Finally Essay on Black Panther


Aidee Tejeda Manzano

April 27th 2018

English 129

Split Paths

The Marvel Film Black Panther directed by Ryan Coogler is ostensibly a typical comic book superhero-villain narrative: Killmonger (Erick Stevens) as the murderous villain with no mercy and the Black Panther (T’Challa) as the brave prince of Wakanda. However, these two characters actually represent two opposing conceptions of black identity in the world. Killmonger is an allegory for African American pain and a hero for diasporic Africans. While, T’Challa is an allegory for ancestral privilege and a hero for the Wakandans. But, overall both of these characters are anti-heroes.

Killmonger and T’Challas upbringings were those of an orphan and a prince. Killmonger was stripped of this birthright, he is the son of King T’Chaka’s brother N’Jobu. N’Jobu had taken a war dog assignment in the United States. During his time in the states he witnessed the oppression of his people such as mass incarceration and poverty He falls in love with an African American woman. Killmonger’s father helps Ulysses Klaue steal vibranium from Wakanda in an effort to gain the resources to aid his suffering brothers and sisters. T’Chaka confronts him and ends up killing him. In T’Chaka’s defense the murder was to the save the life of Zuri, when frankly it was to maintain a lie about Wakanda being a primitive country. T’Chaka’s attempt to save a life damned Killmonger’s life. Killmonger is left alone in the hoods of California to survive. By his own merit, Killmonger graduates from MIT and joins the military’s ghost units. In the military he severs the role of a tool to take down governments. Killmonger only knows stories of Wakanda and its surreal beauty. A Wardog tattoo is left to him by his father, as his key into his native land. A native land, that he kind of resents. The land that outcast his father and his people (non-Wakandan Blacks).

T’Challa is the son of T’Chaka, making Killmonger and him cousin, and is the Black Panther. T’Challa is surrounded by support and culture from his family. He wants for nothing, expect for aid in progressing through life without his father. His father who he idealized and worshiped just to find out he was not the man he believed him to be. T’Challa’s ancestral privilege blinded him from seeing the truth and Killmonger’s desire to use Wakanda’s resources to support other blacks globally. This ancestral privilege cuts him off from feeling connected to other black communitys’s worldwide, because he knows specifically what place he is from and what people are his. All of the Wakandans have always been home, as opposed to the black community of diasporic Africans Killmonger is from. In the eyes of the Wakandans presented in the film, with the exception of Nakai, they see only themselves as each other’s people. W’Kabi comments on foreign aid were simply “if you let refuges in they bring their problems,” T’Challa did not appear to oppose this comment (Black Panther). Through darker lenses Wakanda parallels US isolationism with not wanting to be involved with matters that do not concern them, but having spies planted all over the world.

Killmonger as an allegory for black pain was presented in the opening Museum scene. In the British museum scene with the African artifacts, Killmonger is casually browsing the art pieces. He is the only black person present in the scene and the only person being watched by the white security team. He confronts the museum curator by asking about a hand axe, he corrects her on where the axe is actually from (Wakanda). In a condescending tone she does not believe him. It is almost ironic that a white person will not believe a black person on their own history. Killmonger throws in her face that he will just take the artifact back, just as her ancestors stole it on the first place. The women’s face looks appalled as if he had said lies. By using medium and medium close-up shots of Killmonger and the museum curator, the directors were able to establish the tense dialog between the two characters. In this scene Killmonger is showing the desire all minorities have to want pieces of their culture and nation back. Because, if not being able to physically visit a piece of home can be a medium, an especially strong medium if home has never been seen. Killmonger fits this profile, since he was born in the United States and only heard stories about Wakanda. Before making his escape with the vibranium axe, Killmonger spots a traditional mask and says he is “feeling it”, even if it opposes his urban style (Black Panther). His denim jacket, white shirt, gold chain, hipster glasses, and dreadlocks to the side depicted Killmonger as the black community that has lost their connection to their ancestral state and have taken on the common style of their new world.

