*THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS HEAVY SPOILERS FOR BLACK PANTHER*
One of the beauties of Black Panther is the fact that there are so many sides to a political debate and everyone has a defensible point. T’Challa wants to maintain Wakandan peace in solitude without worrying about outsiders (namely Westerners) infiltrating and destroying their way of life. Nakia thinks Wakanda can be a beacon of peace for the rest of Africa, and the world, offering its technological advances to better subjugated countries. Erik Killmonger wants to use Wakandan weaponry to initiate a worldwide black revolution. He wants to use vibranium-powered technology to take down the countries that have colonized and pillaged blackness for centuries. His stance in particular has garnered a passionate following on social media and melinated brunches across the country. Get a group of people together to debate Black Panther and you may see as many people riding for Killmonger as anyone else in the movie.
The defense of Killmonger is pretty typical, because we as a society are so incredibly capable of overlooking someone’s treatment of black women on the road to being pegged as a revolutionary. In short, Killmonger is simply an abuser and murderer of black women and defending him means a willingness to accept his treatment of those black women on the way to faux-liberation.
Here are the times Killmonger laid hands on people in the movie:
1. He shot his girlfriend in the head to get her out of the way so he could kill a white man. Which, c’mon, the symbolism there is really what this whole article is about, right?
2. He defeated T’Challa in ritual combat. Okay, fine. He won fair and square (after giving a monologue about the people from black and brown countries he’s killed along the way).
3. He choked an elder black woman because she didn’t want to burn down all the remaining heart-shaped herbs. Which, by the way, if he were really about liberating all of his people instead of just himself, why wouldn’t he send a few heart-shaped herbs to some of the spies in countries across the world? Namely countries that have Captain Americas running around?
4. He killed a member of the Dora Milaje, slicing her throat when mere incapacitation was enough. Two minutes later he cut Nakia in the leg and then tried to kill Shuri before T’Challa stopped him.
5. He fought T’Challa again and died.
So in the five scenes in which Killmonger fought someone, he left two black women dead, one choked out, another one injured and another within a few inches of getting killed. Killmonger didn’t care about black women in his quest for liberation. He wasn’t a revolutionary, because no true revolutionary can possibly think black freedom is possible without all black people also being freed. He never showed any regard for black women at any moment in the film. Killmonger wasn’t a savior. He was Chris Brown with military training.
But I’m not surprised that so many people ignored his treatment of black women to crown him our new lord and savior. We live in a world where making a song we can two-step to is grounds for society forgiving how many black women get hurt along the way. Seriously, I was at a party this weekend where a DJ played “Step In The Name Of Love.” In 2018.
It’s just absurd how many people left Black Panther screaming about the strong portrayals of the black women in the film while cheering for someone who beat up literally every one of those women. That’s because abusing black women isn’t ever a non-starter for us. Instead our conversations revolve around how much abuse towards black women we’re willing to accept before we finally “cancel” someone. Misogyny can’t be the few cracked eggs we will accept to make our chicken anymore. Abuse can’t be the spilled milk it’s always been. Killmonger should have been seen as a villain the moment he put his hands on a woman. If I had to choose between T’Challa and Killmonger, I’d choose the former. He surrounded himself with black women from the beginning and listened and revered them.
But really, if we’re keeping it a buck, Nakia was the one who was right all along any damn way.