate to this, and then to see how Killmonger expressed his desire to liberate the rest of the black world from the rotten yoke of oppression. There’s a lot to like, but as someone who reads Black Panther comics I question if Killmonger is really a liberator or just another oppressor using historical injustice as pretext.
Honestly, it’s probably a little bit of both, but considering how easily he’s willing to kill everyone including those close to him, I find it hard to blindly root for him even though I may relate with his disdain for injustice. But Killmonger is armed with so much self righteous much anger that he’s blind to other alternatives. He’s clearly not oblivious to the damage he’s done to his own people as he’s mentioned those he’s killed to reach his goal, but everyone is expendable. There’s no sympathy, no compassion, and no justice for those he’s sacrificed along the way. There is a vision there, but it’s one that has been twisted by rage and pain. Again, I related to Killmonger like many African Americans, but I mourn for him more than anything. I mourn for that boy who was robbed of his father, unjustly abandoned, and then not allowed to come home.
But he grows into someone who embodies the worst traits of the fledging and forever evolving African American culture. He justifies ruthlessly taking whatever he wants when he wants, he displays no sense of loyalty, prospers on manipulation, kills other blacks unapologetically, and he murders and discards black women at the drop of a hat. He is a man with no guiding mora principle but he is absolutely necessary to the story.
Without Killmonger T’Challa doesn’t grow into the man with enough courage change the culture of his country. Kilmonger forces T’Challa to think beyond the limitations of a culture who’s grown comfortable turning a blind eye to the suffering of others.
Killmonger brings the injustice of the world to Wakanda’s front door along with the sins of the father. T'Challa is a good man and as such, he struggles with how to deal with Killmonger. Killmonger is family, he’s blood, but he also wants to tear down T’Challa’s privileged life.
It’s only when T'Challa is faced with another reality, one very different from his own, that he realizes that he has a responsibility to help and do more for others who don’t have that same privilege. Because life is not equal for everyone and not everyone is born on a level playing field. So Killmonger was necessary for T’Challa to grow, but we’ll never know if another approach would’ve worked in the long run. Perhaps with Killmonger and Nakia both in T’Challa’sear he would have come to the same conclusion…or maybe not.
But Killmonger represents so much in many of our lives that we can’t help but feel for him. He’s our truth, our reality, and the worst of us with ARGUABLY the best intentions. Nakia represents the black woman who is already off doing what she feels she needs to do while being our conscience. T’Challa represents privilege. He didn’t come from the struggle like Killmonger, but he was also robbed of his father and later on robbed of his homeland. He had to suffer to gain his wisdom. Once he suffered, he became us as well. T’Challa shows us what we can do with a community behind us, that when we fall others can help restore us. His story demonstrates that we can’t make it alone and we can even be helped by those who have previously challenged us, i.e. M’Baku.
In the end, T’Challa connects with us as well. He recognizes the injustices that exist but doesn’t let anger and vengeance guide him, but is propelled by a sense of responsibility, justice, and compassion. So T’Challa and Killmonger both add up to two potential roads for African Americans and both are somewhat necessary. But if Killmonger is where we are, I hope we grow and become T’Challa and his family. We desire to be kings and queens, and to be that we must fight against a desire to hate, because hate is beneath he nobility of Kings.