On the other hand, T’Challa when not in his Black Panther suit is shown in his traditional textiles alongside his family and friends who also embody traditional African culture. T’Challa is presented in his native land first, not visiting a foreign land like Killmonger. Multiple extreme long shots are done when introducing Wakanda, while when introducing Killmonger’s home only a vertical long shot of a apartment building is done in the perspective of young Erik (Killmonger). The extreme long shot of Wakanda shows its beautiful rural areas, its massive waterfall, the busy market place that is a melting pot for all the different tribes, and the high tech buildings. In Killmonger’s home everyone is alike, in T’Challa’s people can be differentiated based of their clothing and physical alternations. T’Challa’s people are all from different tribes, but they give the illusion of a common heart beat after the coronation with the “X” dance which sounds like a giant heartbeat. T’Challa’s home has light, colors, and traditional music from drums. He has the most beautiful sunset in the world, the sun set promised to Killmonger by his father, the sun set that was also his birth right. Just as all diasporic Africans and those stolen from their homelands deserved their sunsets.

Further examination of T’Challa’s coronation shows how accepted he was by the Wakandans because of his ancestral privilege. The common heart heat beat was for him and possibly followed his own. A long shot in the perspective of T’Challa after defeating M’Baku shows his people cheering him on and the sun light illuminating him. In the last step of the coronation, T’Challa must be transported to the ancestral plane. In his ancestral plane he is dressed in a white shirt with gold African prints on the collar. He is presented to his father and other ancestors in panther form. His ancestral plane is in a beautiful African savanna with a pink and purple sun set. He gets a positive message on how to rule in his father’s absence.

On the contrary, Killmonger’s coronation has an air of hostility. The Queen Mother, Ramonda, did not believe he had the right to challenge T’Challa for the thrown even after he reveled his royal linage. I was shocked that Killmonger was not received with any sympathy by anyone. These royals probably knew his father and knew what he suffered as a child, yet no one gave him a chance. Zuir who Killmonger knew as uncle James, does nothing in defense of Killmonger but jumps in the defense of T’Challa. This occurred similarly to how black issues are treated in our society. The recent increase in school shootings, emphasized how differently our society reacted to a shooting at a more privileged and white school as opposed to a shooting at a predominantly black school. Since Killmonger was not an original Wakandan they were ready to throw him out as an outsider. It was a great moment when Killmonger introduced himself in his native tongue and not English, I believe that showed his want to be accepted and his vailed connection to Wakanda. It exemplified that he was not some nomad, he has roots but those roots won’t bind him. During the fight for the crown, there were some moments when T’Challa fought hard but Killmonger physically was stronger. T’Challa was driven by his pride to defeat an outsider and Killmonger was driven by the suffering he endured to get what was his. Killmonger is presented as merciless, unlike T’Challa who showed mercy for M’Baku. These two situations cannot be clearly compared, because of the differences in context. Showing mercy to M’Baku would not make T’Challa lose Wakanda but if Killmonger had shown mercy to T’Challa he would have lost his dream.

The dream he wanted so badly he cut himself off emotionally in order to achieve. The dream the sheltered privileged T’Challa was given by birth. After defeating T’Challa, Killmonger says, “is this your king” to the Wakandas enforcing his belief that he is the rightful ruler of Wakanda. Even with his strength he is not accepted fully. The Wakandan citizens, except for the royal and military members, are not present to acknowledge him. He is giving one short “X” or heartbeat, it was given in fear not love. Killmonger’s ancestral plane takes the form of the small apartment in the hood. Instead of being presented in his prime state, he is shown as a vulnerable boy. His father is the only person there, reinforcing that Killmonger has no connection to his ancestor. As a child he tells his father that no tears have been shed for him and that death is common. That is the reality of Killmonger’s life. All he knows is death is a way to survive, unlike T’Challa who’s experience with loss has been limited. Killmonger’s acceptance of death makes it easy for him to want to completely eliminate the oppressor and control the world as a practical solution for his people. He does not care about the lives that will be lost. No tears were shed for his father, so why should he shed tears for the death of others. After returning from the ancestral plane, he forces the caretakers of the garden to destroy the heart shaped herb. This scene was contradictory, Killmonger wants to be a part of Wakanda but he also wants to destroy its past and re-direct its future.

