I was a sociology major in College. I wanted to know more about people, the human condition. I also wanted to gain a deeper understanding as to why my life and the lives of other people of brown hue was so drastically different.
The Marvel film “Black Panther” is now the 20th Top Grossing Film of all time raking in over $1 Billion Dollars in box office cash in 5 weeks. The film has garnered praise from film and culture critics. The film reflected a people—who are only portrayed as rapists, murderers, drug fiends…and most often slaves—and bathed them in a light of heightened possibility in an afro-futuristic setting that effectively demonstrated answers to the questions: “What if there was one untouched place on earth where colonialism, slavery, and black hatred didn’t exist? Where we thrived and excelled at science, technology, politics on our own terms? Where we as a people would be immune from the ravages of greed and war and had a say in our own prosperity with our own rulers and highly evolved traditional African values?”
I walked away from the film in awe, that Hollywood (Marvel comic books have always been more inclusive than real life) gave the green light to this film that showed that a black man doesn’t have to be a victim, he can be a superhero. Grown Black men saying, “this is what it feels like to be white?” because they saw themselves on film, being the hero, being the savior, doing whats right and….getting the girl. In the film we were moral, we decided, and we excelled.
The film took me deeper into my own psyche as a child. I played Captain Kirk at the helm of the Enterprise from the 7th floor of St Marys Projects in the Bronx—the radiators were up at window height and the grill looked like it could be the console where Mr. Sulu sat…and the window was my “viewer” into space. I was never Superman, but I was John Robinson from Lost in Space, I was Kato from the Green Hornet, but I was never anyone of my color. I left the film feeling as if there was no longer a need for another black boy to wonder “what superhero shall I be?” because now, there was someone who looked like “us” on film. Someone we could be proud of.
Days later, I wanted a Black Panther bobble-head for my office so I picked one up at EB Games. On the way out, I saw an Erik Killmonger doll at the entrance of the store already marked down to $7.00, I blew it off because he was not the hero. I went back to my world of investment banking, CNN and Trump and then it dawned on me. I needed that 12” Erik Killmonger doll because I was Erik Killmonger, I was the bad guy. Erik had bad intentions (depending on your viewpoint, they may have actually been good intentions): he wanted revenge against colonialism, against the suffering of his people and he was angry because his bloodline of Wakanda allowed people who looked like them to suffer, to live in poverty, without hope, and to struggle harder than any human should ever have to just to get what every human wants…an income, a good life, to care for your family and to see them happy.
I am Erik Killmonger because I have seen a President with a diverse Cabinet of brown people, women, gay, lesbian, etc., who is beloved by the nation and happens to be “black” go out with a high approval rating with 8 years of hope and gravitas that says anyone can reach the most powerful seat in the Nation. And then I see the next white male President come into office under the auspices of saying, “I only want the BEST people for the job” and none of them are black, or brown, or gay or working class for that matter. Hmmm, seems to me that the best people for the job are all white, wealthy and highly disconnected.
I am Erik Killmonger because I see Canada and their Cabinet under Prime Minister Trudeau and I see Sikhs, women, gay, lesbian, and massive levels of diversity knowing that this under the leadership of a progressive white male “is possible”, and qualified people can be brought in and do the job required and I wondered why can’t we do this in America? Is my country so blind that only white males and wealthy white women should be qualified to run the country?
I am Erik Killmonger because I am angry about what has happened in Africa and how through the devastating effects of colonialism, the savage stripping of natural resources and wealth. The wars, the rape, and the greed among African Leadership and those who felt “entitled” to retain control because they are members of the “conquering class” has lead this nation and many others inhabited and led by people of color to be labeled “shit holes” while the very people whose ancestors “shit on it” in the first place and never flushed the toilet blame those very Africans for the havoc that permeates the land.
I am Erik Killmonger because through my education and through what I have seen in a law practice, in finance, and in investment banking has confirmed the assertion (agreed to by many intellectuals) that Systemic racism is the cancer, it is the enemy and overtly and covertly it should be destroyed by any means necessary because it is the only thing that keeps America from being truly great instead on an ideal. Sociologist Joe Feagin in his well-researched and readable book, Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, & Future Reparations uses historical evidence and demographic statistics to substantiate the theory of systemic racism:
“[T]he United States was founded in racism since the Constitution classified black people as the property of whites. Feagin illustrates that the legal recognition of racialized slavery is a cornerstone of a racist social system in which resources and rights were and are unjustly given to white people and unjustly denied to people of color. Systemic racism includes the complex array of antiblack practices, the unjustly gained political-economic power of whites, the continuing economic and other resource inequalities along racial lines, and the white racist ideologies and attitudes created to maintain and rationalize white privilege and power. Systemic here means that the core racist realities are manifested in each of society’s major parts of U.S. society–the economy, politics, education, religion, the family–reflects the fundamental reality of systemic racism.”
If you believe that others like me don’t see what’s happening, or don’t agree with the ignorance of the statement that racism no longer exists in the United States, you, my friend are deluded or pressing your robe in preparation of your next Klan meeting. It may not be real in your world, but ask some of the brown people that work for you or with you. You aren’t “immune” or without blame because “you, personally” didn’t enslave a people. As long as you turn a blind eye and do nothing except watch, you are complicit —especially fair-minded and “truly American” white people.
I am Erik Killmonger because I feel like an abandoned child whom Africa let die because we were enslaved, forgotten, and lost. That my ancestry traces only back to the pain of slavery in this country and I am supposed to be “OK” with that and not feel the pain when others can trace their lineage back hundreds, some thousands of years but we cannot. That Mother Africa herself in many instances have ignored the forgotten generations of souls who were sold, in some instances with the help of other Africans for financial gain, obliterating families and bloodlines and imprinting in our DNA for Generations the anguish and pain of a people who don’t know where they come from. I am pissed off because Africa does not give a damn about its enslaved lost and forgotten children. I am furious that my people were dropped like so much baggage in the Caribbean and while the world runs to build schools in Africa (where there is a serious need, no doubt), no one sees the need to help Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico. Why not? Because they are poor in the sunshine with a beach nearby? Poverty is poverty and no less so because the main income of the country is tourism.
My plan is not to defeat the existing Wakandan King in battle. My plan is one of driving wealth, is one of economics, to create wealth, assist the poor, educate my people black poor, white poor, to ensure that the next generation gets an education and creates institutions that fund innovation. To make sure that Black, Latino, and Women-owned Venture Capital firms are created and thrive and that talent from all walks of life get a real chance to grasp the success that is possible in North America. I work daily with my white male friends and counterparts in business who feel exactly as I do to correct the injustices that we all see in society.
The ability to do so exists. The need to inspire a people to greatness is evident. Through our economic prowess, we need to change from consumers to “creators”, we need to create jobs, therefore, creating opportunities. The “white man” as all-encompassing evil is a cartoon and we need to listen openly and embrace those of different hues and beliefs so that we all reach our common goals of happiness, prosperity, and goodness for all who gravitate to our yet unrealized higher hope of what we can be as a people. Black Americans in the United States, we created it, too, with our blood and sweat. It is ours also and we intend to reclaim it through economic prowess. Wakanda….forever.
Related, here on GMP:
What’s it going to take for white men to start talking about race?
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