Culture Conversation #1: Stop Saying The White Dude In Black Panther Saved Wakanda. Real Answer: It Was Shuri.

Note: This is a hotly contested topic. With the success of BLACK PANTHER, and the succeeding/proceeding movies which comprise the MCU, I believe the analysis of the movie in its climax (as it pertains to the White Savior Complex) is in error. All opinions here are my own. Thank you. -JBHarris

 

I have been a fan of Marvel Comics since I was about 7 or 8. My cousin, Jason allowed me to fall in love with these worlds–seen and unseen–in the comics he had. I will always thank him for giving me unspoken permission to think, dream and create what I saw in my head.

With that said, I was beyond hype to see Black Panther. I was excited for this film with all the magnanimous blackness within. I was happy about Chadwick Boseman becoming and doing all matter of King-level shit–thereby becoming an immutable-etch in Black culture. I was excited to see Angela Bassett looking regal, and beautiful and the Queen she ever always was–I mean, I was ready! I loved the movie!

And I saw it more than once. Trust.

I listened to the reviews, the jubilant choruses of Blackness cheering and discussing fan theories, then the Hot Takes came in. I began to be unsettled by what I was seeing, reading and hearing. I began to hear the White Savior Narrative being mentioned and pushed as it relates to the saving of Wakanda at the end of the film. These analyses paint Agent Ross as the savior of Wakanda.

I listened to the reviews, the jubilant choruses of Blackness cheering and discussing fan theories, then the Hot Takes came in. I began to be unsettled by what I was seeing, reading and hearing. I began to hear the White Savior Narrative being mentioned and pushed as it relates to the saving of Wakanda at the end of the film. These analyses paint Agent Ross as the savior of Wakanda.


I, here, submit this is not true. I will do this in four points.

 

Image result for black panther movie posters

One-The Tech. It was Shuri who gave her brother Prince, then King T’Challa the upgraded suit to be more proficient in the protecting of Wakanda and its people. It was Shuri that gave him (along with General Okoye and Nakia) Kimoyo beads to enhance communication. It was Shuri that was able to save the life of Agent Ross (and Bucky–spoiler!) in the lab she created. Shuri is a girl confident in her skills and abilities–without other outside affirmation.

Two-Her support. Princess Shuri loved her brother. She wanted to be an asset to him in whatever way she could. This was seen on Challenge Day, when her brother was found and rescued out of the snow by the Jabari Tribe, and of course when T’Challa told her he wanted her to oversee the curriculum of the STEM schools he wanted to build in Oakland. T’Challa affirmed his sister in her talents and skills. If nothing else I say can be seen as relevant, please support Black women–beyond their exterior.

Three-Knowledge of Self. Shuri is an unapologetic tech nerd. She is confident in who she is and what she can do. From helping her brother navigate a car from the other side of the world, to almost giving King M’Baku that work when he tried it with her on Challenge Day (notice how the Dora’s attempted to restrain her, while she looked both ready and unbothered). Shuri knows who she is and what she brings to and into any situation. Shuri practices self-determination and autonomy, always good things.

Four-Resourcefulness. While T’Challa is fighting to get to Killmonger, the Dora Milaje are truly fighting Killmonger, and the other tribes are fighting among each other, it was Shuri that orchestrated the resistance attack to counteract Killmonger’s planned military aerial attack. It was Shuri whom chose to go fight along side Nakia, the Dora Milaje and her people.

Here is where I believe prior analyses falls short: there is the focus on Agent Ross manning the AI to save Wakanda–the AI Shuri created! It is forgotten that Shuri told him what to do. Told him how to man the program, what to listen for, and even how to leave the lab when it was bout to self-destruct. It was Shuri, through the communication devices she created, told Agent Ross how to shoot specific weapons. Why? She was out in battle! She was still Princess. Wakanda was still her home. She still had a responsibility to protect what was hers!

Point A: The analysis falls short here because it glazes over why Shuri wasn’t where people believe she should have been! Agent Ross was able to save Wakanda because Shuri was on the ground. Agent Ross had flight experience; just like when T’Challa asked her to help with driving the car to catch Klaue–Agent Ross was a tool. All scientists use tools at their disposal to maximize all outcomes in situations which demand their attention or involvement.

Point B: Black women have become masters at being in two places at one time. With their achievements and sacrifices minimized or ignored. The same thing has happened here! Brava for this social Easter Egg, Ryan Coogler.

Point C: Shuri is an integral part of Wakanda and its running–and its future. If Shuri was not able to organize and implement strategies to save Wakanda–using all able-bodied help (including Nakia in the Dora uniform!), all would have been lost!

It is easy to look over Shuri, because of her dynamic involvement: she is never pigeon-holed in this movie. It is easy to give credit to this character, Agent Ross, forgetting who put him there–and why. This is not a case of a White Savior Complex, it is a matter of Black women doing what they have always done–whatever it takes. Mama Pope said it best, “Admirable or ridiculous?” We sacrifice, we excel, we protect and it goes unnoticed. Shuri deserves to be seen. Black women, whom are expected to be superheroes daily, deserve to be seen.