Blog #52: Black Panther: A Movie

Having read many reviews and critiques of the Marvel/Disney “Black Panther” movie, I am excited about what the movie brings to the overall struggle. Indeed, the cultural value of Black nationalism is inestimable, especially if it lends to inspire young people to (re)discover our collective Afrikan heritage. Most recently, I posted MY ANCESTRY, sharing some of my known lineage/heritage from Jamaica’s Maroon struggles, and ancestral survival of Texas slavery. Hopefully, this will inspire others to research their lineage, and take pride in how we’ve collectively evolved in spite of the onslaught of white racist oppression/repression.

The critiques of the movie have led to a broad range of debate of its significance and value going forward. The Christopher Lebron analysis was poignant and insightful, especially his condemnation of the ostracizing of Black American malehood. However, beyond delineating the strained difference between an Afrikan and a Black American, the issue for me raised the question of class divisions. In my recent essay, The Unpragmatic Debate, on the debate between Cornell West and Ta Nehisi Coates, I argued that the Black intelligentsia needs to take great lengths to forge an analysis of class divisions of the Black nation-body. Similarly, that argument extends to this movie.

T’Challa and Wakanda could very well represent the upper class Black capitalists, while Killmonger’s aspirations represent the lower class activists fighting to survive racist oppression, and seeking to build a national/international determination not unlike Marcus Garvey to liberate all Black/Afrikan people. Unfortunately, the Black capitalists ,and their hoarding of wealth are at odds with dispensing and distribution of wealth (Vibranium), believing such wealth need only be passed down through their family as an inheritance (Wakanda).

Killmonger, like the hero in “The Spook Who Sat By the Door” learned how to fight the system using the system’s methods ... but recognizes that, before he can engage the real enemy, he has to confront what El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz identifies as the “House Negro”. The “Field Negro” Killmonger must challenge the bourgeois neo-colonial mentality of T’Challa, although Killmonger suffers from psychological trauma, having been raised in the racist oppression of Oakland ghettos. (Read: Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth” and “A Dying Colonialism”). Furthermore, Killmonger represents those who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of Black people’s fight for freedom, not unlike Mark Essex, Micah Johnson and the revolutionaries of the Black Liberation Army who retaliated against police murder of innocent Black folks (see poem: What Did They Think?).

You get the gist of my thinking, inasmuch as the real Black Panthers had to confront the Black petty bourgeoisie during the 60’s-70’s, who more often than not opposed the BPP’s efforts to win our people to revolutionary struggle. Hence, Killmonger symbolically represents, by Hollywood’s standards, the quintessential revolutionary Black nationalist, while T’Challa represents the quintessential Afrikan cultural nationalist (capitalist). This contextually parallels the philosophical and ideological contradiction and struggle between Huey P. Newton’s Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and Ron Karenga’s US organization. A Cointelpro-provoked struggle lead to the death of Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter and John Higgins on the campus of UCLA, to the delight of the FBI. This is the lesson that the movie most seems to miss or gloss over. The struggle between T’Challa and Killmonger is a revolutionary nationalist and class struggle. There is little difference, for the most part, from the struggles we are currently engaged in. The debate between West and Coates speaks to issues of sociopolitical and economic conditions of Black folks; the struggle between T’Challa and Killmonger also speaks to these same issues, and yet Black intelligentsia and the wealthy at large fail to engage in class struggles. The Oprah Winfreys, Robert Johnsons and Michael Jordans, etc., may espouse a cultural affinity to Black reality of struggle, but are beholden to a system that is ultimately exploitative and oppressive to the majority of Black people. Although from time to time, they may make a tepid statement on the issue of mass incarceration, but they are absolutely silent on anything pertaining to BPP political prisoners. In this regard, it would be good to note what Kwame Nkrumah informed:

“… [A] racist social structure … is inseparable from capitalist economic development. For race is inextricably linked with class exploitation; in a racist-capitalist power structure, capitalist exploitation and race oppression are complimentary; the removal of one ensures the removal of the other …”

Hence, the murdering of Killmonger by T’Challa is the neo-colonial assassination of a revolutionary Black nationalist in protection of the system of Black capitalism. This is synonymous to the assassination of Malcolm X at the hands of other Blacks who were stooges of Cointelpro, state-sponsored violence. These are the lessons of the movie, as dozens of real Black Panthers languish in prisons across racist America, witnessing the deafening silence of all those representing Wakanda with all of their wealth. As another example of a lost opportunity, filmmaker Ava DuVernay posted a photo of Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman with the poem of James Weldon Johnson.

Here, we find a disconnect of class divisions among those who have a degree of power and influence, failing to consider that a photo of Sundiata Acoli, co-defendant of Assata Shakur, and Dr. Mulutu Shakur, stepfather of Tupac Shakur, alongside Jordan and Boseman would have been appropriate with a narrative on the Black Panther Party. It is this disconnect that a class struggle needs to bridge, and the Black intelligentsia should initiate, corresponding with the heightened Black consciousness of resistance. But let’s not get it twisted; the movie in all of its Afrikan cultural spectacular and warrior women imagery is excellent. However, it should also point to our real warrior(s) Assata Shakur , Nehanda Abiodan, whom none of the actors mentioned on the red carpet… So let us laud Marvel/Disney—Black Panther A Movie—for creating an environment to broaden the discussion on the existence of real Black Panthers, but beyond that …?

“We have a common oppressor, a common exploiter, and a common discriminator… Once we all realize that we have a common enemy, then we unite, on the basis of what we have in common.”
— Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz)

Remember: We Are Our Own Liberators!

Revolutionary Love & Unity
Jalil A. Muntaqim
Sullivan Correctional Facility
March 3, 2018