Because Eric Killmonger is a reflection of many Black American’s on a much deeper level than T’Challa. In fact, many Black American’s do not know T’Challa. They know Eric. This is why most Black Americans, more so than sympathize with him, empathize with him. They can put their lives into his shoes.
I’ve only seen the movie once (which is only important when talking about a movie nearing $900 million dollars worldwide and is #1 in the World…the world ya’ll…that people have seen two and three times.)
Saying this, I have only read two articles that brought up the real concerning the conflict between T’Challa and Killmonger (cited below). I liked that they put this conflict in the movie because (as I believe one of the actors pointed out) there is a private conversation among Black Americans concerning the relationship between those who have been taken captive and those who have not. As I’ve stated on this blog time and time again, Africa is a continent with over 50 countries and even more nationalities of people. That said it’s impossible for a people to be called African as nationality because it does not specifically point to a place of origin. Which country in Africa are we talking about? Where in Africa can you claim? Who in Africa would claim you? Herein lies the conflict between Eric and T’Challa.
Here’s the phrase that has captured our hearts:
Killmonger was left behind, left out and rejected from among his people. He was locked out of the greatness of Wakanda and forced to grow up in the gritty streets of Oakland. His struggle and longing for a place of belonging and nationhood is the exact sentiment of the Black American. This statement (“…bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships…”) is proof that he is a descendant of those who have been taken captive via The Transatlantic Slave Trade; a Wakandian by blood but rejected. Not privy to the knowledge and advancement of his homeland, Killmonger attended instead American Universities and studied his culture from a distance. Having grown up in America, not even Killmonger’s name is a reflection of his identity. His name is Eric which is not as exotic as T’Challa. It does not signify or denote any kind of place of origin. Eric also does not speak with an accent and uses language common to any Black American male growing up in the hood.
Eric is angry but rightfully so. He has had to watch his people suffer while Wakanda has thrived with resources that could have helped them. Eric wears his rage concerning the mistreatment of his people like a garment and does not understand how to direct that energy in a way that is less destructive. He reminds me of the young black men standing on the corners, full of rage, but without a way to release it in a way that is productive. Given the proper guidance, education, and resources, I believe these are some of the most powerful men the so-called Black community has. While many of us drive by them, shaking our heads and sighing, these boys are absolutely fearless and, like I said, given the proper direction can be the warriors they are descendant from.
While Killmonger’s temper gets the best of him, his desire to use the wealth of Wakanda as a way to help his people in America is a noble one (just don’t weaponize the vibranium by putting it into the hands of black people with no training in how to use it Killmonger. Train your people first lol.) For all of these reasons, and many more, I believe many Black Americans empathize and connect more so with Michael B. Jordan’s character than Boseman’s T’Challa. For many of us, Killmonger is the hero, choosing to die (symbolically and literally) with his people than to serve among those who have rejected him.
The first article I want to share is: “Are Black Americans Allowed in Wakanda?”
“Every time a Wakandan referred to Killmonger in the film, he was called an “outsider.” Even though he proved he was of Wakandan blood, he still wasn’t one of them. Killmonger grew up hearing stories about a home he’d never been to. He had knowledge of Wakanda’s wealth and culture but he had no access to it himself. While T’Challa was able to visit a lush, African landscape surrounded by his ancestors, Killmonger’s trip to his own ancestral plane led him back to an apartment complex, where he was mostly alone.”
“I refuse to see Killmonger as a super-villain. I see him as a super-victim of systemically oppressive forces, forces that forced him into a hyper-awareness of his dueled unwanted status in Wakanda and in America, due to having the blood of his mother, who was a descendant of black folks forced into the United States via the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. This two-pronged othering serves as the source of his super-power. His super-power did not derive from radioactive spider bites like Spider Man, or mythological alien strength like that of Superman. Killmonger’s character harbors a super-power more potent than the fictive mineral Vibranium, housed exclusively in Wakanda: Killmonger is the possessor of un-tempered black rage….Killmonger’s black rage is my black reality, and I cannot see Erik Killmonger Stevens as a villain because it would mean seeing myself as a villain as well (and as a black man in America, I have been vilified enough.)
T’Challa and Huey next to Yoruba Tribal ruler in West Nigeria sitting on throne surrounded by elephant tusks.
Personally, I liked both T’Challa and Killmonger for different reasons and enjoyed the Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X undertones embodied in the characters. Marvel’s Black Panther came out around the same time Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and it is believed that X-Men is based on The Civil Rights Movement. Created in 1963, fans allege that Stan Lee wanted to create a comic that showed bigotry and racism via fantasy and that Magneto and Professor X are direct correlations of Martin and Malcolm. In Black Panther, T’Challa and Killmonger also seem to have the same correlation. Those who were fans of Malcolm will definitely be a fan of Killmonger.
Furthermore, prior to Stan Lee’s comic and the organizing of The Black Panther Party, the term “Black Panther” existed already. The 761st Tank Battalion was an independent tank battalion of the United States Army during World War II. The 761st was made up primarily of African-American soldiers, who by federal law were not permitted to serve alongside white troops. They were known as the “Black Panthers” after their unit’s distinctive insignia; their motto was “Come out fighting.”
Now, go watch the movie!!