The last scene of Killmonger is a long shot that comes in closer from behind him. All the audience see is the flames engulfing the garden and the king “full of hatred” (Black Panther). The scene that formally introduces Killmonger to his thrown is shot upside down and gradually fixes itself. The shot is accompanied with music by Kinderic Lamar, not drums like T’Challa’s, this scene was the power transition. As opposed to T’Challa’s simple silver “suit chain”, Killmonger is dressed with the large gold chain. Killmonger as the representation of black pain shows how out of its way black pain has to go to be noticed. All Killmonger has done has been exaggerate and he had to be extra in order for his pain to be seen.

His extreme radicalness was necessary to get the point across of how large black pain that a radical solution is the only one. Killmonger had to be radical to challenge T’Challa’s privilege. Challenging T’Challa’s privilege was the only way for T’Challa to be presented as an anti-hero not the perfect superhero. In the final scene, on his “deathbed” Killmonger says, “bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage,” he is confirming that he is the black man, women, and child whose history has been stripped and have been forced into oppression (Black Panther). Heavy is the head the wears the crown, but even heavier are the hearts of those that are chained down.

This spilt in identity in the black community is a shared with other minority groups that experience migration either by pull or push factors. As a Latina who was born in the United States but raised in Mexico for five years, I’ve experience both sides. When I moved back to the U.S. I felt T’Challa’s ancestral privilege. However, after living in the U.S. for several years and then returning to Mexico, I was not accepted. I was considered “white”, my cousins did not speak to me for a week because they did not think I spoke Spanish. As minorities our identities are split, complex, and sometimes unknown to us, however our pain persist.


Work Cited

Black Panther. Directed by Ryan Coogler, performances by Chadwich Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, and Michael B. Jordan, Marvel, 2018

Extra reflection paper

Our privilege blinds us to see the reality of others, it creates a wall that cuts us off from showing true empathy. All we are left to show is pity and happiness that that isn’t our situation. In A Thousand Splendid Suns there was a lot of diversity in different types of privilege. I took note of my privilege, because of my own past. I grew up in a rural village in Mexico. Many of my cousins, including my mother, married at a young age, had children while they themselves were still children, and married men older and less kind the they themselves.

While I try to stay aware that not everyone lives in a society where women have more rights about their bodies and support systems, at times I fail and fall behind that wall. I know that at times, I think to myself that they could do so much more than just have children. Sometime I truly believe that they could just walk out and live their lives as strong independent women. After reading this book, I feel like I saw my privilege for what it was. I got angry with myself for feeling pity and frustration at Mariam’s and Laila’s hard life. It was not that I thought these women were weak, I saw their strength in fighting to maintain some sense of normality during a time of war for their children and themselves. I cried during the escape chapter and admired their intelligence for coming up with their plan. My mom did not have an escape as tough as Mariam’s and Laila’s, but it did parallel a lot. I was a child when it happened, so I don’t remember much about it, but now I feel like I have a greater respect for my mother. My realization was partly on a level as Mariam’s when she realized all her mother did and why her mother hated her father so much.

Because of my privilege I can’t imagine myself letting a man take my future, but in these book it was so common. “A dry, barren field, out beyond wish and lament, beyond dream and disillusionment. There, the future did not matter”, Mariam is thinking about her life and it seems so empty (Hosseini, 256). But, through her husband’s eyes she lives the life other women would kill for. Through the “eyes” this book provided me with I can see the imaginary world that is the norm for others. The importance of diversity is to show those who live a bubble the rest of the world, so they can have a greater understanding of it, this book accomplished that.

Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns. Riverhead Books, 2007.

Refection 3

One thing that angers me the most is to see when a marginalized group further oppresses another marginalized group just to raise themselves up, instead of helping each other. This vile act of supremacy can be seen within groups with colorism, I know in the Latino community it is a big issue. In The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven and Wide Sargasso Sea there were serval instances where similar groups degraded each other. In my opinion, the usage of this particular interaction leads a very raw natural feel to the stories.

In wide Sargasso Sea race is truly depicted as a spectrum, with more than white and black existing as the major races. Daniel, a male character who claimed to be the half-brother of Antoinette and that he had relations with her, considered himself “yellow”. He was supposable the son of a white man and an enslaved black woman, thus he was superior. He seemed to hate black people and didn’t want to be associated with him. He also wasn’t white. While this following example isn’t necessary between marginalized group I felt it was still of importance.  Antoinette’s husband noticed that if he didn’t know of his wife’s linage he would see her as “white”, when on the Island she is “white”. Race becomes a more relative topic in Wide  Sargasso Sea.

This line in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven resonated so much with me, “sharing dark skin doesn’t necessarily make two men brothers” (Alexie 178). While there were many racial comment in his “novel” that quote hurt me the most. Not just because it was about the way a Chicano acted because I identify as Chicana, but because it showed how sometimes minority groups don’t even support each other. This Chicano teacher, who should be supporting his students, assumed the worse about his student. He throws the drunk stereotype on an ingenious student who really just had diabetes. What if these students would have clapped back with “ you must be a ‘professional mountain climber’”, the hate this would have sparked. The saddest part about that quote was that it was said so casually, like doctrine, something in their daily lives which haven’t even been that long. There was another interaction between Victor and another indigenous woman from a different tribe. I am pretty sure that they sleep together and the women discovers that Victor has scars on him and her skin is clear and he walks out saying something like “you’re no better than me”. From my interpretation the woman wasn’t implying that she was better than him, but to a mind that is programed to belief of supremacy I can see how he would have interpreted it as him being demeaned.

These displays of supremacy over other groups based on skin color or other aspects of someone just breed hate, and in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven Alexie did a great job of indirectly mentioning a way to help get pass this. In the chapter of Imagining the Reservation, one of the character talks about forgiveness being the energy he expels.


Work Cited

Alexie, Sherman, and Jess Walter. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Grove Press, 2013.

Aidee’s second reflection

Short Reflection 2

Aidee Tejeda Manzano

As a minority I always find myself looking for approval not in my own POC peers but in my white peers. It feels like I am striving for approval from white people, whether it is academically having to prove to the ignorant people, that my skin color didn’t give me a free ride to college or socially. Almost everything caters to white people, while pretending to praise “diversity” and “equality”.

While I do believe that 2 Dope Queens have worked very hard to get their HBO show, they disappointed me. In the media there isn’t many representations of brown or black women, and when there are, they are just stereotypes. I want to see more than the sexualized Latina or the ghetto black girl. The 2 Dope Queens did have their funny moments, but they were catering to the white audience. They dragged each other, instead of rising together like the strong black women I wanted to see. They brought out their loudness and their struggles for the people who have placed these struggles on them. Jessica told her partner to “stop dragging me in front of these white people.” To further make a white (male) audience interested and comfortable they had to have a famous white comedian validate them. On contrary, Dave Chappelle made no intent to make his white audience members feel comfortable. He called them out during his show, and he didn’t do it in such a way that he was “attacking” them. He asked his white audience members “how does it feel being the only white people on the front row.” He addressed the elephant in the room, which was that he wasn’t there to make them feel comfortable. He called out any marginalized group and large groups equally. I can acknowledge that Dave Chappelle is at the peak of his career and the 2 Dope Queens are still climbing the latter, but is it worth climbing that latter if with every step a piece of your brownness or blackness is faded?

From my own experiences, having been raised in predominantly white areas, I can proudly say no. But, I can also sympathize with 2 Dope Queens. These theme of putting the needs of white people first isn’t new, it is emphasizing in literature from 1800s.

Uncle Toms Cabin by the WHITE abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe was supposedly a novel that “helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War.” I believe that this statement is true, but for the saddest reason. The reason being that it required a white person who had never felt the injustice of chains to tell other white people who have never felt the pain of being a slave that slavery was “bad”. “Bad” but tolerable, all the main character had to do was be a good slave for his Christian masa and wait for the freedom death gives. This book wasn’t targeting the black audience to offer support, instead it was targeting the white audience to make them feel okay for making human beings property. The cycle of what is frowned upon in society only has a way out when the person is white. In “Po’ Sandy” Sandy’s gruesome death was disguised as a tree being sawed, but the pain his wife felt was all there. If his death would has depicted a human being sawed into a pieces by his masa, I don’t think the Chesnutt’s Conjure Women would have been as successful.

In Djuna Barnes novel Nightwood, Robin ( a destructive women) uses children or dolls to control those around her. For example, she has a child for her husband Felix. She didn’t want this child; she did it to keep Felix interested so that she could leave when she wanted to. If Robin would have been a black woman, the interpretation of her having a child would have been that she was just trying to trap her rich baby daddy.

All of these pieces of art, with the exception of Nightwood, had the opportunity to be there for the non-white population but didn’t do it. On a side note, the movie Black Panther did an amazing job representing African culture and depicting pride in one’s color. It was truly a movie that wasn’t created to cater to a white audience. Wakanda forever.

Aidee’s Reflection Post one

A few days ago I sat in one of my friend’s sociology class on race and ethnicities, the subject of the day was a film the examined the different portrayals of the African Americans that were enslaved and the African American that were  “free”. The enslaved African American was characterized as the mami, the uncle, ect. These characters were well behaved, loyal, and attentive to their masters every need. They were happy, well feed, and housed “blackies”. The mami character was a parallel to the white mall head of the house, expressing the so thought incompetence of the black male. The free blacks were loud, bum-ish, and shown in images with monkey like features. The children were dehumanized by having them play with crocodiles and even die in children’s books. The endpoint was to show how much better off black people where, but actually showed  how much better off a civilized white society is when blacks are enslaved.

My interpretation of the picture and the conversation surrounding  picture 26 “Condition” made me think back to that lecture.  The characters involved in the conversation seemed white and from different parts of society, they were contemplating the effects of free black people. Considering that this discussion occurred on the eve of the civil war, it is of high importance. In the film I watched, one of the concerns of the white people was that black people didn’t have the mental capacity to think for themselves. This lack of mental capacity was also noted in William and Ellen Crafts Escape with the white “Christian” slave owner believing her slaves were better while under her control. In the “Condition” there is a young black on the bank of a river dressed in rags while around him to one side are beautiful fields and the other side there are yachts. He is described to be in a trance of “interference of stolid content … Pale and emaciated he sits” (Ethiop 243). The questions of “can such a subject be improved” is asked (244).

The white viewers interpreted the boy’s facial expression as him not knowing what to do with his new found freedom, that is his condition. To them, he a black man, that just doesn’t have the intelligence to be free. The Doctor believes that by changing the youth’s nature his condition will improve, while the Skeptic believes its by giving the youth wealth and intelligence (that he lacks probably because he is black). The author clearly related to the reader that these two suggestions are actually the same. At this time period being poor and in poverty went hand and hand with being black. The Skeptic noted that by giving the youth money he wouldn’t have to change his repulsive features (ebon face, dull eye, curly hair), these features are a part of the youth’s nature. The money would make people look past his blackness. Perhaps even view him as white? I drew to this conclusion by making a stretch from a Brazilian literature class I took last semester. One of the authors were read, Machado de Assis, had black slave grandparents but since he was a prominent wealthy member of society in Brazil he wasn’t viewed as black.  The narrator fires back by explaining the true significance of the picture. This is an image of a young black man that has risked his life and relied on his intelligence and strength to break through barriers to obtain his freedom but now is tired. The youth “has all the great essentials common to humanity.” (Ethiop 244). The youth lacks nothing expect the opportunities he will miss out on due to the racism in the United States.

Other examples in the African American Picture Gallery could have been used as examples to show that this piece of literature was ahead of its time, already predicting the types of conversations and other barriers free blacks would face.




Work Cited

Ethiop. “Afric-American Picture Gallery” (1859). just-