With the Oscars happening two days ago, there has been an increase in thought pieces about the movies that nominated for Best Picture*.
Because I’m always looking at what people are saying about Black Panther, it seems to be a good time to point out something that continues to occur.
Many pieces, when they talk about the anti-hero of the film, call him “Erik Killmonger” or just “Killmonger”. I HATE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The anti-hero of Black Panther has a name. His name, the one his mother gave him, is Erik Stevens. The name his father gave him is N’Jadaka. In talking about him, it is important to note that.
Killmonger is Erik Stevens’ colonizer nickname. It’s important to point that out too. Because that nickname means something, and it is nothing good.
But this points to a larger issue. In these last days of Black History Month, it is a good time to think about the history of misnaming people of African descent. Or not giving Black people the honorifics that they have earned.
If I weren’t writing a different essay for the book on theology and Black Panther, I would write about the theology of naming. Partly because talking about naming would allow me to use part of my favorite story in Hebrew Scripture; Hagar naming G-d in Genesis 16. But also because I think it is important to look at how some names catch on and others don’t. And finally because I think this would allow for a broader discussion on the power of names and who gets to name.
Talking about names and naming also allows for a broader discussion of transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people and the issues they face in living into their true selves.
I might preach on this soon. And I will write about it; after I finish the essay for the book.
*—in case you didn’t know it, “Green Book” is a lie.