Erik Before Killmonger

I've been saying a lot of stuff on Facebook but I wanted to say something longer here. And no, this isn't really about my own life, before you wonder.

Spoilers aware, yo ho.

The thing about Erik Stevens is that, honestly, I think it shows how many black men are corroded by a lack of emotional support. 

Not everyone who suffers Erik's sort of tragedy goes on to devote their life to vengeance. Indeed, most people who lose parents in such a way are not out there becoming mercenaries and black ops soldiers.

Yet it's easy to draw a straight line from his pain, suffering and isolation to his barely contained rage.  Trauma always leaves victims in its wake. Cruelty and neglect always leave scars. Sometimes the scars can be healed, and sometimes they return to the surface when a person loses control. And then sometimes you're extremely controlled and organized, which I guess is how you become a supervillain.

There are oceans of black men who never receive the help they need to process and come to terms with their emotions. When you combine the toxic way men are socialized not to deal with (or really even have) emotions that aren't pride, lust and wrath - and then you add his clear natural abilities and decades of patience - you get a Killmonger. But even if you don't get a charismatic killer who is nonetheless worthy of empathy if not sympathy (and who is definitely wrong), you might just get what is in evidence every single day: unaddressed and unresolved black male trauma.

The movie also shows a man who is dealing with what might well be his first personal tragedy, the death of his own father. But, with the help of a massive support system and, well, the wealth of an entire nation, he might be okay. If you're Erik Stevens, however, when something life-shattering occurs, the next day, you just have to try to keep living. And for many, the only way to do that is to swallow what you feel, and hold it down until you can unleash it in one of the three acceptable male emotional outlets, unless someone can help you.

I don't write this personally at all, by the way, as I said above. Though I'm hardly a king, my life was much closer to T'Challa's than to Erik's. Plenty of loving, supportive relatives of all ages and genders. And if emotions can even sometimes be confusing and complex for me, I can't imagine what it's like to endure what someone like Erik did.

Look. It's a Marvel movie. And soon Thanos is going to be there and it's going to be stupid and whatever. But while Erik might have made the arguable point that, if there really was an African supercountry hiding from the world, it could have provided more help than it did, in reality, the help that was needed was for the little boy in Oakland.

Help the little boys and young men that you can. They aren't exactly likely to turn into supervillains if you don't, but a lot of them are probably suffering right now, even if they can't express it or even know that there's anything to express.



Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality