Women's Lifestyle magazine

Wakanda’s women are the true black liberators in ‘Black Panther

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Most of the intellectually interesting — and heated — discussions about “Black Panther” have been about whether the film’s representations of black liberation, internationalism, and imperialism are empowering, or regressive.

As a black woman and the daughter of West African immigrants, the most tragic and scary part about Killmonger and his imperialist vision is that he does not hesitate to sacrifice black women in pursuit of it.

In his blood-soaked quest to seize Wakanda, he leaves behind a trail of dead and injured black women, both American and Wakandan. He kills his African- American girlfriend and partner in crime. He chokes the female priestess of the purple heart-shaped herbs that give Wakanda’s rulers spiritual access to the ancestors. Later in the film, he slices the throat a member of the all-female royal guards, the Dora Milaje. And, if it wasn’t for T’Challa’s intervention in the grand battle scene, he might have killed T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri, the genius responsible for Wakanda’s technological achievements, including the same vibranium-powered weapons that Killmonger wants to ship to oppressed black peoples around the world.

In a literal scorched-earth approach, he burns Wakanda’s heart-shaped herbs (flowers are often a representation of femininity and beauty). He literally deflowers, rapes, Wakanda in his selfish bid to control it.

Killmonger would likely try to kill me or any woman who dared to question or critique him. His rage, selfishness and misogyny ensure he would likely be an authoritarian despot who would try to cling to power for life and squander Wakanda’s human and natural resources. Let’s not forget that Africa has seen more than its fair share of (CIA-supported) egomaniacal dictators like him. Besides, the only character Kilmonger frees in the film is a white man, the South African arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, who thinks Wakandans are ‘savages’.

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I find it tragic that so many would want to champion Killmonger at the expense of black women. But perhaps it’s not surprising. After all, we cannot ignore that black women suffer just as much from sexism and violence at the hands of black men as we do from the racism of white society. As Princess Weekes noted at The Mary Sue: “From the works of Zora Neale Hurston to Ntozake Shange to Alice Walker and modern-day black feminists, they have brought to light the ways in which black men absorb and emulate white patriarchy in order rebuild and reassert themselves as men from the trauma of slavery.” Historically, the rape and abuse of black women by white men in power helped to uphold systems of slavery and colonialism.

And this is the true tragedy of Killmonger — in his trauma-fueled quest for dominance, he does not represent black liberation — rather, he symbolizes the internalization of white patriarchy — which manifests in his external violence against black women.

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Killmonger would likely try to kill me or any woman who dared to question or critique him. His rage, selfishness and misogyny ensure he would likely be an authoritarian despot who would try to cling to power for life and squander Wakanda’s human and natural resources. Let’s not forget that Africa has seen more than its fair share of (CIA-supported) egomaniacal dictators like him. Besides, the only character Kilmonger frees in the film is a white man, the South African arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, who thinks Wakandans are ‘savages’.

I find it tragic that so many would want to champion Killmonger at the expense of black women. But perhaps it’s not surprising. After all, we cannot ignore that black women suffer just as much from sexism and violence at the hands of black men as we do from the racism of white society. As Princess Weekes noted at The Mary Sue  “From the works of Zora Neale Hurston to Ntozake Shange to Alice Walker and modern-day black feminists, they have brought to light the ways in which black men absorb and emulate white patriarchy in order rebuild and reassert themselves as men from the trauma of slavery.” Historically, the rape and abuse of black women by white men in power helped to uphold systems of slavery and colonialism.

And this is the true tragedy of Killmonger — in his trauma-fueled quest for dominance, he does not represent black liberation — rather, he symbolizes the internalization of white patriarchy — which manifests in his external violence against black women.

Related image

The vigorous debate around “Black Panther” shows that black people are still looking for our true revolution. But in that search, we should be careful not to celebrate or replicate regressive Western patriarchal approaches that condone the destruction of black women. The black feminist writer and poet Audre Lorde said, “The future of our earth may depend on the ability of all women to identify and develop new definitions of power.” What “Black Panther” does is expand our imagination about the power of black woman, and is a reminder that true black liberation cannot, and should not, happen without us.

source: The Washington Post

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