This letter to the editor discusses the movie “Black Panther” in depth. Spoilers may be revealed.
Malcolm X argued that “education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs only to the people who prepare for it today.”
We believe that the future, one of unity and power for all people, can be found in the idea of Wakanda, the fictional African country presented in Marvel’s “Black Panther,” a groundbreaking movie that is setting box-office records.
Wakanda is a stamp on the passport to the future Malcolm X described. Unfortunately, The Hoya’s review of “Black Panther” took a hostile stance against this much-needed education, mistaking a well-informed movie for an “unrealistic” lecture. Furthermore, the article glossed over the cultural and historical significance of the villain Killmonger’s complicated character.
“Black Panther” speaks to the hopes and dreams of people with an erased past, drawing on the Pan-Africanism and “Back to Africa” movements, which call for a unified African diaspora. The movie posits that two black boys from Oakland and Wakanda can dream of becoming kings one day. “Black Panther” also features black women who are advisers, warriors, innovators, among others; it is unapologetically black, but it is also unapologetically Maasai, Basotho, Zulu —indigenous African peoples — and more.
Killmonger is a dynamic villain whose rhetoric may have led the author to think viewers are attending a class. He is introduced as a combative, intelligent character, correcting a seemingly innocent museum director in the movie by noting that the museum itself is a beneficiary of colonial plunder. Killmonger’s final words before death are another powerful reference to such a historical reality: “Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ’cause they knew death was better than bondage.”
The review confuses the purpose of this blunt illustration of the horrors and slavery by reducing this quote to a “sentiment that disrupted the narrative.” Killmonger was driven by immense frustration concerning the enslavement of his ancestors and the systemic oppression of black Americans. This same frustration drove his father, N’Jobu, to steal the fictional natural resource vibranium and deal it to blacks in need of a way to fight back against injustice. This line captured Killmonger’s ideology in a perfect manner.
Conversations about slavery, racism and colonialism are meant to be just as blunt as Killmonger was. In fact, anything but a blunt conversation on these topics would be sanitizing history. The world of “Black Panther” did not require a surrogate to navigate, just an open mind and willingness to learn. We hope that those who walked away feeling “lectured” by “Black Panther” took it upon themselves to examine their discomfort and determine what barriers prevented them from turning that lecture into a constructive dialogue.
Larenz Griggs is a senior in the College. Maya James is a sophomore in the College.