You’ll not find a lot of rave tourist reviews of Wakanda. Hardly anyone goes there. T’Challa’s landlocked African nation is one of the poorest countries on earth, we’re told, so there’s very little reason to turn it into your next vacation spot. It’s pretty isolated, too, and it likes it that way: It makes the Hermit Kingdom of North Korea look like a gregarious uncle.
But its apparent poverty and cherished reclusiveness hide a fabulously rich, advanced civilization built on its teeming deposits of vibranium, the most useful substance this side of water. The country’s high-tech communication and transportation services use vibranium. Its weapons do, too. Even Black Panther’s suit is made from the stuff. Vibranium has turned Wakanda into a central African utopia.
And frankly, it doesn’t want to share.
For generations, the country has horded its vibranium and kept its borders closed, defending its wealth and way of life through secrecy and subterfuge. But near the movie’s open, Wakanda’s isolationist policies are being called into question by T’Challa’s one-time girlfriend, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). Wakanda, she believes, has so much to offer the rest of the world. Why not offer it?
Why not indeed? But when you’re a king, such decisions are harder than they appear. Africa’s history bears horrific scars of exploitation—outsiders plundering the country’s resources, including stealing its very people as slaves. And it’s not like it’d be in Wakanda’s self-interest to open its invisible gates: It doesn’t need anything from anybody. Wakanda’s doing fine, thanks. In fact, it’s doing great. If T’Challa showed the world the sort of country that Wakanda really is, it’d mean an influx of refugees and an outflow of money and all sorts of problems that the country could just avoid by holding true to the status quo.
Black Panther is pretty topical, in its own superhero way, so it’s only natural that a little “Put Wakanda first” would filter into the story.
But there’s more in play here than simply that. It reflects a debate we often have in Christian circles, too.