We were out of things to watch, so triggered by Chadwick Boseman’s untimely and tragic death, we watched “Black Panther” again – and having watched it several times, I watched it with a bit of a jaundiced eye based on the rampant knee-bending to BLM we have been seeing lately. As is often the case, when the entertainment aspect has worn off, other themes begin to surface.
The movie is set in Wakanda, an independent nation built on an egalitarian society governed by a benevolent and munificent monarch, powered by unlimited free energy, a place where technology is advancing rapidly to the benefit of all and nobody is hungry. Everybody coexists in peace. On the surface, this is a civilization to be envied – who would not want to live in Wakanda?
Wakanda is presented to be a black African society superior to Western “white” culture in every way, so much so the antagonists are either interdimensional aliens or a paramilitary group run by a one-armed Afrikaner. In the movie, King T’challa is overthrown by another member of the ruling family who wants to use the Wakandan technology to wage a war of payback on the white world. The only thing stopping that war is the moral superiority of the Wakandan leadership.
But Wakanda has a dark side (no pun intended). It is a single race society to the exclusion of all others, it is still tribal and subject to tribal conflict and it is so paranoid that it created an immigration policy so racially rigid that they built a cloaking device to shield the nation from even being discovered by the outside world.
Wakanda’s wealth and advancement also rests on the fact that they sit on top of the largest (and only) repository of Vibranium in the world, a fictional material (from a monster comet) that possesses incredible physical properties and qualities, so do the Wakandans owe their success to their own intellect and ingenuity – or was it just cosmic fate?
Wouldn’t that mean Wakanda’s evolution was resource driven? What if that Vibranium comet landed in North Dakota rather than Wakanda? Would that mean that North Dakotan’s would have allied with the Avengers to fend off Thanos and his hordes? If we accept that exclusive access to a valuable resource was a primary reason for the rise of Wakanda, then we must ask why there are no real, non-fictional Wakandas in Africa today. It is a continent that is resource rich beyond compare – and yet, it is also one of the poorest, violent and strife torn areas in the world.
Wokandan history teaches that blacks are superior to whites, that Wakanda is real (or at least the possibility it is real) but the whites are just too evil and powerful. It teaches that whites have used that power to steal resources and use those resources to oppress black people for centuries. That was the position of Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, aka N’Jadaka (T’Challa’s cousin) and why, after taking the crown from T’Challa, he sought to wage war on the rest of the world. Wokandan history is the myth driving Black Lives Matter.
The real history of the races of all mankind is that resources by themselves do not ensure prosperity and advancement, it takes the intellect and the will of the people to exploit those resources. That is something that is not race specific. The basics of Western civilization work everywhere they are tried because it matches intellect and will with resources. It figures stuff out. It succeeds.
Wakanda is fictional. Unfortunately, Wokanda is not.
The problem facing America is that the fiction of Wakanda is being used to build a historical narrative for Wokanda.